Banner Theatre were formed in 1973. They were a diverse group of people – folk singers, drama teachers, office workers, broadcasters, technicians, factory workers. Some of their founder members came from Centre 42, a project initiated by Charles Parker and Arnold Wesker in the early 1960s, which aimed to interest trade unionists in radical culture. Others were recruited from the Birmingham Folk Centre and the Grey Cock Folk Club. Parker was an innovative broadcaster who had come to work at the BBC Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham in 1954. He was renowned for producing ‘The Radio Ballads’ (1957-1964), with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, a series which described the lives and experience of working people in their own words and music – an unheard of practice at the time.
Banner’s raison d’être was – and still is – creating and performing work in partnership with the Trade Union movement, and working class and disenfranchised communities. In the early 80’s, and during the Miners Strike, they worked with members from Jubilee on a numbers of events. The barn dance musicians for the Jubilee Community Celebration projects were initially drawn from Banner. It’s also worth noting that Banner introduced Jubilee to the joys of back projection and tape-slide work. This photograph is from a rehearsal with Kevin, Jacqueline Contré and Dave Rogers. They may well be singing a chorus of “Hold the line! Hold the line! We’ll be there before the dawn, to hold the picket line.’
Banner have recently been working with Infamous Arts to create a website based on their own archives – Catching Stories, Making History – which is launched on September 30th, 2017.