Documenting, interpreting and presenting intangible music cultures in public exhibitions and online

Here is a link to a presentation that Rob Horrocks, a colleague of mine from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research gave at Home Of Metal: Heavy Metal and Place conference, Light House, Wolverhampton, 3rd September 2011…


Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change-A cross disciplinary symposium

Thursday 15th/Friday 16th September I attended a conference about subcultures and subcultural studies at London Metropolitan University. I was presenting on a panel chaired by Pete Webb from Goldsmiths college, I am a big fan of his academic work especially around Bristol music making/Massive Attack/Smith and Mighty et al and Nick Cave. I still use his work on Bristol music milieu as one of my core texts in my Popular Music Culture module when discussing ideas about how global music influences local music making practices and then is uniquely developed and re-positioned back into the global music milieu. Great to have finally met him and looking forward to some future meetings and discussions with him. Anyway I digress. On the panel were 2 of my colleagues from the BCMCR Andrew Dubber who did a presentation on his ‘Monkey On The Roof’ project and Jez Collins who talked about Hip Hop as a force for social change in Colombia’s favellas, particularly in Medellin.

Keynote speakers were Dick Hebdige-writer of seminal book ‘Subculture:The Meaning of Style’ who did an interesting talk on punk rock, his time running a clubnight called Shoop in Birmingham in the late 70’s early 80’s, Japanese a popular art/manga and living out in the Mojave Desert.

Day 2 saw an excellent and at times moving keynote speech from David Hesmondhalgh about how music makes our lives better, improves our well being and that there is not enough love in the world. Clearly demonstrated by his use of Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ always a winner in my book.

It was an excellent conference and very diverse covering many areas of subcultural studies with presenters from research  areas such as criminology, philosophy, theology and more. Highlights for me included:

  • ·         The keynote speeches
  • ·         Paul Hodkinson presentation on ageing goth’s and goth  subculture
  • ·         Michelle Liptrot  from Bolton Uni on DIY punk as Resistance
  • ·         Dr Herbert Pimlott with a really interesting talk on music ephemera , cultural memeory and work around Raymond Williams and ‘structure of feeling’. Very useful for my work around histories/the canon and popular memory.
  • ·         Alex Ogg-DIY and Independence. Development of Independent record labels in the post-punk era. Wanted to have a chat with him but unfortunately had to run for the train.
  • ·         Jonathan Llan from the University of Kent-the criminality and commercialization of UK Grime music.
  • Melanie Schroeter. University of Reading. Discourse analysis of the lyrics of punk band Golden Lemon
  • ·         Andrew Bengry-Howell from University of Bath. Interesting presentation on Criminal Justice Act and the free festival/free party scene


I presented a paper on anarcho-punk fanzines which was a further development of the research I had done with Rob Horrocks that we presented at Oxford Brookes earlier in the year.  I have included the paper here on the blog without the powerpoint as the powerpoint kept freezing the blog page. It is available on request however.


Download this file


Also my colleague Andrew Dubber has blogged his thoughts on the conference, with accompanying photos/ videos etc- you can get it here:


Has it really been a year!!

Well it’s been a while since my last post on this blog, in fact looking at the date it has been a year-how rubbish is that!! I could use the excuse of my teaching, family life, research etc taking up most of my time, which to be fair it does, but others manage to blog between all the other things going on in their life but apparently not so successful me!. Anyway looking to the positive here is a quick résumé of the previous year:

  • ·         Worked really hard towards the end of last year to get my PhD registration completed. It was a tougher task than I imagined-however the response from my supervisor (who commented on it as being exemplary) was positive and it needed very few amendments before submitting. I attended the University’s research committee panel to defend my application and they also commented on its clear and precise structure thus giving it approval for funded research! So now it is official I am on route towards a PhD. Firstly however I have to complete the MPhil stage and transfer to PhD status-more about this later!
  • ·         Have been slowly developing my literature review focusing on canonization in popular music and punk historiographies. In this research I have come across some interesting papers, books and websites- particularly Rich Cross’ blog for his forthcoming book on Crass and the anarcho-punk movement from 1977-1984 ‘The Hippies Now Wear Black’ Highly recommended and very informative.


  • ·         Attended a conference in April of this year called Shifting Ground II: A Symposium on Music and Publishing. Oxford Brookes University.  Me and a colleague Rob Horrocks, from our research centre  and  , co-presented a paper on fanzines called Music Webzines: Acts of Defiance in a Digital Age? It was investigating whether the discourses of the print versions of fanzines are still apparent in contemporary online incarnations. We looked at some old anarcho-punk fanzines and indie fanzines, looked at the discursive constructs within them as arbiters of taste, authenticity and disseminators the scenes ideologies and then compared them to contemporary punk and indie webzines to see if the same discourses were present-to cut a long explanation short they were not entirely for various reasons which I will allude to later in this blog.
  • ·         I chaired a panel on  a Music Industry symposium in Birmingham called ‘Stream or Sell’ which was about how artists are making a living in the age of digital distribution, streaming audio and file sharing. Very interesting discussions but not much forward progress made in terms of whether an artist should sell their music or give it away for free as a marketing strategy to make money in other areas such as live performance and merch. Guest speakers included Matt Parsons from Ditto Music and David Adams from Soundcloud
  • ·         Finished writing and submitting a chapter that I co wrote with Siobhan Mullen, a colleague of mine from the research centre, for a forthcoming  book called ‘Radio and Society’ edited by Matt Mollgaard from Auckland University of Technology. Book comes out sometime this side of Christmas 2011. I was really pleased that at this early stage of my research career I have already had something published. The piece I co –wrote was about Radio for social inclusion-my contribution was about work I had conducted with the Gypsy/traveler community using simple radio production techniques as a tool for development to enable this particular group to produce their own media and counter point some of the negative press around the Gypsy/traveler communities in the mainstream press. Siobhan’s contribution was about Prison radio also as a tool for development and social inclusion. Although it has nothing to do with my current research it is something I have been involved in and remains a personal interest to me and has given me the opportunity to get some work published. 
  • ·         You may remember way back last year I presented a paper at a Music documentaries conference hosted by the University of Salford.  There was talk of a book coming from the various presentations at the conference-which has now become a reality. I am currently re-working my presentation into an academic chapter for the book which is being published in 2012/13 (date yet to be set). I am really excited about this because it is linked to my research/PhD and is set to become a seminal academic text on the Music Documentary. I have a very tight deadline to meet so am stressing about it a bit but it should be OK-just means lots of late nights writing.
  • ·         Had my first annual research centre progress interview last week.  It went well, apart from the usual gripes about not having enough time to balance life/work/research commitments. Some productive and encouraging conversations though and the panel and I have set and agreed  a few deadlines including me completing the MPhil stage in 12 months time ready to transfer to PhD.

So as you can see all in all a very productive and busy year just a bit rubbish about live blogging it.