Friends of the Charles Parker Archive: AGM 2007

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Charles Parker Archive held Friday 28th September 2007 at The Central Library, Birmingham.

 The meeting commenced at 6.30 p.m.

1. Present:.
Trustees and committee members:
 Gillian Reynolds (Chairman), Pam Bishop, Tim Blackmore, Ian Parr; Sian Roberts, Fiona Tait
Friends: John and Maureen Davis, Steve May, Helen Lloyd, Paul Long, Peter Cox, Ivor Pearce

2. Apologies:
Trustees and committee members:
 Philip Cox, Cathy Mackerras, Matthew Parker, Sara Parker, Dave Rogers, Robert Whitworth
Friends: Trevor Fisher, Ian Gasse, Bob Etheridge, Sean Street, Eileen Whiting, Sandra Kerr, John Pole, John and Doreen Fryer, Brian Vaughton, Sheila Smith, Peggy Seeger, Pat Welch (Grimmitt Trust), Joyce Parr, Joy Parr, Barry Lankester, Graham Langley, Bob Blair, Alan Bishop, Steve Mardy

3. Minutes of Friends’ Meeting June 2006
The minutes were circulated and approved.

4. Consideration of Annual Report and Accounts for 2005 – 2006
Gillian Reynolds welcomed Friends to the meeting. She explained that Connecting Histories, which ensures digitisation of the Archive recordings, is now complete and she would be asking Sian Roberts who led the project team to make a presentation later, see item 6. She has been deeply impressed by the success of the project. It has met all its targets and exceeded most of them. Thanks are due to the whole project team but especially Sian and Fiona Tait.

Copies of the Report were circulated and there was discussion on some of the topics covered.

5. Items arising from 2006 Friends meeting

  1. Grey Cock recordings
    It was reported that the cataloguing work has been seriously affected due to the floods, which caused damage to the files etc. It is not certain how long it will take to overcome this delay.
  2. Copyright
    The Secretary reported that Alex McClure had provided a very detailed document setting out the issues and responsibilities. The Trustees had discussed the report and a slightly abbreviated version had been produced which he circulated to the meeting. It was agreed there was no further action necessary. A copy of the document can be obtained from the Secretary on request.

6. Presentation by Sian Roberts; Connecting Histories project
Sian Roberts explained the scope of the project and the impact upon the Charles Parker Archive. She pointed out the connections with other archives covered by the project and used a number of clips from the Archive of recordings made by Charles Parker and Ewan MacColl to demonstrate how the material has relevance to the lives of people today.

The main points of Sian’s presentation are outlined in the Annual Report pages 4 and 5 and in a leaflet covering the Connecting Histories project in general and leaflets for each individual archive such as the Charles Parker Archive covered by the project. See also

It was explained that the scope of the project covers a number of archives held within the Library relating to the social and economic history of the Birmingham area (and to some extent more widely) and its varied social and ethnic groups. In digitising and cataloguing all the material it is intended to make it more accessible by having catalogues available on-line. Dissemination is a significant part of the project and workers have been employed to show present communities and groups, especially but not exclusively, within education, the way peoples’ lives in the past relate and are relevant to life in the twenty-first century. A target for the project was to undertake this work initially with around five community groups. To date over one hundred groups have been involved. Material used includes recordings made by Charles Parker with Asian teenagers in Birmingham in the 1960s. Now they are applied to promote discussion with a group of Bangladeshi fifteen and sixteen year olds. A permanent full time worker has been taken on. This is necessary to extend the initial success of this aspect of the project. A further outreach activity has been Birmingham Stories. Set up by Dr Andy Green a summary from his web site is appended to these minutes. Andy Green’s material will include that from the Charles Parker Archive.

Other work with the Charles Parker Archive, particularly, has centred upon digitising (transferring to CD) all the tape recordings in the Archive outstanding after the completion of A Future for Ordinary Folk. The total was around 4000 tapes, about 5000 hours, of which about a third was managed within A Future for Ordinary Folk. In addition all the material has been catalogued. It amounts to about 5000 pages. Part of the catalogue was circulated for information. In time, possibly by the end of 2007, this will be available on-line from the Library website. It was hoped that the BBC would allow clips to be used from Charles’ recordings. They have not given that permission so material will be sought which is not subject to such a veto.

Another important part of the project has been the volunteer programme. This is featured on the front cover of this year’s Annual Report. It provided students with the opportunity to do some basic work helping archivists manage the huge amount of material.

7. Web Site developments
Pam Bishop has set up a website for the Trust. A report is on the inside back cover of the Annual Report. It has links to the Library website, Connecting Histories and other sites relevant to the Archive and the work of Charles Parker.

There was considerable discussion around the practicalities, content, costing etc for websites. Helen Lloyd explained about radio programmes she had made and that have been put onto the web site of The Oxford Centre . The Diabetes Stories site has transcripts, explanations and recordings made for the series of programmes. She thought the material and its use might provide a helpful indication of what is possible.

8. 2008 meeting
The next meeting of Friends will be following the Trust’s AGM on Friday 26th September 2008 commencing 6.30 p.m.

9. Discussion and any other business

  1. Charles Parker Day 2008: Paul Long explained that this year it will be held at Bournemouth at the Miramar Hotel, East Overcliff on Friday 4th April. The arrangements for future years may change and Gillian Reynolds will speak to both Paul Long and Sean Street on this. Notwithstanding these changes the broadcasting group at Bournemouth will retain the links with the History of Broadcasting Group.
  2. Book on the Radio Ballads: Peter Cox described progress with his book on the Radio Ballads, which will be published to coincide with the 50 th anniversary of The Ballad of John Axon. It is also hoped the event will include a live concert with various performers from the programmes.
  3. The Charles Parker programme The Fifteenth Variation – A Portrait of Elgar: Gillian Reynolds showed a copy of an article from The Birmingham Post of Wednesday 30th May 2007. This had a full-page piece including a sepia photograph of Elgar. With him are GB Shaw, Sir Barry Jackson and Dame Edith Evans. Barry Lankester and others had been unable to persuade the BBC to repeat this programme to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Elgar’s birth. The original programme was made to commemorate the centenary of his birth.
  4. Ben Harker’s book “ A Class Act: The Life and Political Times of Ewan MacColl (Pluto Press 2007) has been published. See Harker’s website
  5. Paul Long reported that a student, Hugh Chignall, is researching material on The Long March of Everyman. The radio series broadcast in the 1970s contained recordings made by Charles using contributors drawn from his contacts in other programmes and speaking the parts of historical characters. Michael Mason produced the programmes.
  6. Ivor Pearce is planning a book on the Folk Revival in the Midlands. He would welcome any contributions.

There being no other business the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 7.45 p.m

Notes from his website by Dr Andy Green in relation to “Birmingham Stories”, part of the Connecting Histories development 

‘Birmingham Stories’ is an innovative AHRC funded project which aims at creating a dialogue between the academy, local libraries and Birmingham’s diverse communities. As Research Fellow on the Birmingham, I will be arranging a series of workshops in Birmingham libraries on themes such as ‘Migration Stories’, ‘Radical Religions’, and ‘Researching Race History’. Working in Birmingham Central Library, I am also developing new learning materials based on the city archive collections. Previously positions include ‘Research and Learning Officer’ for ‘Connecting Histories’ and lecturer at Nottingham University in American Studies. I am also a member of Una Corda.

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