Brian Vaughton – Radio Documentarian

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission























Ian Parr, the Secretary and Trustee of the Charles Parker Archive, visited the Birmingham School of Media recently to deliver a collection of equipment formally used by Birmingham born radio producer, Brian Vaughton.

“On looking back I find that the majority of my documentaries have been aimed at capturing the past, before it is too late.” Brian Vaughton

Brian worked in both radio and television from the late 1950s – into the twenty-first century. In 1961 and 1962, Brian compiled and wrote two radio programmes which were produced by Charles Parker in the BBC Birmingham studios (Broad Street). These programmes, The Jewellery and Cry from the Cut, became known as  The Birmingham Ballads and have become important audio documents, preserving the legacy of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and the commercial boat traffic which used to fill the city’s once busy canals.

It is interesting to note that Brian did not work under the security of full time BBC employment – instead preferring the freedom offered by being an independent producer.

“The beauty of being a freelance is that you can choose the subject of your article, radio programme or documentary film that you want to put up for consideration by the powers-that-be. And if they reject your suggestions, it is not the end of the world!” Brian Vaughton

Brian kindly gave permission for his collection of radio equipment to be permanently displayed in the Radio Suite of the new Parkside Building. This includes an L2 EMI “midget tape recorder”, a Brennell editing deck and anSTC4032 microphone. These are all in pristine condition – which Brian says this is because he paid for the equipment himself – and therefore took good care of it. While BBC equipment at the time was often subjected to more “knocks”.

The School of Media is delighted to announce the naming of a new annual award “The Brian Vaughton Award for Excellence in Radio” which is to be given to the radio student achieving the highest overall mark on the conclusion of their BA in Media and Communication / Radio studies.

For more information about Brian’s achievements, please visit the Charles Parker Archive Trust where there is an excellent series of interviews and notes relating to his work and the “Birmingham Ballads”.

Sam Coley (Degree Leader Radio, School of Media, Birmingham City University)

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Pete Simpkin: ‘Many the reporter I taught to use the famous EMI L2 recorder….weighed a ton but was portable at last!’

Ieuan Franklin: ‘Hi Vanessa – that’s great about the donation of the equipment, and the naming of a new award after Brian Vaughton. I have listened to both programmes at the Charles Parker Archive, and I really think they do deserve to be included within the ‘official’ series of Radio Ballads (1958-1964). I have never met Brian, but his lengthy article on the Charles Parker Archive Trust website is incredibly informative, and was useful for my PhD research. Seán Street will be interested in this and may be able to comment on the equipment itself!’






The Charles Parker Archive can be found in the Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, and more details can be found on the Birmingham City Council’s website:


Sam Coley (Degree Leader, Radio, Birmingham City University)


One comment on “Brian Vaughton – Radio Documentarian
  1. I did tape editing and sound mixing for trails for Charles Parker at Broad Street Studios between 1963 and the time he left, or was made to leave the BBC.
    Of Course Charles Parker never worked at Pebble Mill.
    My memories of editing sessions in M2 and M7 were of him building up length of atmosphere, long enough to fade at the end of each edited interview. He did this by editing together short (fraction of a second) pieces of “silence”, to make atmosphere long enough to be able to fade. I did wonder why he never recorded several seconds of atmosphere when the original interview was recorded!
    He arrived for one session and got out his own chinagraph pencil. I went to the Technical Operations Supervisor (TOS) in the Control Room to report this. He reluctantly agreed that I, as tape editor, could actually do the tape editing, not without a comment about “Sacred Cows!”
    Many hours were spent by me on “Machine two” while he played pack his recordings on Machine one. He would snap his fingers when he wanted to copy a section, and I was to record. Another snap to stop recording. On one occasion, I noticed that I had got out of step somewhere, and I was recording all his spooling, and none of his playback.

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