Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…
In the early 1980s the Essex-based broadcaster and journalist Dennis Rookard produced a series of radio ballads to be broadcast on hospital radio. This month’s recording is an extract from one of those programmes – called Wind Over Tilbury – which was based around Tilbury Docks and told the story of the enormous changes to working practices brought about by the introduction of containerisation in the 1960s. It was first broadcast on Basildon Hospital Radio.
‘Radio ballad’ is a term used to describe a particular type of radio programme which uses a mixture of songs and the spoken word to create an entertaining, possibly sentimental, form of documentary. The term was coined for a series of programmes made between 1957 and 1964 for the BBC Home Service by Charles Parker, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. They were entirely new in that they used the voices of the ordinary people involved, carefully edited and interwoven with the music, to tell the story without the need for a narrator.
Dennis Rookard was greatly influenced by this series and he used a similar template to make his radio ballads which, like the originals, were generally focussed on the working lives of ordinary people and used folk music to tell the story. In Wind Over Tilbury and other programmes the South-Essex musician and songwriter Jack Forbes has composed songs specifically related to the subject in hand.
The extract I have chosen is the part of the programme in which we hear a large container ship called Jervis Bay being lined up to enter a lock. Amongst other things, it provides evidence for the assertion that radio is better than television because it allows you to create your own pictures. I hope you enjoy it.