Brian Vaughton was born in Birmingham – and collaborated with legends of BBC documentary production – Charles Parker and Philip Donnellan. Some of Brian’s production work include;

  • The Bull Ring, Moments of Truth
  • Cry from the Cut
  • The Jewellery
  • Life As It Was
  • The Weavers’ Tale

The late, great Birmingham folk musician Ian Campbell added musical accompaniment to Brian’s “Cry From The Cut” and “The Jewellery” docs – which provide a vivid audio snap shot of Birmingham from over 50 years ago…

It’s incredible to think that Brian got such impressive recordings from an old EMI L2 portable reel-to-reel recorder – which were particularly heavy to lug around. The recordings were mostly spliced together by Brian on a Brunell editor at his house when he had spare time in the evenings – as he was an independent producer for the BBC who had to hold down other work.

In 2014 I spoke about my research into Brian’s work at the Charles Parker Society’s Annual General Meeting. I also attended the “Charles Parker Day” with students and staff from the School of Media – which was fittingly held in the new Library of Birmingham (where the Charles Parker Archive is housed) – in the heart of the city that gave birth to Parker’s iconic ‘Ballads’. I often play excerpts from Parker’s ‘The Ballad of John Axon’ and ’Singing the Fishing’ in Birmingham School of media Radio Documentary classes (along with past winners of the Charles Parker Prize) and discuss the seismic impact that Parker’s work had on radio documentary production. The students are always impressed by Parkers work – especially considering the (relatively) rudimental equipment it was produced with.

I was fortunate to visit Brian Vaughton at his home in Devon with Vanessa Jackson, the University’s Degree Leader in Television, in early August (2014) to film an interview about his career and to have him demonstrate how his equipment operated. As a documentary producer myself, it was a rare privilege to ask about those pivotal days when modern radio documentary production was forged. We spent several hours together and the footage has been edited into a series of videos which are now available online.

Brian offered insightful recollections of working alongside Charles Parker and Philip Donnellan – and demonstrated how his audio equipment was operated. Which you can view in the series of video clips below;

Specially recorded video with retired radio producer and editor, Brian Vaughton, demonstrating the STC 4032 microphone.

Specially recorded video of retired radio producer and editor, Brian Vaughton, demonstrating how the EMI L2 tape recorder worked. This was a heavy piece of kit, weighing around 14 pounds. It dates from the late 1950s.

Specially recorded video with retired radio producer/editor, Brian Vaughton, demonstrating how the Brenell tape editing deck of the 1950/60s worked.

Birmingham City University has honoured Brian and his work on what have become known as the Birmingham Ballads (‘The Jewellery’ and ‘Cry from the Cut’) by establishing ‘The Brian Vaughton Award for Excellence in Radio Production’. It seemed appropriate that the inaugural winner of the prize, Sophie Sparham, received a special commendation from the judges of the Charles Parker Prize for her ‘Addicted Philosophy’ documentary, which was also featured in the Radio 4 Extra programme documenting the Charles Parker Day.