Friends of the Charles Parker Archive: AGM 2010

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Charles Parker Archive held Friday 24th September 2010 at The Central Library, Birmingham.

The meeting commenced at 6.35 p.m.

1. Present:.
Trustees and Committee members: Tim Blackmore (Chairman), Pam Bishop, Sara Parker, Ian Parr, Sian Roberts, Fiona Tait, Robert Whitworth
Friends : Joy Ashworth, John Davis, Maureen Davis, Trevor Fisher, Steve May, Eileen Whiting
Guest: Wally Fisher
Apologies: Philip Cox, Helen Lloyd, Cathy Mackerras, Matthew Parker, Gillian Reynolds

2. Chairman’s Welcome and Introductory Remarks:
The Chairman welcomed Friends to the meeting and outlined the agenda items. He welcomed our guest, Walter (Wally) Kinder and said Wally would speak later about his association with Charles Parker.

3. Chairman’s Review of the Annual Report 
The Chairman expressed his satisfaction with this year’s Report and thanked Sara Parker for her efforts. He said how pleased he was by the variety of contributions. He added that the item by Dave Douglass on the importance of the Radio Ballad “The Big Hewer” to miners and mining communities was particularly powerful. He went on to say that overall the content of the Report, which is good, reflected the health of the Trust as we moved forward from where most effort was spent working to preserve Charles’ Archive to a situation in which we can actively promote it.

4. Approval of minutes of Friends AGM held 29th September 2009
The minutes were approved.

5. Items arising from 2009 Friends Annual Meeting
The Chairman said that since the last AGM the Trust had lost one of its most loyal Friends. Therefore it was appropriate that the work of Barry Lankester and his passing away be acknowledged. He recalled Barry’s contribution to broadcasting, the BBC especially in the Midlands and his relationship with Charles Parker and the Trust. Barry had been unable to attend the 2009 AGM but had requested something be done to encourage the BBC to transmit again the programme Charles Parker made about Elgar, “The Fifteenth Variation” made in 1957. Having listened to the programme and discussed it with Gillian Reynolds the Chairman reported that he felt it was unsuitable for 21st century broadcasting and was of the opinion that the 1950s voices and other aspects of the production were no longer acceptable to audiences. He was sorry for this, but it was the reality of modern broadcasting. It was especially unfortunate since it seemed that last request Barry had made of us we were unable to fulfil, albeit for very good reasons.
Secretary’s Note: On file we have copies of clippings from the Birmingham Post which relate to this programme. The article was part of a commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of Elgar’s birth.

6. Trustees’ selections of clips from the Archive

6.1 The Secretary, Ian Parr, played a clip from Episode 14 of “The Long March of Everyman”, entitled “The Iron Machine”. The following link gives catalogue details from the Archive and the recording can be heard in Birmingham Library Archives Department – LINK

Prefaced by the introduction the main speech in this clip is a reading delivered in a form of Lincolnshire dialect by an unknown speaker using words edited from an autobiography by Thomas Cooper, “Life by Himself” 1872, describing his failure to obtain an apprenticeship as a shoemaker and the consequent effects on his earning capacity in the trade. Charles Parker, by 1970, was convinced of the ability of working people to give their speech the power of accumulated experience. Thus it was possible, he thought, for written records to be re-constituted into direct actuality. For a contemporary example go to the BBC4 programme by Michael Woods “Story of England”

6.2 Sara Parker produced a recording of her father describing how he records and edits interviews. She said she thought it was a valuable tool and she used it herself in presentations to features producers etc.

6.3 Pam Bishop gave us a series of clips of Emily Turner of Wednesbury. The following link gives catalogue details and the recordings can be heard in Birmingham Library Archives Department – LINK

6.4 Helen Lloyd submitted a clip presented by Pam Bishop of an interview by Charles Parker of Alderman Harry Watton JP who was one of the contributors to “The Travelling People” Radio Ballad. In it Alderman Watton describes the reasons for the views he holds with regard to Travellers. The significance of the selection is that Charles Parker on several occasions makes his subject go back over what he has said specifically to ensure key bits of information, opinion are “on the record”. How compliant are modern-day politicians?

6.5 Tim Blackmore presented an interview with Peggy Seeger describing the team work involved in making the Radio Ballads. “….it needed all of us ….to make what it was…..” she says. Captured in this way, Peggy goes further than the impression one has from “Set into Song” or Ewan MacColl’s autobiography.

7. Walter Kinder, guest 
The Secretary explained he had contacted Wally after he had phoned Sian Roberts in connection with a comment he had heard on the radio that the original version of “The Ballad of John Axon” was of 45 minutes duration . Wally then went on to say that he obtained his hour long recording from Charles and he had understood this was the original version. This had come about as a consequence of meeting Charles when he (Wally) had been asked by Philip Donnellan to take part in his tv documentary film on the Blind, “RB8”. Later, Wally said, he was involved in making “The Blind Set” with Charles Parker which included Frankie Armstrong. He had also been present at a number of the recording sessions and met the musicians. He recalled the controversy over the RNIB and its attitude to visually impaired people which he thought had changed little. Also the debate over the use of the long cane, another topic that was controversially aired in “The Blind Set”.

Concluding his talk Wally referred to recordings he had of the Radio Ballads Charles had given him and the fact that reel-to-reel tape machines were much rarer and he felt he it would be better for him to have his tapes transferred to another medium.

The Chairman thanked Wally for his contribution to the meeting and this was strongly endorsed by those present.

8. Developments in promoting the Archive
The Chairman drew attention to the changes brought about on the Trust website in which Pam Bishop had provided links to sources of further information including the A2A (Archive to Archive) National Archives Database which includes all the Charles Parker catalogued material. Also the Birmingham Library site which gives full catalogue details allowing a full search of the Libraries archives.

The Chairman emphasised that in spite of these advances in information sourcing the most important element, i.e. access to audio sources on line, remains outstanding. Access would be, he said, a major move forward.

9. Charles Parker Day 2010 and plans for 2011 
Those who were present at Sunderland agreed the day was a substantial success. The Chairman said he understood that Sean Street’s contribution to the Annual Report conveyed the general sense of the occasion.
The Chairman said that so far as 2011 was concerned Trustees favoured Swansea. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the Radio Ballad “The Big Hewer” . However, the organisation at Swansea is less well advanced there and 2012, though less important for anniversaries, would give opportunities for thinking of Charles Parker’s work away from the Radio Ballads. Therefore, Andy Cartwright had tentatively offered to organise CP Day for 2011 at the Miners’ Welfare in Newcastle with the full support of Sunderland University.

10. Date for 2011 Friends AGM
It was agreed The Friends AGM will be held at the Library on Friday 23rd September 2011 to commence at 6.30p.m. concluding at 8.p.m. at the latest. The Secretary is to arrange facilities in conjunction with the Library.

11. Discussion and Any other business
Trevor Fisher explained that he had been considering re-writing the pamphlet “Charles Parker: Aspects of a Pioneer” that he had produced for the Trust in 1986. In particular he was aware that in spite of Charles Parker’s working life being centred largely around Birmingham, his influence upon it and the city upon him, this had largely been ignored. Associated with these considerations was the poor coverage by regional media. Thus he felt a specific re-write with the possibility of making it web compatible would have some value. The Secretary stated that there was material on the Trust website relating to Brian Vaughton’s work making programmes for Charles and Philip Donnellan. He would send details to Trevor.

The Chairman thanked Trevor for his contribution and said Pam Bishop and the Secretary would continue to liaise with him regarding this project.

The Chairman thanked everyone for attending the meeting, especially our guest Wally Kinder and those who had made presentations. He closed the meeting at 7.40p.m.

Post Meeting Note 
Although not discussed at the Friends Meeting the Chairman felt a note should be added to these minutes.
At the Trust AGM earlier that day there was discussion concerning extending the number of Trustees. It is an agreed policy that additional Trustees or people co-opted to the Trust committee be recruited from time to time in accordance with the development needs of the Trust. The following is taken from the unconfirmed minutes of the 2010 Trust AGM:

Cathy Mackerras said she thought along similar lines in terms of people with skills and commitment. She was conscious she had served as Trustee for nearly thirty years but knew she was not giving as much effort as she had in the past. Also she had many other things that demanded her time and attention. She therefore proposed to resign as Trustee although would continue to support the Trust as a “Friend”. However she recognised the need for continuity and suggested that although Peter Caldwell from the WEA in Birmingham was probably in a similar position to herself so would not see himself as a Trustee she thought there may be people within that organisation willing to stand and with the meeting’s approval would approach Peter Caldwell for suggestions. This was agreed.

The Chairman thanked Cathy Mackerras for her suggestion. Acknowledging her concerns regarding her present situation he went on to say that her commitment to the Trust through many difficult years had been exemplary and thanked her on behalf of the meeting. A number of tributes to Cathy Mackerras were also made.

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