The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #163225   Message #3891663
Posted By: Jim Carroll
01-Dec-17 - 11:01 AM
Thread Name: Radio Ballad Format - who created it?
Subject: RE: Radio Ballad Format - who created it?
Lomax composed 'Ballad Operas', "The Martins and The Coys" probably being the best known of them - as far as I am aware, they did not include the actuality recordings that made the Radio Ballads unique
A friend of mine is searching for an Irish made one Lomax made, possibly some time i the 1950s,; 'The Stones of Tory', based on a local legend from Tory Island, North West Donegal.
The Radio Ballads were created by accident.
Charles Parker was commissioned to produce a radio tribute to railwayman, John Axon, who had died in his cab whilst trying to stop his train when the steam breaks failed.
He engaged Peggy Seger and Ewan MacColl to produce the music
The practice in those days was to gather information around the subject, usually by interviewing workmates, etc., write a script and give it to actors to read.
The trio set off and recorded hours of actuality and when the listened to it MacColl, who had become fascinated in vernacular speech, suggested that the recorded material was "too good to be wasted on actors" and proposed that it should be edited and used for the programme
The BBC were at first reluctant to use the working voice on the radio but were eventually sold the idea
It was a phenomenal success and opened the gates to seven more programmes, the idea was dropped when the Beeb realised that had hold of a hot potato because of what the interviewees were saying about their lives.   
Previously, the only regular regional accent on the radio was of Yorkshireman Wilfred Pickles, who was eventually dropped because of his "strange speech".
Two more radio ballads were made by Charles without MacColl and Seeger after the series ended, but were pale shadows of the originals as the Beeb wouldn't pay for the interviews or for sufficient time for the team to spend in preparation   
MacColl always saidf that he and Peggy dropped out because they felt it was better to end on a high rather than fade into insignificance with inferior programmes.
When you consider the power of the last of the eight, 'The Travelling People' (especially the penultimate "exterminate Travellers who won't conform" statement), he had a point
The features department of Midlands Radio, which commissioned the programmes, was eventually closed and Parker was made redundant
Jim Carroll