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Re:sound #99: The Radio Ballads Show

This hour: the BBC's groundbreaking Radio Ballads, produced between 1958 and 1964, which wove sounds, voices, and music into dense sonic tapestries that explored everything from the lives of coal miners to the lives of teenagers, focusing mainly on communities that weren't often heard from on the radio.

2008 / TCF / WBEZ 91.5, USA


This hour: the BBC's groundbreaking Radio Ballads, produced between 1958 and 1964, which wove sounds, voices, and music into dense sonic tapestries that explored everything from the lives of coal miners to the lives of teenagers, focusing mainly on communities that weren't often heard from on the radio.

The Ballad of John Axon (excerpt)
by Charles Parker with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (BBC, 1958)
The Ballad of John Axon chronicled the life of British hero John Axon, a train driver who died when he refused to abandon his runaway train, saving the lives of others at the expense of his own.

Singing the Fishing (excerpt)
by Charles Parker with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (BBC, 1960)
Singing the Fishing focused on the herring fishing communities in Northumberland, Durham, South Wales, and the East Midlands.

The Big Hewer (excerpt)
by Charles Parker with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (BBC, 1961)
The Big Hewer took Parker, MacColl, and Seeger down into the coal pits to interview British coal miners.

The Body Blow (excerpt)
by Charles Parker with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (BBC, 1962)
The Body Blow explored the psychology of pain and the lives and limitations of five people afflicted by polio.

The Enemy That Lives Within (excerpt)
by John Leonard and John Tams with Sara Parker, Jez Lowe, Julie Matthews (BBC, 2006)
Six people living with HIV/AIDS share their stories in this modern ballad.

Lord God Bird
by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister (All Things Considered, 2005)
And now a different sort of ballad. And an amazing coincidence: without knowing anything about the BBC Radio Ballads project, Long Haul Productions set out to do pretty much the exact same thing.

This episode of Re:sound was produced by Delaney Hall.

produced by

Charles Parker

Charles Parker was a BBC Radio producer based in Birmingham who specialized in Documentary Radio and Theatre.

Dan Collison

Together with his life and radio partner Elizabeth Meister, Dan Collison produces audio documentaries and song/stories that detail everyday life in America, work that has consistently garnered radio's top awards.

Elizabeth Meister

Elizabeth Meister quit her job at the phone company to volunteer for public radio show This American Life in 1998, when she started their award-winning website in exchange for a chance to learn how to make radio documentaries.


Subscribe to the Podcast

Treat your ears to a radiophonic remix of audio goodness by subscribing to the Re:sound podcast. It’s hosted by Gwen Macsai and produced by Isabel Vázquez.

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