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The 2006 Radio Ballads were a year in the making; from research to transmission, many people and journeys were involved. The process began with producer John Leonard, tape editor Annie Grundy and interviewers Vince Hunt and Sara Parker (daughter of original producer Charles Parker) selected six issues dominating the half-century since the original Radio Ballads of Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger were begun in 1957. Hunt and Parker then set out to visit steelworks, shipyards and fairgrounds, cross the countryside with fox and hare hunters, talk to musicians who'd been caught up in the Troubles and to people living with HIV/AIDS, and to gather location atmosphere and sound effects, in the process speaking with hundreds of interviewees.

Andy Cutting

Musician Andy Cutting recording an instrumental layer in the studio.

Once gathered, the interviews were edited into themes, with layers of recollections and memories. These were then sifted by Leonard and arranged into possible groupings for songs to be written; meanwhile musical director John Tams assembled a team of professional musicians drawn mostly from the current folk music scene, as were the musicians in the original Ballads. As this Ballad series was commissioned as part of the BBC's Voices project, the songwriters used dialect, slang and shared experience to inform their songs, and John Tams accompanied Parker and Hunt on several interview-gathering trips to fairgrounds and steelworks.

Fred Parr

Yorkshireman Fred Parr, one of the many people interviewed during the making of the series.

Winter 2005 was a blur of activity around Tams' studio as musicians gathered from across the UK to work out parts and hone the songs, while Leonard set up camp with a laptop in the kitchen to edit each new stage into the overall Ballad, sometimes asking for fresh interviews to match the songs, sometimes re-working the flow of the programme to take into account an excellent new song demanding more airtime. Long days and weeks of studio production resulted in the six-part series transmitted during February, March and April 2006.

Fiddle & scores

Hundreds of hours were spent in the studio, recording the songs.

Each Ballad is a mammoth work, taking many hours of research, interview-gathering, songwriting, musicianship, editing and production from start to finish. We hope you enjoy them.


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Classic songs, covers, songwriting and more.


An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding

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