BBC Radio 4: Tony Parker, The Great Listener- Listen Online

Posted on 01/01/2013 by


Happy New Year One and All! Hope you’ve had a festive time.

BBC Radio 4 will shortly be broadcasting has posted online Alan Dein’s documentary on the oral historian Tony Parker (originally broadcast in May 2012). The programme will be aired on Friday 4th January 2013 at 8pm. You can listen online now at

Tony Parker was a ground-breaking writer and oral historian – the master of the tape-recorded interview. Whether talking to convicted murderers, the homeless, impotent men or unmarried mothers, his enigmatic quiet empathy meant that people opened up to him with immense honesty and trust. He was the Great Listener.

The result was a unique and expansive body of work, in which he shaped these real-life stories into compelling thematic narratives. By the time of his death in 1996, he had published scores of books, made documentaries for radio and television, and pioneered the genre of verbatim drama.

Although his work was always based on real people in real places, Parker gave all his interviewees and their locations pseudonyms, and he scrupulously destroyed all traces of the interviews-the tapes and the transcripts-once the books were published.

Alan Dein traces the story of Tony Parker through the archive that remains and along the way tries to get behind the pseudonyms and obfuscation and track down some of Tony Parker’s interviewees to find out what it was like to open up to the Great Listener.

For more information, please see