“At school they give you shit…….”


“At school they give you shit, drop you in the pit,
You try, you try, you try to get out, but you can’t because they’ve fucked you about”.

(Crass-Do They Owe Us A Living)


Once more on the ‘memory-go-round’ dear friends, once more. Another trip back in time to when we were much younger, more naive, less jaded and cynical, more hopeful. Where every new musical movement, event or scene that presented itself to us, seemed to offer up new possibilities that would perhaps catapult us into adulthood. The promise of a new found knowledge and education, less formal than school, but oh so important!!!

I remember running home from town that Saturday morning, with THAT record tightly tucked under my arm. The rush of anticipation to get back and play THAT record was almost overwhelming, so much so that I had completely forgotten the usual Saturday routine of avoiding particular streets, and keeping a keen eye out for the skinheads that would revel in the oft opportunity to beat the crap out of a 14 year old punk in town on his own. Such was the excitement, it shattered my Saturday ritual of going to my favourite record shop, Vinyl Demand, where I would usually hang out all day, with my mates listening to the latest punk releases, reading zines and talking about the next gig or latest release or band. So as you can gather this was most unusual behaviour for me, but this was a most unusual record; a record of mammoth proportions that promised everything I needed at that point in my life, and didn’t fail to deliver. Actually that last bit is not quite true, but almost delivered everything and set me on a trajectory that has ingrained itself in my lifecourse.

I was familiar with the band Crass through fanzine articles and I had heard on the grapevine and through the punk ‘zines about this record, edgy, dangerous, controversial, blasphemous, lots of swearing; everything a good punk record should contain. I had reserved a copy of ‘Feeding of the 5000’ for its release date based on a recommendation from Terry, owner of Vinyl Demand, spitting image of Phineas Freak and a throwback to the hippy 70’s counter-culture; and now once collected, after waiting for him to open the shop that morning, was on it’s way back to my bedroom where my record player awaited.

So I finally got home, panting, out of breath but very, very excited. I carefully slipped the vinyl out of the gatefold sleeve in anticipation, placed it on my record player dropped the needle into the lead in groove, turned it up full volume and waited. I played that record consecutively probably about 15 times, over and over that day, and to be frank I thought the music wasn’t all that great. It wasn’t the punk I was used to listening to but that seemed to pale into insignificance because what that record taught me was a perspective that I was never going to get taught at school. The one great thing about Crass and their records was the aesthetic of the record sleeve, and this sort of set a template for many anarcho-punk records that followed in its wake. The sleeve unfolded into 6 sections to a disturbing and shocking poster of a dismembered hand impaled on barbed wire with the ironic war recruitment cry ‘Your Country Needs You’.

Alongside the images of war, animal experimentation, state violence were treatises and two line statements, questioning power, authority and encouraging self autonomy and dissent. But most importantly were the LYRICS. This was raw truth, an exposition, an explanation and I am not exaggerating when I say that record changed my life, it articulated everything I was feeling at that time as a 14 year old punk. How school, your parents, your teachers, the police were all colluding against you to try and control your life or at worst fuck it up, to turn you into a subservient robotic worker. Get qualifications, get a job, get married, get a house and become a slave to the system. Of course those weren’t the words I was using at that particular point; but that moment, that vinyl epiphany, suddenly started to put vague threads of thoughts, feelings and ideas into place; into some semblance of cohesive order and importance. The combination of stark imagery, and powerful words were like gold dust to a young boy trying to find his place in all this madness of youth.

So as you can see those lyrics were so important in my education, my politicization and the values and beliefs I developed and gained from my engagement with anarcho-punk have, in most parts, remained with me though in a less naive and Utopian way as I have got older and more measured. Part of my research is to explore if, and how, my research participant’s engagement with anarcho-punk as adolescents has had a lasting impact on their subsequent adult lives. Going through the data of my research interviews the issue of the importance of the lyrics of anarcho-punk songs kept coming up in those discussions. I am going to share with you some of those discussions along with the ‘The Feeding of the 5000’ for your aural enjoyment

Crass-Feeding of The 5000



The early roots of it to me was simply that experience probably related to Crass, I guess, I mean my memories of sitting there unfolding Feeding of the Five Thousand and listening to Crass and there was an expectation that you sit there and you’d read through the lyrics and you’d look at images and that would have been alongside the fairly bouncy music. And you would punctuate that music with your own reflection on what that lyric was about and reference that more broadly, I was more conscious of that. Less so than what I refer to as the 1st wave of Punk but Anarcho Punk that seemed to be the template to me, that was set out by Crass for me in that way. Cut up artwork and a focus on lyrics that were normally shouted and quite abrasive music with a punchy rhythm which was the anarcho-punk construct really. And that formed an attitude within myself that was my expectation of what stimulated me, what was relevant, what was real. (S)

The first anarcho-punk record I heard was probably Feeding of the Five Thousand, which I didn’t really enjoy that much at the time. The person who played it at me was obviously very excited about it and showed me the pictures, and read the words out to me and this I found more interesting than the actual music, which I thought was badly produced and recorded. The music was fairly irrelevant to me – it was the politics which was of much more interest. Of course there was a political slant to songs by The Clash and others, but I guess that really didn’t strike a chord with me. Whereas the lyrics of the anarcho-bands were much more clearly defined as protest songs which highlighted the problems within the “system” and offered solutions. (G)


I did have a key moment reading Crass lyrics at a skate park in Kettering which a friend brought along and something struck me about it. It was saying things that I’d perceived and it was expressing how I felt about my position in life. I was 14 /15 and the lyrics were articulating how I was feeling. Obviously things are a lot more kind of amorphous and vague, you’re listening to different stuff and influenced by different things and it’s not just one moment or not just one thing particularly. (M)


I just went Wow.  I had to listen to the whole double album twice because I thought it was so brilliant and I really, really liked it a lot. It spoke to me. The words, the lyrics, the anti- religion stuff, the anti-war stuff, the anti-rich stuff, the anti-class stuff, it encapsulated what I was thinking at that time which they put into song……when the Anarcho Punk bands came along they were actually saying something.  Conflict, animal rights that kind of stuff and that was more me, you know. I think music’s important and it can change people, it changed me, it changed my perception of things, it educated me (W)


Somebody somewhere played me a Crass song and I just thought, “I want some of that”, and I can’t even remember what song it was, but yeah. So I went out and hunted down ‘Feeding of the 5000’. It was just unlike anything I’d heard and it was so obviously angry and, you know, I couldn’t understand a bloody word of it. So I thought if I go and buy it and listen to it I might understand what the hell they are saying, apart from the ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’, you know. Which is weird, because now I listen to ‘Feeding the 5000’ and I can understand everything he says. . I mean the lyrics of the songs either helped me at the time cus I was so fucking angry with nowhere to place the anger and….they shaped me politically, so I channelled that anger and developed my own thoughts. They made me think a lot, you know. I went out and read stuff that I would never have read if it hadn’t of been for that, you know. Stuff on animal rights for example, and 31 years later I am still a vegan, about the only one out of all the people I used to know. (C D)


Crass’ Penis Envy is quite a significant album. Erm….. a strong feminist thing, female adolescence. I mean I don’t know if I completely understood everything that was going on. And then things change as well. The music of Vi Subversa, Poison Girls, I mean I loved that stuff, oh, I suppose that’s quite significant actually. Poison in a Pretty Pill, I was struggling with the contraceptive pill when I was 19 perhaps and er…I hated it and it was just like, for fucks sake, messing about with my body. And I played Poison in a Pretty Pill and burnt my contraception pills at the same time, that’s quite a significant one!. Poison Girls, I actually understand the lyrics these days, where I don’t think I really did back then. Because I was a teenager, I was just a bit of a kid, Vi Subversa was talking about a mutual women’s life and so I look at those song in a completely different perspective now. (J M)

Crass ‘Feeding of the 5000’ was actually the first time I’d read the lyrics to a punk song as well. It came out with, it came with a booklet inside with all the songs in the booklet so I sat there every night reading the booklet. I’m sure if you talk about Signs and Receivers and everything I’m sure the lyrics were just as important. Obviously the music came first to the receiver ……all these ideas and concepts were certainly being implanted which otherwise wouldn’t have happened if it was without the lyrics booklet. I also remember prior to that, in terms of lyrics, you know, you’d get Smash Hits, you’d cut out the lyrics to punk songs and stick them on your wall and stuff. But you never really, I was never aware of sitting down and listening to the lyrics to you know, UK Subs, ‘Strangle Hold’, while listening to the record the way that you would with Crass records. The lyrics were kind of like an afterthought. The lyrics didn’t really count until Crass. The simple fact that if you were to listen to the record you wouldn’t have been able to make out a fucking word Steve Ignorant was singing so you needed the lyric sheets with the record to be able to follow them. (C L)

Because I came from a poor background, my family is so poor and have always struggled, possibly from that side of things, you know. Crass were singing about my family, the way I’ve been brought up as fodder, respecting Queen and country or you supposed to and it just struck a chord with me. When you bought the records you had the lyrics with it, didn’t ya. I read ‘em, read ‘em and read ‘em. I’d put the record on the record player and I’d play it over and over till I got to know all the lyrics. Not only that with the Crass records you’d have so much information on the sleeve, I’d read it, I didn’t understand all of it but I’d read it over and over again to learn and understand more. It was an education, it was more of an education than what you were getting at school really cus I wasn’t interested in getting educated at school and …. I had such a big interest in anarcho-punk. That was my education (C)


The lyric sheet/booklet and accompanying imagery played an important role in the propagation and circulation of some of the core ideas in anarcho-punk.  I mentioned earlier, that seminal Crass recording and visual aesthetic set a template within anarcho-punk where the record sleeves started to take on a similar role to the fanzines and political and ideological treatises that were circulating within that scene. The record sleeve became more than just a carrier of the artefact, the record, but a carrier of ideas, politics, protestations, ideologies, values and beliefs that were implicit to the development and reinforcement of anarcho-punk. They were also implicit in my own personal and political development, opening up new possibilities, somewhere to direct my anger and frustration, giving me strength and hope; a reason……….


How I finally learnt to love………….Grindcore! and in doing so reclaimed a very close friend

How I finally learnt to love………….Grindcore! and in doing so reclaimed a very close friend

Matt Grimes

(For Stevie G – my punk soul brother)

Section I: Memories

I still remember it to this day, the sheer feeling of shock and surprise when my then best mate Stevie G played me the opening refrain of “You Suffer” – the first vinyl release from Napalm Death. Just as I heard the first few seconds of aural assault coming from the speakers on Stevie’s record player it was over, as if it didn’t happen, as if it was an acoustic hallucination – all 1.3 seconds of it. A momentary blast of noise that seemed to be made up of pure unadulterated, visceral anger, and despair. In an instant, it seemed as if anarcho-punk was destined to morph into another more extreme sub-genre that was beyond my comprehension of what symbolized music, well anarcho-punk music at least. Stevie had this massive smile on his face as if to say, “This is as good as it is ever going to get Matt,” – this was the future, past and present of extreme music, right there in the squat we shared.

I had heard of Napalm Death before hearing this particular tune; their name had been brought to my attention through an advert in a fanzine I had picked up at a gig somewhere. It was for a demo tape they had made called “Punk is a Rotting Corpse” and available by mail order from the fanzine distro. Perhaps the title of the demo tape was a portent to what was to follow in the ensuing years that, for me, marked the demise of anarcho-punk as it fragmented into a number of more extreme sub-genres of music that seemed to push the envelope of sonic experimentation and assault.

Stevie and I were really close mates and had been since secondary school. We had made each other’s acquaintance through the tried and tested ceremony of the school playground fight. Stevie was the only outwardly visible punk at my new school and when he spotted me on my first day of school, also doing my best to look as punk as I dared, he decided that in a school of 1,500 kids there was not enough room for two punks, so one of us had to go.

As is common with school fights, no one ever wins because the teachers come and break them up before it gets that far. We were both dragged off to the headmaster’s office and given five of the best with a Dunlop Green Flash plimsoll (the headmaster loved tennis and I was convinced he didn’t like even numbers either, hence only getting five rather than six of the best). From that day on Stevie and I decided that the fight wasn’t between us, but  between us and the “system” – that school, our parents, the police- in fact everyone who was not a punk.

And that’s how Stevie and I forged a relationship that lasted for a number of years. We did just about everything together. Hitched penniless around the country to go to punk gigs, experimented with drugs and alcohol, got into fights with skinheads and mods, bunked off school and listened to punk music whenever we could, and argued with our teachers and parents about the injustices of authority. In the summer of 1981 when it was time to leave school and the parental home, it only seemed natural that we would get a squat together because that was what we had been talking about for years. So along with a number of other miscreants we had “collected” on the way, we set off into town to liberate a building and join the ranks of the real punks. Time moved on, and whilst some things changed others remained the same. We still carried on squatting together, spending a lot of time with the anarcho-punks in London, often staying at squats there for weeks at a time. We went hunt sabbing, took part in political rallies and demos with Class War and the Anarchist Federation, even hippy free festivals such as Stonehenge, where I made my first contact with a ‘tribe’ of people that would later form the next chapter of my life. Anarcho-punk was in “full flight” and Stevie and I were living the dream (of sorts): no money, and no jobs but, most importantly, no responsibilities and feeling part of a community of likeminded free people.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point the mood of anarcho-punk shifted and got darker, as did the politics and the people around it. Margaret Thatcher’s decimation of the mining communities, the Peace Convoy, and an escalating nuclear muscle flexing exercise with Russia only added to the darkness, as society seemed to become more fragmented.  The music also started to get a bit darker and more aggressive, with bands such as Discharge, Amebix, Icons of Filth, Antisect, and Extreme Noise Terror playing breakneck speed thrash punk with lyrics focussing on nuclear death and destruction, and total state control of a near future oppressed dystopian society. Squatting became more problematic and with it came a new breed of crusty squatter, dosed up on Special Brew, Tuinal and even louder and more aggressive extreme music that seemed shambolically reflective of its listeners.

Stevie had been up in Birmingham for a while, staying with some mates and came back excited about a new band he had seen a couple of times at a venue called The Mermaid, which already had a reputation for the punk scene that had developed around it. That band was Napalm Death and Stevie described the experience as likened to being hit in the face with a sonic sledgehammer – he had (he said) found what was missing from his life: something that unleashed and expressed that anger he had carried with him; something cathartic.

So this sort of brings me back to the beginning and me hearing Napalm Death for the first time. I just didn’t get it, and Stevie trying to convince me by playing it over and over again, that this was the future of music. We didn’t see eye-to-eye over this, it just didn’t work for me and that’s when the problems started. Stevie was always a 100%, all or nothing bloke and he had latched onto this sound and that would be his focus from that point on. With Stevie’s forays into this extreme music, and my lack of interest in it, he started hanging out with a more “committed” group of people, who ended up at the squat and with them came this additional pervading darkness: heroin.

It was only a matter of time before Stevie got tempted into it, part of his all or nothing character, and from then on heroin became a regular feature of a large number of the squats residents. We would argue more, the music in the squat became more extreme and aggressive, personal stuff would start going “missing” and after one of Stevie’s so called “committed” new mates threatened me with an axe, after a four day amphetamine binge: our friendship imploded.  I decided after some contemplation and another summer at free festivals to get away from the toxic atmosphere in the squat and join the Travellers on the road. As a parting gesture of goodwill and hope, I offered the hand of friendship to Stevie and tried to persuade him to come on the road with me, away from the heroin and the darkness, but he was too wrapped up in his own pitiful ego by then. I left Brighton, not returning for a number of years, and sadly heard on the grapevine a year after leaving that Stevie had died of a heroin overdose. I couldn’t bring myself to attend the funeral – a regretful decision that has always troubled me. Looking back it was almost inevitable that Stevie would not quit this mortal coil easily or peacefully – he always was a person of extremes, energetic, volatile, unpredictably violent, but beautifully funny and my best mate.

Section II: An Afterword

I’m not suggesting that Grindcore (as this type of extreme music later became to be known by) was responsible for our friendship falling apart, I am sure it was as much the heroin and the company Stevie chose to keep. For a number of years I could not entertain the thought of listening to Grindcore because of the memories associated with it and my musical tastes had, by then, encompassed the E- generation as I travelled from one free techno party to another, with my new “tribe.”

Certainly the highly political song titles and lyrical content of Napalm Death had always struck a chord with me, even if the music initially didn’t. Finally, after hearing Napalm Death again on the John Peel radio show one night in 1992, I decided to revisit the band’s stuff. I was intrigued by the production values of the band and the paradox they seemed to create. The sound of their music takes punk’s lack of concern for formal structure and standard musical convention to another level. They offer a version of punk at its most blunt and brutal. Atonal in their approach their songs are brief, often limited to one or two minutes, and tended to avoid formal lyrical structure in favour of short, sharp statements, revealing a pre-occupation with state control, corporate power and a dystopian society built on economic and physical slavery.

From the titles of the songs their lyrical content is seemingly important, but paradoxically is mostly indecipherable due to the mode of delivery. Deena Weinstein (1991; 2009) suggests that in mainstream Heavy Metal lyrical matter may not be of concern to the listener. However I would suggest that the importance of the lyrical matter to the artists in this case is vital: the content informs the form completely.

It would be fair to say that “You Suffer” and a number of Napalm Death’s repertoire are not songs in the context of the model adopted by Western culture and the western music canon, in recent centuries, but it could certainly be regarded as a song within the context of the musical structures of other cultures as I previously mentioned. While Napalm Death’s songs do not contain a story narrative as would be common in traditional folk ballads structure, it may be possible to view a large proportion of their work as existing within an extended tradition of Folk Music which includes music characterised by “protest,” a continuum in which I would include Crass and a number of other anarcho-punk bands whose political dissent pervades their repertoire. The political impact of extreme metal music comes into question particularly when looking at arguments such as those of Keith Kahn-Harris. Kahn-Harris (2004: 6) argues that the very nature of extreme metal is “reflexively-anti-reflexively constructed as a depoliticizing category.” He identifies the ways in which black metal, for example, constantly toys with the ideas of violent racism and fascism, however will never embrace it outright. Napalm Death on the other hand, I would suggest completely embrace the lyrics they sing, and have been involved in campaigns against apartheid, animal exploitation, global corporate, and state power among others, and express their disgust of fascism, racism and the establishment. Napalm Death, I would argue, are not accommodated by Kahn-Harris’ analysis of extreme metal at all because of the nature of their songs and their behaviour. This is also reflective of the political stance of a large number of anarcho-Punk bands and the anarcho-punk scene from which Napalm Death emerged.

The recording techniques and seeming lack of acoustic treatment and mastering perhaps reflect the very raw subject matter implicit in their lyrics. Where it is traditionally perceived that the meaning of the song is carried in the lyrical content, Frith (1986) argues that the meaning is also carried in the performance of the song. It could be argued that the “differentiation” which occurs in the sound of Napalm Death is related to the way in which the group focus on the delivery of sound and also on the way in which that sound is utilised as a carrier of meaning, both of which are key elements that seem to underpin the Grindcore genre.  The actual structure of the text of the song is broken down, by the vocal delivery, into monosyllabic content. Listening to the vocal output, this low pitch guttural sound seems to come from another place outside of the human vocal range. It seems the voice travels from the diaphragm, from the lower points of the body, inside the resonant sound chamber of the torso, which allows the low pitch to be sustained without damage to the throat or lack of breath to sustain the sound. This acoustic approach is not dissimilar to early Buddhist temple chanting, where monks would employ tonal variations in their meditative and ceremonial chanting, in a quest to connect with divinity. This style of delivery and associated production values seems to contribute to a sense of sonic rapture, of speech being drawn to a halt and fractured, with the suggestion that the end result of this process will be atomisation, an attack upon the fabric of the text itself. A form of sonic rupture where, if only for a moment, a new sphere of possibility may be opened, in the space created by this rupture.

So perhaps that’s what Stevie saw in this music all those years ago, that rupture and the possibilities that might have opened up, indeed  not only for not him but for all those around him. Perhaps if I had also seen that, then things may have turned out differently for both of us. I like Grindcore and have done for a number of years. I enjoy listening to it, albeit mostly in a slightly nostalgic way. The good thing now is that I can listen to it and remember the better, happier times with Stevie before it all went tragically wrong. Perhaps I should have just listened to Napalm Death a bit more then.




 Frith, S. (1986) “Why Do Songs Have Words?” The Sociological Review. 34(1), pp77-106.

Kahn-Harris, K (2004) “The ‘Failure’ of Youth Culture, Reflexivity, Music and Politics in the Black Metal Scene.” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 7(1), pp 95-111.

Weinstein, D (1991) Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. Idaho Falls. Lexington Books.

Weinstein, D (2009) Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture. Boston. DeCapo Press.


“You Suffer” Track 12 from “Scum” (LP) 1987 Earache Records


From Protest To Resistance

This month I have had another book chapter published in The Aesthetic of Our Anger: Anarcho-Punk Politics and Music edited by Mike Dines and Matt Worley. The book is a collection of writings covering many aspects of anarcho-punk culture and is the first edited collection to interrogate anarcho-punk. Additionally the book is published by Minor Compositions which are an imprint of Autonomedia   who publish books on radical media, politics and the arts. In true punk style the whole book is available as a free download here

Alternatively you can purchase the book from Minor Compositions website here  for only £10 and you will know that your money is going straight back in to supporting radical publishers and the radical press rather than the cut that Amazon etc take from online selling.

My chapter for this book examines the Gramscian concept of the Organic Intellectual through the discourses of the editors  of a selection of British anarcho punk ‘zines from 1980-1984.

You can read the chapter here from-protest-to-resistance-matt-grimes

There Is No Authority But Yourself

I recently had a journal article published in a journal of which I am an advisory board member  Punk and Post Punk (Vol 4 No’s 2&3). The double special edition featured work from a number of Punk Scholars Network members, of which I am on the steering committee for, and was proud to have my work alongside such luminaries.

The article is about how popular music histories are documented and the formation of musical canons to reinforce particular histories of popular music. I use Alexander Oey’s documentary about Crass , “There Is No Authority But Yourself” as a way of investigating and challenging how punk histories are constructed through the use of the moving image.

The journal article can be accessed here  there-is-no-authority-for-ppp-journal

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.

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.

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 http://thehippiesnowwearblack.wordpress.com/category/penny-rimbaud/ 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 (htthttp://aspire4u.co.uk/cic). TalentUK (http://aspire4u.co.uk/cic/news/critically-acclaimed-actor-and-musician-ashley-walters-endorses-birmingham-based-youth) 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.

[ii] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/contents

[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!