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Charles Parker 1919-1980

In The Beginning
Ewan MacColl 1915 - 1989
Peggy Seeger 1935 -
Charles Parker 1919-1980
The Original Ballads
The Ballad of John Axon 1957
Song of a Road 1958
Singing the Fishing 1959
The Big Hewer 1960
The Body Blow 1961
On the Edge 1962
The Fight Game 1963
The Travelling People 1964
The New Radio Ballads
John Tams
The Song Of Steel
The Enemy That Lives Within
The Horn of the Hunter
Swings and Roundabouts
Thirty Years of Conflict
Ballad of the Big Ships

Charles Parker (1919-1980) was a BBC Radio Producer in Birmingham from 1954-1972

He was a founder, writer, singer and actor with Banner Theatre in Birmingham from 1974-1980

- Winner ITALIA PRIZE for Radio Documentary 1960

- Specialist in Documentary Radio and Theatre

- A pioneer of the Oral History movement

- Producer, 1958-1963, The Radio Ballads and many other remarkable radio programmes

Charles Parker came to believe passionately in the value of the testimony of working people and the creative importance of 'the oral tradition' and its relationship to folk music. This became the key to his work in radio, theatre and in his extensive teaching activities.

After his death in 1980 a Trust was set up to administer the Archive. Cataloguing of the papers is now almost completed. There are also audio cassettes and CDs available for research purposes.

The Charles Parker Archive is deposited in the Birmingham City Archives on the Seventh Floor of the Central Library.

It consists of tapes, production books, papers, correspondence and scripts for most of the programmes Charles Parker produced and the organisations in which he was active.

It contains a wealth of material for studying the culture of the 1950s-1970s - broadcasting, the folk revival, pop music, community arts - as well as contemporary social and political issues. Charles made programmes with blind people, Irish labourers, workers in China in 1972, Asian teenagers, protesters against the Vietnam War and other minorities traditionally denied a voice on the air on in historical records.

Indeed at his death, Parker left a very substantial archive of sound recordings of speech and music, his working files of correspondence, notebooks, notes, transcripts of lectures, production books, and articles, and a library of over 1,000 volumes on the subjects of oral tradition, song, music and politics.

Ballad Of John Axon
Illustration by Eric Fraser for the Ballad of John Axon

Charles Parker 1919-1980
Photograph: Bob Etheridge

produced by Charles Parker
there are two of them, neither
of which had Ewan MacColl
or Peggy Seeger involved.
They are The Jewellery, about
the Jewellery District of Birmingham
and A Cry From The Cut,
a programme about the Midland
canal communities

In the autumn of 1973 a new theatre group, the future Banner Theatre Company in embryo, was gathered from the regular performers at the
Grey Cock Folk Club. The initial project was to produce a version of Parker’s radio ballad, The Big Hewer, known as Collier Laddie. The show combined Parker’s established mix of actuality, folk song and slide projection with dance and movement. Collier Laddie was produced at the
Birmingham & Midland Institute, and was so successful that the group decided to take it on tour. From this success, the Banner Theatre Company was born, and over the years 1974 - 1980, Parker was involved in a series of shows with the company which gave it a considerable reputation in both the Labour movement and the community arts world.

the radio ballads website is
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