Friends of the Charles Parker Archive: AGM 2011

Minutes of AGM held Friday 23rd September 2011 at The Central Library, Birmingham

The meeting commenced at 6.30 p.m.

1. Present:.
Trustees and Committee members: Tim Blackmore (Chairman), Pam Bishop, Andy Cartwright, Helen Lloyd, Sara Parker, Ian Parr, Sian Roberts, Fiona Tait, Robert Whitworth
Friends : Joy Ashworth, Jacqueline Contre, Maureen Davis, Eileen Whiting
Apologies: Philip Cox, Cathy Mackerras, Matthew Parker, Gillian Reynolds

2. Chairman’s Welcome and Introductory Remarks:

2.1 Opening remarks
The Chairman welcomed Friends to the meeting and outlined the agenda items. He introduced Andy Cartwright who joined the Trustees this year and explained that he had organised Charles Parker Day for the last two years, at Sunderland and Newcastle, explaining that Andy is a distinguished radio programme producer and academic.

2.2 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 particularly by Pam Bishop’s item on the US National Jukebox Project and that he hoped that it had something of a model for the UK to adopt, although he was not optimistic. He also referred to the contributions from Andy Cartwright who had provided a detailed account of Charles Parker Day 2011 and which was a great success and Sean Street’s item on The British Library Sound Archive.
He went on to say how grateful the Trust was for a most generous donation from Gillian Reynolds which not only enabled the Trust to ensure the Charles Parker Prize was available for this year, but meant that the Library staff, so supportive of the Archive and the Trust’s aims, were able to attend CP Day also.
He explained that although the Trust officers were unchanged for this year, Robert Whitworth, our Treasurer had indicated a wish to step down at the next AGM. The Trust was, therefore, seeking a Treasurer and he would be delighted if any Friends or people associated with the Trust were interested in taking over from the excellent work Robert had undertaken in his time as Treasurer.

3. Approval of minutes of Friends AGM held 24th September 2010 
The minutes were approved.

4. Items arising from 2010 Friends Annual Meeting

4.1 Wally Kinder’s presentation on “The Blind Set”
The Secretary reported that he had sent copies of Trust materials to Wally Kinder, though recognising the difficulties this sort of thing entailed for him. He had also made reference to Walley’s contribution in his item in the Annual Report. However, there was nothing else of note, other than he had seen Wally a couple of times on the local tv news magazine.

4.2 “Charles Parker – aspects of a pioneer” 
The Secretary reported that at the last Friends AGM Trevor Fisher had suggested that he might update the paper he wrote for the Trust a number of years ago. However, Trevor Fisher was not in attendance and no one present had heard from him. It was agreed this item be retained.

4.3 Developments in promoting the Archive

4.3.1 The Chairman said that at present there were no specific projects planned. Trustees would be very interested in any ideas people might have for making more use of the Archive material. It was noted that Sian Roberts had written an item for the Annual Report which made especial reference to the work of Dr Andy Green, a community research officer based at the Library in a heritage project “The Cultural Champions” dealing with life in Castle Vale, Birmingham.
4.3.2 The Chairman advised the meeting that Graham Peet was repairing and updating the travelling exhibition, “Man with a microphone” and it would be in use at The Public in West Bromwich.
In reply to a question from one of the Friends the Chairman said that although it might be an attractive proposition to devise a mobile phone “app” for material from the travelling exhibition, he thought that in practice it would result in copyright problems with the BBC. This topic is one which continues to affect the Trust’s ability to make the most of the Archive material. To date the BBC will not even allow the British Library to make archive recordings available on-line.
4.3.3 The Secretary reported that he had had an exchange of emails with Rachel MacGregor, a Senior Archivist at the Library. She had presented a paper, the results of research in the CP Archive on Charles Parker’s connection with Herbert Cashmore who was Chief Librarian for Birmingham in the 1920s and 30s . He had circulated to Trustees a synopsis of Rachel’s report which had, unfortunately, arrived a little too late for the Trust Annual Report, but its contents were read to the meeting. He had undertaken some research of his own into Herbert Cashmore and he described his findings and a personal observation that Charles Parker’s political views seemed to be more aligned with socialism much earlier than perhaps is acknowledged and that Charles Parker perhaps did not experience an epiphany during the making of “The Big Hewer” perhaps merely a moment of confirmation. Sara Parker said that she has always felt that her father was more left-leaning during her childhood than people seemed to think. She welcomed Rachel MacGregor’s work and looked forward to seeing the final paper and finding space in the Annual Report. The Secretary said that he hoped it would be possible for Friends to see the full report when available and that he would, in the meantime, send a copy of the synopsis to anyone interested.
Sian Roberts said that it was clear from Herbert Cashmore’s diaries which he maintained for most of his life, that he was a far thinking man and ahead of his generation envisaging, for instance, of a time when books would be read on TV screens.
The Chairman said he was grateful for the research Rachel MacGregor had undertaken and the fresh insights it gave into Charles Parker and the intellectual life of people associated with him.

5. Future of Library Staff and resources
Sian Roberts updated the meeting on current changes to the Library and the effects on Library staff.
The new Library is understood to be on track for a move in 2013. It is planned that accessibility will be improved including that for documents.
The present position, however, is that the Archive is only accessible by appointment in blocks of three hours and only on certain days. The situation will deteriorate further from 7th November. Some of this is due to the move to the new building, but it is also a consequence of the loss of staff numbers from 40 to 30 and further job losses to come. Furthermore budgets have been cut by 30% and it is possible the Library organisation will become a Trust in some form or other.
The Chairman thanked Sian for her presentation and supported by other Trustees expressed his sympathies for the Library staff, his concern at the upheaval and his reservations for the future of the Archive.
The Chairman went on to say that it would appear that the Trust will be impacted in several ways including access to the Archive and uncertainty in our ability to hold meetings at the Library. It was pointed out that all these changes affected not just the CP Archive but those of Banner, Philip Donnellan and others. Following concern expressed by many present, the Chairman agreed to draft a letter, for Trustees prior approval, to the Library management expressing Trustees’ concern regarding the current situation. Action: Tim Blackmore

6. Helen Lloyd’s recording of an interview with Bill Shreeve and others
The Chairman prefaced Helen’s presentation by saying how grateful he was to Bill Shreeve’s family for the donation to the Trust made in Bill’s name. The recording and the anecdotes of his life were a reminder of how valuable a contribution he had made to his fellow men and women.
Helen Lloyd explained that the recording was made as part of her work for Birmingham City Council’s Millennibrum Project. Bill was born in November 1918 and early in his life developed a sense of fairness and a willingness to stand against prevailing opinion, reflected in a hymn he admired, “Dare to be a Daniel”
He was closely involved in what we call the “the Battle of Saltley Gate” during the 1972 Miners’ Strike, although he refused to call it by that name [1].
He was a member of both the Leaveners and Banner Theatre and Helen regretted that she’d failed to ask him how he first met Charles Parker. She played extracts from his interview in which he talked about Charles’ ‘wonderful mind and keen perception’ and his advice to try out different roles so that, for example, a projectionist would understand the difficulties experienced by an actor and vice versa.
Bill was a member of the Communist Party and was recommended to Helen as an interviewee by another member of the Party, Katherine Thomson. Helen played extracts from recordings of two other interviewees recommended by Katherine – a midwife, Ellen O’Brien, recorded for the BBC and a builder, Ralph Allcock, recorded for the Millennibrum Collection.

7. Charles Parker Day 2011 and plans for 2012

7.1 April 2011 review
Those who were present at Newcastle agreed the day was a notable success. The Chairman congratulated Andy Cartwright for arranging a stimulating day.
Andy Cartwright referred the meeting to his article in the Annual Report and reported that the Charles Parker Prize is publicised through the Radio Studies network amongst the university media departments. Two years ago there were 43 entries (a record), this year, i.e. 2011; 24 and in previous years typically 15 to 20. However, the standard of entries had always been high with some notable programme makers emerging.
The Chairman emphasised that the Trust had effectively take over Charles Parker Day in order to ensure we can control it in accordance with the Trust objectives and widen the constituency.

7.2 Charles Parker Day 2012 
7.2.1 Location 
Andy Cartwright reported that no progress had been made with Swansea University. It was now a matter of considering two possibilities; Westminster, (see also and Christ Church, Canterbury. These contacts would be followed up in the next few weeks.
7.2.2 Timing and content
It had been agreed the date for Charles Parker Day should be Friday 30th March 2012.
Andy went on to explain that there had been a conscious effort to relate the themes of CP Day to the various anniversaries of the Radio Ballads. Hence 2012 would be a reflection upon “Body Blow”; not only how disabilities were treated then, in 1962, but comparing how people with disabilities are treated now. It was also a possibility that we would be asking what would a “radio ballad” be like if Charles Parker were making one today, taking account of the available technology as he had done in the late 1950 and early 60s. It was pointed out that the John Leonard and John Tams 2006 radio ballad, “The Enemy Within” had many pointers to an understanding of the question. Sian Roberts explained that there was also a local initiative examining the history of visually impaired and blind people.
7.2.3 CP Prize
Andy Cartwright stated that the Trust was considering how the Charles Parker Prize could be made more attractive and at the same time how it could be improved so as to be more manageable financially for the Trust. It was also intended that we would make more of the potential publicity to promote the Trust’s aims and to ensure wider application and use of the Archive.

8. Future arrangements for the Friends AGM
The Chairman, Tim Blackmore, said that the Trustees thought the best day would be Friday 21st September 2012, commencing at 6.30p.m. and concluding at 8.p.m. at the latest. However, arrangements with the Library could not be confirmed so the date and time although our ideal would have to be considered provisional.

9. Discussion and Any other business
There was a general discussion concerning the Library and the position of staff and use of the facilities.
There being no further business the Chairman thanked everyone for attending and declared the meeting closed at 7.40p.m.

[1] Following the meeting Helen Lloyd supplied a transcript of part of her recording where Bill explains his view saying reference to Satley Gate is incorrect. The following is an edited version of the transcript.
“I maintain….. it was not Saltley Gate where the confrontation took place. That gate was the entrance to Nechells Gas Works. It wasn’t and couldn’t have been Saltley Gate. The old Saltley works had been amalgamated with the Nechells works and the two works were described as Nechells West. So one could say, quite correctly, that Saltley Gate had gone out of existence yet the press, and the media kept insisting on calling it Saltley Gate, and that’s gone down in the history books, which is a sore point with me. There’s never enough examination by historians and the like I’m not blaming them for these things. You see once a thing has been accepted, its accepted after a comparatively short time as being a fact, and even simple things like that can be a pivot or a knife edge on which other things are judged, so I think we should all be, as far as is humanly possible, accurate in what we say, in what we think.”

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