I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Charles Parker Archive Trust’s AGM in October 2104. It was the perfect opportunity to discuss the research content myself, Vanessa Jackson and Diane Kemp have been carrying out in relation to the Parker legacy (see Jackson’s earlier post). I spoke about award we have established in Brian Vaughton’s name (one of Charles Parker’s assistants) and played several video clips of Brian – and the late Ian Campbell, who Prof. Kemp interviewed shortly before his death in 2012.
Earlier in the year I attended the “Charles Parker Day” with students and staff from the School of Media – which was fittingly held in the new Library of Birmingham (where the Charles Parker Archive is housed) – in the heart of the city that gave birth to Parker’s iconic ‘Ballads’.
We play excerpts from ‘The Ballad of John Axon’ and ’Singing the Fishing’ in our radio documentary classes (along with past winners of the Charles Parker Prize) and discuss the seismic impact that Parker’s work had on radio documentary production. The students are always impressed by Parkers work – especially considering the (relatively) rudimental equipment it was produced with.
I was fortunate to visit Brian at his home in Devon with Vanessa Jackson, the University’s Degree Leader in Television, in early August to film an interview about his career and to have him demonstrate how his equipment operated. As a documentary producer myself, it was a rare privilege to ask about those pivotal days when modern radio documentary production was forged. We spent several hours together and the footage has been edited into a series of videos which are now available online.
Brian offered insightful recollections of working alongside Charles Parker and Philip Donnellan – and demonstrated how his audio equipment was operated. Which you can view in the series of video clips below;
As mentioned in a previous post, the University has honoured Brian and his work on what have become known as the Birmingham Ballads (‘The Jewellery’ and ‘Cry from the Cut’) by establishing ‘The Brian Vaughton Award for Excellence in Radio Production’. It is appropriate that the inaugural winner of the prize, Sophie Sparham, received a special commendation from this year’s judges of the Charles Parker Prize for her ‘Addicted Philosophy’ documentary, which was also featured in the Radio 4 Extra programme documenting the Charles Parker Day.
On behalf of Birmingham City University, I would like to take to the opportunity to thank Helen Hunt and Ian Parr from the Charles Parker Archive Trust – and especially Brian – for their generous assistance and for allowing us to share a tangible connection to radio documentary’s ‘golden age’ with our students – in the form of Brian’s vintage audio equipment which has been given to the Radio Dept.
As young radio documentary producers of the future head to their classes they will pass by the Brian Vaughton collection of equipment in the lobby of the radio studios – and hopefully be inspired to follow in his path.