Video seminar “From Protest to Resistance”: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance’

A video seminar of me presenting some of my work on anarcho-punk fanzines at Northampton University.

“From Protest to Resistance”: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance’


This presentation focuses on the role that alternative publications played in the cultural, political and ideological practices of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1980 and 1984. I explore the way these ‘zines disseminated the central ideas of anarcho-punk and the way that the editors mediated a shifting notion of anarcho-punk. In doing so I seek to move beyond the simpler notion that ‘zines acted simply as channels of communication, but to the idea that discourses of resistance and defiance are constructed and reinforced through the embodiment and undertaking of ideological work of ‘zine editors as ‘organic intellectuals’[1] and thus represent cultural work. This raises some interesting questions about the role of ‘zine editors/producers as key agents in articulating the perceived central tenets and identity of a subcultural movement. Where previous studies on ‘zines have alluded to the role of editors little emphasis has been placed on the way that these ‘zine authors take on leadership roles and perceived positions of authority.

I examine how DIY fan production practices, through the articulation of specific and at times oppositional ideological positions contributed to the construction of the musical, cultural and political boundaries of the anarcho-punk movement. Therefore this presentation explores how these discourses of political position, authority and identity were mediated and the sense of an anarcho -punk movement that they constructed.

FIGHT BACK-Punk, Politics and Resistance

fight back


I have a co-authored chapter with fellow BCMCR/Interactive Cultures member Tim Wall, concerning punk fanzines,soon to be published in an edited collection of writings on punk rock and politics.

Here is the chapter abstract;

Matt Grimes & Tim Wall
Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research
Birmingham City University

Anarcho-punk webzines
Transferring symbols of defiance from the print to the digital age?
What role do specialised publications play in the consumer’s experience of sub-cultures, music and the shaping of its meanings? Drawing on ideas from authors such as Teal Triggs (1995 & 2006), Chris Atton (2001) Marion Leonard (2007), this chapter explores this role through the pages and practices of British anarcho-punk fanzines, in their print and online incarnations.

Fanzines have long been regarded as representing the underground, independent, or the alternative to mainstream publishing as the communities that develop around fanzines are both consumers and (at times) the producers. When punk emerged, fanzines soon became one of the main means of communicating the ethos and values of this new subcultural and its musical style, as their production and distribution practices already embodied some of the cultural practices developing within the DIY approach of punk. Our concern in this chapter is with the role of the fanzine as arbiter of taste, its ability to articulate a specific (often oppositional) ideological position, and its construction of discourses of authenticity. We will also examine the role of the fanzine as an element in the construction of musical scenes, and in the identity and sub-cultural capital of its producers and readership. Our analysis focuses primarily on the specificities of ‘British anarcho-punk’ fanzines of the 1980s where discourses of defiance and opposition are constructed, embodied and reinforced within the anarcho-punk sub-cultural movement.

While it may be assumed that the practices and associations of the printed fanzine have simply migrated online, we examine and evaluate the continuities and discontinuities between the print and online incarnations, and the role that they play in constructing the ideology and identities of anarcho-punks. Using search criteria to identify those online versions that identify themselves as digital online punk ‘zines’, I seek to determine whether the same or similar articulations of defiance, anarchism and anti-authoritarianism are apparent in the digital texts. This essay assesses the extent to which the same discourses and discursive practices are apparent in other online punk ‘zines’, such as e-zines and per-zines. In doing so examines how the inclusion of the term ‘zine’, within the meta data of their digital manifestations, is used in the wider commercial and cultural context.

Forthcoming presentation at the Punk Scholars Network 1st Annual Post Graduate Symposium

PSN Postgraduate Symposium Poster Final-page-001PSN Postgraduate Symposium Poster Final-page-002

As well as being a member of BCMCR/Interactive Cultures I am also a member of the Punk Scholars Network, which is, as it’s name suggests, an international network of scholars academic and non academic that research and write about punk rock in all its different manifestations. The PSN has organised its first  Annual Punk Scholars Network Post Graduate Symposium for the end of this month and is being hosted at The University of Leicester and I am going to be presenting some of my Phd research into anarcho-punk. Specifically it will be reflecting on my methodological approaches. Here is my abstract for my presentation;

“Where There’s a Will There’s a Way”: Methodology, investigating memory and the life-courses of 1980’s British anarcho-punks.

Matt Grimes

Birmingham City University


Taking its title from 1980’s British anarcho-punk band Discharge, this paper investigates some of the issues faced by researchers conducting qualitative research interviews focussed on memory and the politics of everyday life. I will draw on my on-going doctoral research into a group of participants of the 1980’s British anarcho-punk scene and what significance that their engagement with British anarcho-punk has had on their lives. My doctoral research aims to build upon work about fan identities and practices within life-course transitions and the negotiation of fandom and identity amongst older fans produced by Hodkinson 2013, Harrington et al 2011, Bennett and Taylor 2012, and especially Bennett 2006, Davis 2006 and 2012, which examined the wider punk rock scenes.


Drawing on the work of Harrington & Bielby (2010) and Vitale (2013) I aim to contextualise my study and discuss the application of the life-course framework to my research. Additionally the presentation will raise some of the issues involved in memory studies as highlighted by Wang & Brockmeier (2002), Van Dijck (2006) and Labelle (2006). Drawing on the work of Rubin & Rubin (1995), Wengraf (2001) and Kvale & Brinkman (2009) I discuss the processes of and issues involved in conducting qualitative in-depth research interviews, the ethical considerations involved in this approach and managing interview data.

What is equally exciting about presenting at this conference is that Sophie Sparham, a recent graduate from the Birmingham School of Media, where I teach, will also be presenting for the first time at an academic conference. Here is her abstract;

How Close Is Too Close?  The role of the punk rock ethnographer and their relationship with their research subjects.

Sophie Sparham
Birmingham City University

Drawing on my personal experiences of touring with anarcho-punk band Addictive Philosophy in 2013, this presentation firstly discusses the significance of gaining and presenting subcultural capital as a way of gaining a more in-depth insight of a specific music scene, and therefore seeks to uncover the sometimes blurred distinction between researcher and research participant. In doing so it raises issues around the ethical dilemma of involvement and participation for the ethnographer and their relationship with the research subjects in the documenting of reality.

Secondly I discuss the role of the radio documentary producer; from the interviewing and recording process to the editorial decisions that were subsequently made to enable the creation of the documentary.  This also raises issues of the documentary producer’s desire to present reality whilst contending with regulatory broadcasting restrictions.  I demonstrate how my initial intention of making a radio documentary of the tour soon expanded into a much larger documentation and critique of the current anarcho-punk scene in the UK and Ireland.  The finished documentary was shortlisted for ‘The Charles Parker Radio Awards 2014’.

I have really enjoyed teaching Sophie and similarly I am enjoying working alongside her in developing her presentation. I am hoping it will be a really valuable experience for her and may encourage her to return to academia and engage in some post-graduate research and study .

Research project update.

One of the issues around maintaining a blog is time spent writing for it when perhaps I should be spending that time writing for my PhD. Anyway I am going to post a brief update here as a break from some philosophical reading I am conducting on Paul Ricoeur (Time and Narrative) and Michel Foucault (The Archaeology of Knowledge) both recommended by my new, yes new, supervisor Nick Gebhardt. Nick Has recently joined the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research from previously being at Lancaster University. He has a wealth of knowledge and some really erudite advice and I am really pleased to have him as a supervisor./ My other primary supervisor Prof Tim Wall has other commitments as the new Faculty Dean of Research however he has kindly committed to continue to support me as a third supervisor. So new supervisor and new progress-I recently presented my work so far to a panel for the transfer from MPhil stage to PhD stage. It was a 35K word lit review and a couple of case studies-fortunately it was approved so I have now achieved the status of being a master in my field of research. The next step was to present my new research proposal to another panel to see if my new line of investigation was worthy of conducting and worthy of approval. I am continuing with my investigation of anarcho-punk but my particular interest now is in the memories of the scene participants/ audience/ fans that were not necessarily band members though they are not ruled out of this project.

The projects aims are multi layered:
• Firstly the research focuses on the memories of the projects participants involvement with/in British anarcho-punk, musically, aesthetically, politically and ideologically
• Secondly how that involvement has influenced and/or impacted on their subsequent life courses, life choices and decisions, past and present, and shaped their lives (or similarly perhaps not).

I have decided to conduct a set of interviews this coming year with 5-6 participants that I am currently in the process of identifying and contacting. So far I have placed a couple of requests on punk forums and the response has been very encouraging with quite a few people expressing a strong interest in participating. Interestingly enough only one female response-which I am grateful for as I think the lifecourse trajectory of female participants may vary from those of male participants-I will no doubt find out. I am working my way through the methodological and ethical approaches to this form of data gathering and how my line of questioning will develop. One of the particular issues I will face is around people’s memories which includes memory recall, accuracy, memory narratives (hence Ricoeur and Foucault). Memory (and forgetting) is often problematic when trying to piece together historical analysis. I will be discussing this in more detail over the coming months hopefully in a set of blog posts here.

Video interview with Penny Rimbaud of Crass.

Ian Svenonius of Vice magazine chats with Crass’s founding drummer and writer Penny Rimbaud. The interview  starts with Penny declaring his slight preferences for the Beatles over the Stones, for at least “not shitting all over Bo Diddley’s shoulder.” Later he muses on Johnny Rotten’s logical inconsistencies before addressing Crass’s “brand image” of Crass. Penny also breaks down his feelings for Rave, describes how the Falklands War and its attendant politics forced Crass into its “immediate response” method of songwriting. Not missing a beat, Rimbaud reveals the anarchist plot to destroy Greenwich Mean Time and shares his thoughts on this concentration camp we call reality.

Crass/Thatchergate/ Secret Cabinet papers released under 30 year rule

With the recent release of the 1984 secret cabinet papers, under the 30 year rule,   Crass have again had a flurry of interest and publicity in the media regarding the infamous Thatchergate tape that they made and released in 1984. Without going into  detail I have included some links that cover most of the publicity surrounding the tape and the recent media coverage. These include the cabinet papers, interviews with Penny Rimbaud, the tape recording and other ephemera

You can download the cabinet papers here from the National Archives:


No Sir I Wont: Reconsidering The Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk. Punk Scholars Network Symposium.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the third Punk Scholars Network event organised and hosted by Pete Dale and the Oxford Brookes University Popular Music Research Unit. The title of the symposium was “No Sir, I Won’t”: Reconsidering The Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-Punk. The day started off with a pleasant taxi ride from the station with Pete, Penny Rimbaud, drummer and one of the founder members of Crass, and Sarah McHendry, musician and activist, member of Mwstard and former drummer of Curse of Eve, Baba Yaga and Witchknot. On arrival me, Penny and Sarah went off for a coffee at which point I started testing the ground with Penny about the paper I was to deliver that day on Crass and the documentary “There Is No Authority But Yourself” directed by controversial Dutch filmmaker Alexander Oey. My reason for broaching the paper with Penny, in advance of my presentation was because I felt quite nervous discussing somebody in the first person whilst they were there in the conference audience. It seemed from our discussions that my interpretation of the documentary was along the same lines as what Penny and Alexander were trying to convey through the documentary. Whilst this was reassuring I was yet to see how the audience would respond to my reading and the line of questioning I might get from Penny et al after I had presented.


Before the papers were delivered there was an excellent exhibition of anarcho-punk graphics from Russ Bestley of the University of The Arts London who pulled together some great examples and created a set of really powerful photomontage posters. To accompany the exhibition he also designed and printed a beautifully crafted limited edition ‘zine’ that was full of some great anarcho-punk graphics and an interesting historical perspective of the anarcho-punk movement/ scene in the UK in the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. You can see his excellent work here:PSN Oxford Booklet Layout PDF LR and here and throughout this blog post:

01 Crass Poster LR-page-0 copy copy


The first presenter of the day was Rich Cross whose paper was focused around discussions on the anarcho-punk/ peace punks’ relationship with the 60’s hippy counter culture and the development of political violence in the anarcho-punk movement. In his discussions he proposed that the singular fixed view of pacifism being integral to the early anarcho-punk movement misrepresented a more complex and contradictory reality, within the movement, where adherence to pure pacifism had become a contested principle. He drew on examples of the movements involvement with varying political groups including anti- fascist, animal liberation, anti- capitalist, Class War, Stop The City etc  and how that involvement challenged the original pacifism of anarcho-punk and saw some anarcho-punk militants adopt newly confrontational approaches.

02 Crass Poster LR-page-0 copy

Second up was a stimulating paper from Jim Donaghey who discussed anarchism as a politics of punk and punk as a culture of resistance. He proposed that there is a supposed gulf between ‘lifestyle’ and ‘ social’ anarchism where anarcho syndicalist’s ‘workerist’ interpretations of anarchism are somewhat in conflict with the social/ cultural interpretations of punk. In his paper he mapped out the anarcho-syndicalist principles of Rudolf Rocker onto DIY punk where it could be argued that the ‘workerist’ means of production are in the hands of the producers within DIY punk. In doing so he argued that a major foundation for successful struggle is a culture of resistance in which DIY punk contributes to in the contemporary anarchist milieu, as DIY punk bridges both political/personal and cultural/material.

03 Crass Label Poster LR-page-0 copy

After lunch it was my contribution where I discussed how music documentaries are used as a way of presenting and documenting popular music history, specifically punk for the screen. I argued that particular stylistic devices and tropes used in popular music documentaries engage in canonical processes that contribute to the formation of a punk canon. Alexander Oey’s documentary about Crass “There Is No Authority But Yourself” steers away from these stylistic devices and rather than presenting a ‘history’ of Crass presents us with a different insight.  In documenting Crass, Oey becomes more interested in the contemporary lives of some of the band members and  how the ideologies of the band are still, for some, core to their  lives and lifestyle. This raises the issue about an investigation and documenting of Crass being a vehicle for a broad range of ideologies that members of the band had before the band formed, and continue to live by today, rather than an intention to document history per se. The full paper is available here:

04 Anarcho Poster LR-page-0 copy copy


After me was Ana Raposo, who also presented an interesting paper on how  politics are represented in anarcho-punk music graphics. The core of her paper investigated how content and stylistic devices of music packaging are utilised as a propaganda tool and used for specific purposes such as loyalty or allegiance to  a scene,  strengthening an existing scene or recruiting people into the scene. In doing so they also present a critique of contemporary realities or utopian environments. she drew on some interesting graphical examples to demonstrate these processes at work. In some respects it was a way of also articulating or putting an additional  voice to  some of the graphical content of Russ Bestley’s exhibition.

05 Anarcho Poster LR-page0001 (2) copy

Last presentation of the day was from Pete Dale. He drew on the work of Ian Glasper’s series of books on underground UK punk, which  provides  an oral ‘history’ and a useful document of the politics of punk music and culture. In this insightful and at times amusing presentation Pete explored the notion of punk being about ‘more than music’ and pieces together some of the verbatim quotes of  informants and contributors to Glasper’s books to paint a picture of the  relationship between punk’s music and political affiliations and the way they changed over time. In doing so Pete pieced the quotations together to show how  a clearer understanding of where punk amounted to ‘more than music’ and where it also failed to amount to such.

06 Anarcho Poster LR copy

To end off a really stimulating day there was a round table discussion with Penny Rimbaud, George McKay and Sarah McHendry. (photo courtesy of Rich Cross ). I wont go into detail of the discussions as you can listen to them here (they were recorded on a mobile phone-not brilliant quality but the conversations are audible):

George McKay
Sarah McHendry
Penny Rimbaud

Here is also a link to Rich Cross’ presentation slides from the conference and will also take you to his excellent blog.

Here is also a link to some photos from the conference courtesy of Sean Clark and his blog post about the event


Punk Scholars Network (PSN) Reading April 19th 2013. Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation


I recently attended the second Punk Scholars Network (PSN) event hosted by Dr Matt Worley and the School of Humanities at Reading University. The PSN, of which I am a member, has been in existence for approximately 8 months and is a collection of academics, and some non-academics, that have an interest in researching and investigating punk and its many musical, cultural, social and political facets across many disciplines of study and research. This event was titled Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation and entailed a collection of presentations considering punk, its global ‘reach’ and localities.

The first presentation was from Hilary Pilkington (University of Manchester) who discussed an ethnographic study of a punk scene in a post-industrial post USSR town (of which the name eludes me) in Russia’s arctic hinterland. Described by the local punks as a ‘rotting city’ Hilary’s study followed a group of local punks and examined in what ways the group defined themselves as ‘punk’ and how that particular subcultural group negotiated their place within the city and alongside other subcultural groups. The particular town was in both industrial and social decline and many young people would leave and move to larger metropolis, whereas some, including this particular group of punks, decided for one reason or another to stay.  One of the interesting things to come out of the study was how the many subcultural groups in the town would share places, spaces and resources within the city to maintain their scene. Despite the groups were fundamentally different in their music and style they appreciated that due to a lack of investment and resources they were having to renegotiate their subcultural boundaries in order for each of those scenes to survive.


The second presentation was from Jim Donaghey, a PhD candidate from Loughborough University who is researching his PhD around notions of anarchism within punk scenes in UK, Poland and Indonesia. In this particular presentation he discussed some of his findings from a recent visit to Indonesia where he was conducting an ethnographic study of Indonesian street punx (sic). His study highlighted how 2 particular groups of street punks expressed their punk aesthetic, anarchistic beliefs and politics in a country with a regime that was both extremely politically and religiously (Islam) repressive. Marginalisation, discrimination and physical intimidation were regular themes that came out in his work, but despite this there is a sense of positivity and deep comradeship within the punk scenes he is investigating. Those scenes are deeply immersed and entrenched in the DIY principles of punk as access to media and resources to support them are barely available and would also bring them to the attention of the authorities that regularly clamped down on any youth cultures that fell outside of the ‘norm’ in both the eyes of the authorities and the local religious leaders. You may have read last year in the Guardian newspaper about groups of street punx in Indonesia being rounded up by the religious authorities and sent off to ‘ youth boot camps’ where they were ‘de-punked’ (heads shaved, piercings removed etc.) and ‘re-programmed’ (religiously and socially) before being returned to society as a ‘normal model citizen’. Quite repressive and disturbing.


Following on from Jim was a presentation by Melanie Schroeter of Reading University who discussed the issue of racist and xenophobic lyrics in German punk song lyrics of the nineties. Applying discourse analysis to the lyrics she highlighted the relationship between German punks and the asylum debate following on from the fall of the Berlin Wall and series of racially motivated attacks on hostels housing immigrants.


After an agreeable lunch Russell Bestley, from the London College of Communication, gave a fascinating presentation on the visual imagery of punk (predominantly record sleeves) and its relationship to regional locations. Decentralizing London as the home of punk he demonstrated how punk bands from regions around the UK would use local landmarks, such as street signs and known buildings, as backdrops for the covers of the records released by those bands to firmly locate them in their region. He argued that this was partly done to show that London didn’t ‘own’ punk and that punk and its scenes were existing and flourishing in other parts of the country, despite media rhetoric about it being a London phenomenon. It was great seeing some of the old record sleeves including the Vaultage series from Attrix Records, that had all the Brighton/Sussex punk bands showcased- I was part of the punk scene that developed around The Vaults ‘venue’ which was a crypt below an old church in the centre of town


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Following on from Russ was an interesting talk From Pete Dale who started his discussion around Scottish post-punk by delivering a searing critique of Simon Reynolds and his work on post punk and how Reynolds attempt to locate his work in academic theory and theoretical grounding failed-I can’t quite remember the full content of what Pete said but I remember it being controversial and received some nods from the audience. Note to self: remember to take a digital audio recorder to future events.

Last up was Paul Harvey who discussed his journey from playing with Penetration (a great Scottish punk band who I was/is still a fan of) to academia. His story was one of reticent acceptance into the academy but came about from his excellent PhD that linked Stuckist art to punk through questioning the whole concept of authenticity,what makes punk ‘punk’ and punks relationship to Dadaism and the Situationist movement. I thought his deconstruction of notions of authenticity in punk through the questioning of memory and what he referred to as ‘fabricated cliches’ was insightful.

All in all a great afternoon where I met some really interesting scholars and am really looking forward to the next one.

Forthcoming presentation on Anarcho-punk at Oxford Brookes University

Here is the poster for a forthcoming symposium reconsidering the legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk.










I will be delivering a presentation on the Alexander Oey documentary ‘about Crass called ‘There is No Authority but Yourself’. There will also be a round table discussion at the end of the symposium with Penny Rimbaud one of the founder members of Crass. Interestingly enough at a recent talk he gave at a film festival in Southend -On-Sea he said that he wasn’t too enamored by being asked to attend academic conferences- see his comments amongst other interesting insights here on Richard Cross’s fantastic blog. All the same Penny  apparently is still coming which is great news.


Here is the abstract outlining what I will be discussing

Call it Crass but ‘There Is No Authority But Yourself’: De-canonizing Punk’s Underbelly.

Matt Grimes

       “But if punk stops in 1979, then it can be argued that that there is a great deal of the story left out. This includes punk offshoots such as…. the anarcho-punk movement, with bands such as Crass who took the anarchist message seriously…”[1]

Roger Sabin’s analysis of the histories of punk is very telling. It is in this context, of how histories of popular music are constructed, documented and presented, that this paper examines the documentary There Is No Authority But Yourself (2006) directed by Dutch director Alexander Oey concerning the anarcho-punk band Crass[2]. This documentary is important in providing an analysis of a band which has been mostly excluded from a standard story of popular music, and even from more focused examination of punk as a broader musical genre. Discussing the documentary, therefore, allows us to engage with a neglected part of music history.

In this essay I link the issue of documentary style to questions about documentary as historiography. By this I mean how documentaries are used as a way of presenting and documenting history– specifically how we find out about and present the history of popular music, with a focus on punk rock, for the screen. I intend to use Oey’s film to go beyond the classification of televisual representations of popular music as “rockumentaries[3]. To do this I distinguish between what I am describing here as ‘standard music histories’ exemplified by the BBC’s Britannia[4] series, the avant-garde approaches taken by Don Letts and Julien Temple, and the approach typified by Oey. Generally, I want to suggest that the first two approaches, for all their differences tend to represent popular music histories, through the utilisation of what can be seen as the canonical processes that contribute to the formation of a ‘punk’ canon.  In doing so I suggest we need to reconsider the role of canons in the construction of popular music histories.


[1] Roger Sabin, ed., Punk Rock: So What? (London: Routledge, 1999), 4.

[2] Crass were an avant-garde English punk rock band formed in 1977 around a collective of musicians based around Dial House, an open house community in Essex. The band was formed as a direct response to what they saw as the failings of the then popular punk movement to live up to the DIY (do it yourself) and anarchist ethos often espoused by artists such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash et al. Crass were seminal in the development of anarcho-punk, a specific subcultural strand of punk rock that promoted anarchism and pacifism as a political ideology and a way of living. Members of the band continue to perform under various collaborations and individual performances.

[3] a term first used by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault producers of the 1969 93 KHJ Los Angeles syndicated radio documentary The History of Rock & Roll

[4] The Britannia label consists of a series of documentaries and one-off programmes produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation about the history of popular music and their related cultural activities in the UK


Music Industry Workshops For TalentUK. Teaching Some Of The West Midlands Region Upcoming Music Talent

Earlier this month on the 8th and 9th of April I delivered 2 music industry workshops for TalentUK to a group of the West Midland’s upcoming music talent. Talent UK is an annual competition for young aspiring musicians, dancers, fashion designers that is organised by an ex BCU School of Media student and now a successful entrepreneur Daniella Genas through her CIC company Aspire4u (htt TalentUK ( was set up to help change young disadvantaged peoples lives through music, video, dance and fashion. I have been delivering music workshoops for Daniella for 3 years now and I am always amazed at some of the untapped and unknown musical talent the West Midlands has. My role was to introduce these creative singers, producers, songwriters and musicians to some of the music indstry practices to help develop their knowledge and skill base as many of them have little real perception of how the industry operates and what they need to know to help a smooth transition into the business aspects of being a successful artist.

Areas covered in the workshop included contracts, copyright, publishing, management, record deals, artist development, promotion and PR, live performance to name but a few. Feedback from the participants after the workshops was really positive and many of them felt more confident in seeing and approaching their creativity as a ‘business’. In doing so hopefully they will find ways to monetise their talent in an inceasingly difficult industry landscape. Many of them said that they also had a greater understanding of how the business works and felt more confident in dealing with industry professionals

Radio as a tool for social and cultural inclusion

Last year I was pleased to see the publication of Matt Mollgaard’s edited collection“Radio and Society: New Thinking for an Old Medium”[i] This book successfully draws together a collection of contemporary research by radio scholars from across the globe that explores this established medium in all its complexities. The collection draws on historical and critical debates around its development, its production and consumption, and the role of business, communities and government in the shaping of the medium. Another reason for my pleasure in seeing this book published is that I co-authored a chapter for the book with a colleague of mine Siobhan Stevenson, another researcher from The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. Our contribution considers the role of radio as a tool for rehabilitation and social inclusion. In one instance Siobhan looks at the role of radio in the British penal system and how it is used as one of many ‘tools’ to aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners. In the second half of the chapter I discuss the role of radio production as an accessible ‘tool’ for enabling social inclusion for two groups of people that could be perceived as socially excluded or marginalised. The chapter was based on a reflective account of two community based radio projects I developed and delivered in 2006 and 2007 supported by research by academics and practitioners to support some of the issues raised by these projects.

Ofcoms audit on media literacy in 2003[ii] highlighted that access to specific communicative resources is closely linked to the development of media literacy and its effectiveness in allowing participation in society. The principle behind the projects was to use cheap and accessible digital recorders and editing software to develop media literacy and give these particular groups a ‘voice’ and allow them to engage with the forms of media that were otherwise inaccessible  due to the nature of their political, cultural, social and  geographical situation. The projects aim was to train a small group of people within the specific community to use the digital equipment and for them to then go on and disseminate those skills within their community. This principle draws on Günnel’s discussions on the ‘dual-role’ approach[iii] , a type of active and reflective ‘training the trainer’ cascading pedagogy.

The first group I worked with were a group of young Gypsy adults (19-22) who wanted not to only be able to engage with contemporary digital technologies but use them as a way of documenting their culture and to address many of the media and cultural mis-representations of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. Due to the very nature of a mistrusting and relatively closed cultural group the project brought many challenges in the early stages in being able to establish and build trusting relationships to enable access to the community. Once this was achieved the participants were very able and willing in learning to use the equipment and produce some really good audio material that was shared amongst the Gypsy community and ‘mainstream’ society. This ability to tell their ‘own stories’ helped empower this group of young adults to consider their community within the wider context of society and how they could use these technologies to help readdress media representations of their culture.

The second group I worked with were a group of teenagers (15-18) that lived in rural Herefordshire and felt socially excluded due to their geographical location and lack of access to transport and leisure facilities. Using the same training approach, as with the Gypsy community, this group of young people explored their ideas and feelings of what it was like to be a teenager growing up in an isolated and rural location. The material they produced, short audio diaries and documentaries, were uploaded onto a specific website so they could hear the work of others in their locality-this in turn created an online community where they could communicate with each other via a forum. Encouraging and empathic comments from other young people who also lived in other rural and isolated areas who had come across the website started to extend this online community. This in turn reduced some of those feelings of isolation for the participants and forum members.

Some of the interesting issue that came out of these projects are talked about in more detail in the book. However in conclusion it was demonstrated that not only can simple radio production skills support communities and culturally empower them, as was the case with the young Gypsy adults, but in the case of the young rural people it contributed towards constructing and sustaining a new (online) community beyond the initial and original group of participants.


[i] Mollgaard, M (2012) “Radio and Society: New Thinking for an Old Medium” Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


[iii] Günnel, T. (2006). Action-oriented Media pedagogy: theory and practice. In P. Lewis, & S. Jones (Eds.), From the Margins to the Cutting Edge: Community Media and Empowerment (pp. 41-65). Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Günnel, T. (2008). The ‘Dual Role’ approach: encouraging access to community radio.The Radio Journal-International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media , 6(2 & 3), 87-94, doi: 10.1386/rajo.6.2&3.87/4

From Protest to Resistance: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance

Following on from my previous blog post about writing chapters for future books on punk  I have decided to share with you the abstract for my next solo submission for a forthcoming book specifically on anarcho-punk. The book is titled The Aesthetic of Our Anger:Anarcho-Punk, Politics and Music, 1979-84 and is edited by Mike Dines and Matt Worley. This looks to be a seminal publication as it will be the first of its kind in academia to focus purely on anarcho-punk. I am really excited about this as I will be publishing alongside some academic luminaries in the field of punk studies.

From Protest to Resistance: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance

This chapter focuses on the role that alternative publications played in the cultural, political and ideological practices of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1980 and 1984. I explore the way these fanzines disseminated the central ideas of Anarcho-punk, the way that the editorials, reviews and articles mediated a shifting notion of ‘punk’, and how these ‘amateur’ publications fitted into the paradoxical construction of the early 1980s alternative rock scene.

As punk emerged in the 1970’s fanzines soon became one of the central methods of communicating the developing ideologies, practices and values within this new musical and subcultural movement as they have historically been regarded as an alternative to mainstream publishing and being independently representative of the ‘underground’. I will show how the Anarcho-punk editors of these fanzine worked with an ideological sense that early punk was an attempt to challenge and exist outside of the ‘mainstream ‘ of popular music and culture, but that punk’s style, fashion and music soon became co-opted, commodified and absorbed into popular culture. Early protagonists of anarcho-punk, such as Crass, sought to reinforce the personal politic of being responsible for one’s own authority and actions, and the political agenda of anarcho-punk came to embrace notions of anarchism, peace, libertarianism, animal rights, feminism, anti-capitalism and anti-globalization. The analysis explores how these discourses of political position were mediated and the sense of an Anarcho -punk movement that they constructed.

The chapter focuses on the visual and textual discourses of a selection of British anarcho-punk ‘zines’ and examines how discourses of authenticity, community and identity were embodied and reinforced by and for their producers and consumers. I first explore the role of anarcho-punk fanzines as a link between members of the scene, and second how its editorial content and design fostered a subcultural movement that self-consciously sought to resist what they saw as the commodified fate of the earlier punk movement. In doing so I examine how DIY fan production practices, through the articulation of specific and at times oppositional ideological positions, contributed to the construction of the musical, cultural and political boundaries of the anarcho-punk movement.


Forthcoming book chapter on anarcho -punk fanzines and their transfer to the digital age.

I have recently completed and submitted a co-authored book chapter on anarcho-punk fanzines with my colleague and PhD advisor Prof Tim Wall. The chapter is for a forthcoming book Punk, Politics and Resistance: Fight Back edited by Matt Worley from Reading University.



Punk Fanzines– ‘symbols of defiance’ from the print to the digital age


In September 2011 I presented a paper on punk fanzines, and their migration from print to the online environment, at The Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change Conference hosted by London Metropolitan University. After the conference Matt Worley of Reading University, who hosted the punk panel at the conference, approached me and a number of other academics, who presented punk based research at the conference, with a proposal to get our work published in a book. Over the past year or so Matt has secured a publishing deal with Manchester University Press for a forthcoming book called Punk, Politics and Resistance


I decided that after my chapter on punk documentaries didn’t quite make the final print of Ben Halligan’s book “Sights and Sounds: Interrogating the Music Documentary”, and as an early career researcher with little publication experience, I would enlist the help of fellow research colleague and head of our centre for research Tim Wall to co-author the chapter as he has much experience in getting articles and chapters published. I also  recognised that Tim would not only bring a wealth of experience but also a c corpus of knowledge around popular music culture and the digital age from his work on Jazz in the digital age and other research projects he has been and is involved in.  We have recently had confirmation from Matt Worley that the chapter will make the publication and Tim and I are in the final stages of making some minor alterations based on comments from the editor and peer reviewers.


The chapter is titled “Punk ‘zines – ‘symbols of defiance’ from the print to the digital age”

 and as I mentioned at the beginning of this post is based around an exploration of the development of punk fanzines from the late 1970s to the present, exploring the role of these music fan-produced publications in giving meaning to the experience of a music community. Our aim was to consider and analyse the fanzine as a discursive practice.  In doing so we set out to encompass the usual emphasis on fanzines as channels of communication and symbols of wider punk practices, but to ensure we recognised that it was the fanzine which was one of the key ways in which punk and anarcho-punk was made meaningful. In doing so we argued that

·        fanzines became one of punk’s many ‘symbols of defiance’, not just in the way that they visually and verbally represented punk’s DIY ethos and activism, but also in the way they embodied the labour of ‘fan-eds’ as organic intellectuals undertaking ideological work in which discourses of defiance and opposition are constructed, signified and reinforced.

To enable this we focussed on two particular instances of the punk ‘zine; two moments in which the specific meanings of specific fanzines could be explored in a little greater detail than those offered in the grander narratives of the punk fanzine. In the first instance we conducted a case study of one early 1980s anarcho-punk fanzine and examined the way that such publications operated at the intersection of political activism and DIY music criticism, constructing idealised notions of music, politics and community against which the actual activity within local punk scenes were judged.  

 This for me was particularly interesting and nostalgic as I referred to copies of anarcho-punk fanzines from my personal collection from over 30 years ago. Many of these such as ‘Acts of Defiance’, which formed the basis of our case study, ‘Mucilage’ , ‘Guilty of What’ and ‘Necrology’? I hadn’t looked through for at least 20+ years. Without getting too nostalgic the experience brought back many fond memories from my youth and also made me consider how those fanzines informed and developed my own political position. More interestingly it also made be consider and reassess how those politics now inform my life as it could be argued that being in academia is being part of the ‘system’ that I was very much rallying against in my youth.

Anyway I digress so back to the chapter. In the second instance we examined the idea of the punk ‘zine as used in contemporary websites with a focus on punk from the 70s or 80s, or music or artists that continue its ethos and/or sound.

 Without giving too much away, as we would like you too read the chapter when the book is published, we argued  that simply focusing on the characteristic visual deign of the print fanzine limits our understanding of its cultural role and the position of its ‘fan-ed’ cultural agents. This important point also allows us to understand the extent to which webzines replicate the discursive practices of the print fanzine. Overall, while many web sites or blogs may include visual references to fanzines, and may even use the term in their titles or primary banners, they do not include the sorts of editorial organisation, the cultural practices or the discursive constructions of identity and opposition which characterised print fanzines.


I am really pleased with the chapter and really enjoyed the experience of co-authoring, the support it enables and the different perspectives that another author can bring to the ‘mix’. This work on examining anarcho-punk fanzines has led to me developing some of those core ideas further for another chapter called “From Protest to Resistance: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance”, which will appear in a seminal book on anarcho-punk called “The Aesthetic of Our Anger: Anarcho-Punk, Politics and Music, 1979-84” co edited by Mike Dines and Matt Worley due for publication by Autonomedia In early 2015.


Trip to Eurosonic Noorderslag2012 Groningen

The Eurosonic Nooderslag Music Festival takes place in the northeastern town of Groningen in The Netherlands in the second week of January. The festival is Europe’s main conference and showcase festival for European music which was set up  to create an international platform for the European music industry and to promote the European repertoire. The festival is a combination of a music industry based conference during the daytime, consisting of various talks, demonstrations and chaired panels from music industry and related experts/businesses, and musical events showcasing as many as 250 musical acts from a variety of musical genres and European countries, in numerous venues around Groningen.   During my time there i saw some really good music in some really varied venues from purpose built concert halls, outdoor stages to even a small independent art gallery (of which I will return to later). My overall impression of the festival was that it was very industry focused (which sounds obvious considering the nature of the event), by that I mean it was a place for music based businesses and performers to meet and network. There were some really interesting panels discussing recent developments in the industry from such people as Will Page (Spotify) and Jeff Price (AAIM). There was a daily workshop on an education exchange programme called Musication  which unfortunately we couldnt attend as it was invite only. This workshop looked at building a network between 30 professionals in charge of educative activities in modern music where they would develop a teaching toolkit and exchange programme. This seemed focussed on the musicological and composition performance aspect of music and was probably the only panel that had a direct interface with education. Many of the other panels and presentations were quite tech-based or very music industry/business focussed, none the less there was some interesting insights into the developments within the industry regarding, streaming, ticketing, touring, festivals and streaming live, health and safety. There were also many panels that were Dutch speaking only which due to my poor knowledge of Dutch were out of my remit. What I did find out was that a lot of students from many colleges and the University in Groningen play an active part in the festival by getting placements working with professional stage managers/directors/techies on the various stages/venues, working as part of the production office team, marketing and promotions team etc etc thereby giving them real industry experience.

What I found fascinating and impressive was that a city the size of Groningen, with a population of around 190,000; could successfully accommodate the festival. It seemed apparent that there was a lot of local support from the municipal council and other public bodies in ensuring that the city retained this festival and made it integral to its economic and strategic planning. The local population were seemingly very accommodating and no doubt could appreciate what it does/might do for the local economy. Here was a really good example of commercial enterprises and public authorities working symbiotically for mutual benefit. In conversations with Jez Collins we both considered why a city like Birmingham, with a population 10 times that of Groningen has not managed to attract a major international music industry conference/festival like Eurosonic to take place in the city centre, rather than way out of town at the NEC. Organisations like Capsule have successfully put on similar small scale festivals such as Supersonic, which has gained a phenomenal international reputation, but I am left wondering how much Birmingham City Council (BCC) have been behind them, supporting their events to the point where it becomes part of BCC’s economic and strategic planning policy to put Birmingham on the international musical map. Only BCC can answer that but in my 8 years of working in Birmingham I have been to many meetings to discuss such issues and try to create a music policy for Birmingham and haven’t seen it happen yet. Perhaps BCC need to send a representative next year to get a flavour of Eurosonic as these types of events are really useful in supporting and indeed developing cities as sites for music, music heritage, music industries and music education.

One of the most interesting meetings I had was with theIMMHIVE project partners where I caught up with more inside knowledge of the project and current progress as it reaches the climax of its final year. One of the attendees was Jan Peer who is the Course Director for the undergraduate International Pop Culture bachelor degree at Hanze Minerva Art Academy, located in Leeuwarden. Jez has/will be posting up the video Jans discussion with the project group up on this blog however is my summary of what interested me about his course. The course has been running for 10 years and is focussed around the idea that popular culture is reflected in many disciplines and many pop culture artefacts /products are a combination of many art/media/cultural forms. With this in mind the course is about students developing a new skill set that combines music with art and culture. It is a 4 year Bachelor of Arts degree programme that combines 2 degrees-a Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Design. The course has approximately 240 students (60 per year group) so compared to our Media and Communication programme (600 students) it is very small but this course has to be as I will explain later. The academy understands that most students on graduation start as or become freelancers and the academy is developing students to work both inside and outside the mainstream music industries, where music and the creative industries interface.

Interestingly there is no fixed curriculum, at the beginning of the first year students have to create a learning programme of their own based around what they want to create whilst at the academy. What they are presenting is an environment where the learning is negotiated by the students so it is self determined-a bit like post grad style teaching and learning at undergraduate level. This is where the small course numbers becomes important; the students are put into working groups based on the similarity of things they want to produce or skill sets that can be shared as benefit to all in the group-it was stressed that the group dynamic is very important and staff spend a lot of time before the start of the course that the students are well placed in a group as peer collaboration and peer teaching/learning plays a central role in the teaching and learning culture in the academy . All students get a 20 minute lecture twice a day from different lecturers who bring to the course a specific set of skills and knowledge that they share and then the students go off in their groups to work on their projects. This sense of freedom helps in developing the students sense of personal responsibility to their own learning. Every 10 weeks there is an interview between group lecturer/mentor and each student in their group to check on student progress and to evaluate and assess the students progress, work to date and their learning goals. At this point each student has to produce a critical evaluation of their progress, learning and development and then extra tuition, resources etc are achieved through negotiation.

The development of students as creative entrepreneurs resonates with some of what we
do in the Birmingham School of Media but not as advanced or flexible as the academys approach. I think having smaller numbers certainly helps manage such a course and would be difficult to replicate across our Media and Communication course at Birmingham City University where we have 600 students on the programme each taking a specialist pathway. Jan has kindly invited me and Jez to come and spend some time at the academy and contribute some of our knowledge in an academic exchange programme. There was also the suggestion that we should take a few of our students with us to experience this method of teaching and learning as the academy also offers a student exchange programme. Visiting and experiencing the academys philosophy and environment will be beneficial as we would be able to see how it works, get to speak to some of the other staff and students and see how we can potentially combine some of their methods and philosophies into our teaching and learning practice. It was very inspiring meeting Jan and we experienced firsthand some of his students work later that day/evening at the Sign Gallery where they were performing and exhibiting at a show called Soep (Dutch for Soup) where quite believably we got served free soup whilst we walked around and looked at the art and listened to the bands. It was great seeing the fruits of the students hard work during their studies at the academy. The next day they also held a Dayparty where they had live music and this time free beer. What I liked about it was that I got to hang out with the cool kids of Groningen, heard some great music and saw some really interesting art.

Despite Eurosonic being a festival by the industry for the industry it was still a very informative and enjoyable experience and I look forward to returning to Groningen to meet Jan Peer, Ard Boer and the whole bunch of lovely new friends I made whilst out there.

Revisiting my PhD Research

Next week the Birmingham School of Media (BSM) is having its biannual round of IPR’s or sometimes known as job appraisal reviews. As our research center is so closely tied in with the collegiate environment at BSM as part of the IPR we, as both staff and researchers, also get to discuss our Personal Research Plans for the coming twelve months. Without going into too much detail, what could be seen as an arduous task of form filling has infact been a useful activity for me. After spending the late part of the summer preparing for conferences and writing a book chapter (for a forthcoming publication) my research has to some degree has taken a side (not back) seat and progress has been slow.

By having to fill out the paperwork it has made me re-focus on what I have achieved so far, which I am really pleased with, and what I want and need to achieve in the coming 12 months. By this time next year I want to have expanded on the book chapter I am currently writing, and combined with my developing literature review, produce a substantial piece of work that will allow me to submit as part of my MPhil to allow for transfer to the PhD stage.

Along with this I want to be able to produce and submit a journal article and present at 2 conferences. I have also been approached by the organisers of the subcultures conference I presented at in September to contribute a chapter to a proposed  book about punk.

So as always business as usual-no sleep til bedtime!