About Charles Parker

He was born in Bournemouth in 1919, joined the Navy and commanded a submarine during the Second World War and was awarded a DSC; took a degree in history at Queen's College, Cambridge, and joined the BBC in 1949. In 1954, he moved to Birmingham as a radio features producer, and was employed full-time by the BBC until 1972. He was passionate about the cultural importance of the oral tradition and folk song and devoted much of his life to activities through which he could demonstrate their significance and continued relevance. Through the BBC he did his most famous work on the development of radio documentary techniques, his 'Radio Ballad' Singing the Fishing winning the prestigious Prix Italia for the BBC in 1960. There is widespread recognition of the contribution he made to the art of broadcasting in the media today, a fact reflected in the biographical 'The Ballad of Charles Parker' broadcast by the BBC in 1995.

Parker's colossal energy was reflected in the other projects he was involved in, which extended far beyond his official work for the BBC, into lectures for the Workers' Educational Association, the National Association for the teaching of English, and the Polytechnic of Central London; extra-mural projects such as his collaboration with Arnold Wesker on 'The Maker and the Tool' in 1962, and engagement with the Folk Revival of the 1960s and 1970s as a performer. His encounters with working people in his work for the BBC, and his association with leading figures in the Revival such as A.L.Lloyd, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, led him to adopt an increasingly political stance on a broad range of social and cultural issues. After leaving the BBC in 1972, he turned his unique talents as a performer and producer to the service of radical theatre, becoming a founder and mainstay of the Banner Theatre of Actuality in Birmingham. He died during rehearsals for a Banner production in 1980.

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