Steve Ignorant discusses the emotion of performing the final gig of his The Last Supper Tour

Here is a link to Steve Ignorant’s (Crass) blog discussing his recent final performance of The Last Supper tour. Really honest and insightful piece of writing. I had the pleasure of seeing this tour in Sep2010 when he came to Birmingham. Seems so long ago. Gutted that I missed the final show as he was joined on stage by friends and former Crass members Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine.

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.

Steve Ignorant (Crass) and The Last Supper



On Saturday 25th September I went to see Steve Ignorant (ex singer/songwriter of Crass, Schwarzenegger and The Stratford Mercenaries) at the 02 Academy in Birmingham. This date was one of many on a tour that sees Steve perform (for the very last time) a collection of Crass songs that either he wrote or co-wrote.  Nostalgia is a strange beast and where there was to some degree a hidden expectation of this tour re-kindling the atmosphere and zeitgeist of the early days of Crass and anarcho-punk it felt odd watching a combination of both young and old (old enough to have been there the first time round) punks singing and pogoing to perhaps something past it’s sell by date.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying as Steve and his band put on a fantastic, visceral and passionate performance that left me in no doubt that he still has it in him. I think what I am trying to say here is that the power, the energy and the edginess of those songs has now been lost in translation through time. When Crass first came onto the music scene, and gave punk a real sense of purpose, their whole approach to music and politics was a rallying call to a whole generation of young people dissatisfied with and discarded by mainstream society overseen by a megalomaniac government that had no time for anyone that disagreed with them.

Crass were a real challenge to society’s accepted practices and with that engendered a lot of media and political attention. My memories of their gigs were ones of both beauty (passionate angry pleading lyrics, libertarian and liberating politics and commitment from a group of performers not interested in playing for profit) and the dark underlying tension (anger and the risk of skinheads and other groups of people storming and trashing not only the gig but the audience and band as well).

The times we are living in today are not that dissimilar to when Crass first started performing (war, high unemployment, disaffected youth) but that sense of coming together to challenge our ‘lot’ has been diluted. Hence the reason that, despite Steve Ignorant’s excellent performance, it seemed to be lacking in power and meaning.

I was hoping to get to speak to Steve after the gig about my research but, obviously not being the best time, didn’t even manage to get backstage to arrange a later date that I could go and speak to him. I did however get a copy of his book ‘The Rest Is Propaganda’ which I look forward to reading soon and I am going to endeavour to speak to him at a later date.

I did however, amongst the loudness of the gig, get chatting to a few old punks that said they would be happy to be interviewed at some point in the future-so all not lost!

Yesterday I also came across an interview Steve gave just before the beginning of this tour to Near FM an Eire community radio station. It gives some insight into some of the myths around Crass but also Steve’s rationale for touring this material. I have edited the musical interludes out but here is the link to the full interview.

Here is the edited version


And here are a few photos i took at the gig on my phone (so not brilliant)


UB40 Symposium

A colleague of mine Dr Paul Long, from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, is organising a symposium on and around the Birmingham band UB40 in association with Birmingham Popular Music Archive. This is in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the release of UB40’s album “Signing Off”
Although UB40 were not a punk band it would be fair to say that they came from the same era of Thatcherism, high unemployment and social division. Their lyrics at times reflected the same anger and frustration of those of the British punk scene so they deserve a mention here.
The symposium will take place on March 18th 2011 at Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University.
For further details follow this link:


On Friday 25th June I attended a one day symposium on Popular Music Fandom. The symposium was at the University of Chester and organised by Mark Duffett from the School of Media at Chester. As I will be conducting some research around  fans as part of my PhD research I thought it would be useful to attend along with some of my colleagues from The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Studies Prof Tim Wall, Rob Horrocks and  Nacho Gallego Pérez a visiting researcher from Madrid who has recently joined the centre for research.


The keynote presentation was from Matt Hills from Cardiff University who is one of the UK’s key thinkers in Fan Culture and Fan studies. I had worked with Matt in the past as part of a research team that conducted some research about audience/fan online interaction with the BBC Radio websites as part of a Knowledge Transfer Project.  Matt’s presentation was around considering new ways of looking at and researching fan culture based on three ideas of post-popular music, mnemic communities and intermediary fandoms. What I particularly liked was the area of mnemic communities drawing on the work of Bollas (1993) and how music has personal and/or community memory stored within it. He also touched on the idea of whether those memories are imagined and /or a community narrative. I thought this would be very useful to my research as my object of study centres around cultural/popular memory.


Mark  Duffett delivered an interesting paper on moving towards a new vocabulary of fan theory in researching and investigating fandom. He laid out a 9 step vocabulary model which due to my deep interest in what he was saying I failed to make any notes-doh!! I am hoping he will e-mail me his PowerPoint slideshow and if so I will comeback to discussing his ideas on a future blog. What was great about these two presentations was the fact that I am new to fan studies and it seems that I am at a point of entry where the ways of thinking about fandom are taking a new turn and I am getting current and future ideas from two of the leading UK researchers and commentators in the field.


Alexei Michailowsky from the University of Rio De Janeiro delivered an interesting paper about when the researcher is a fan and methodological points in carrying out research into your favourite artist. This was based on his experiences into researching Brazilian musician Marcos Valle. This brought up some useful strategies for me regarding my own research as a fan of British anarcho-punk.


I also met two very interesting people John Harries and Lisa Busby from a band called Sleeps in Oysters who have released music on Seed Records. John had attended to present a paper on David Bowie: A Case Study of the Established Artist as Fan and ‘Musical Conscience’ for the Mainstream which I unfortunately missed because it clashed with another presentation about Northern Soul from Dr Nicola Smith from UWI Cardiff which was really interesting and informative.  Lisa is not only a musician but also an academic who teaches music at Oxford Brookes University. We had some interesting conversations about their band and performing their music live and also the revival of the audio cassette (which was a topic in my previous blog posting) and interesting ways to package and market music in the digital age which is something that they and Seed Records really like to explore and develop.


We also talked about her course and she has said that there may be an opportunity to talk to her students about marketing, PR and promotion of music and musicians. She discussed a future conference she is organising and said that there would be an opportunity for me to present at it which will be a great opportunity.


A real coup of the day was meeting a fellow punk Michelle Liptrot from the University of Bolton. She is in the final stages of her PhD research into the longevity of anarcho-punk and hardcore. She hopes to submit in November but from our discussions we determined that some of her research and research findings would be really useful in informing my research. She has generously offered to send me a list of useful texts from her bibliography which I am really grateful for. I wish her the best of luck with the completing stages of her thesis and look forward to reading it once it’s published-if not before. We will definitely keep in touch.


All in all a really informative day that has given me some great ideas and very useful contacts. Thanks to Mark Duffett and his team for organising the symposium.

The Audio Cassette Makes A Comeback Thanks To Brave Or Invincible Records

On Monday 21st June I was invited along with some of my students to be interviewed for a pre-record by Paul Franks of BBC WM for his Tuesday drive time show. The basis of the interview was about a group of my current 2nd year students who aim to revive the audio cassette in the form of a release on their record label Brave or Invincible Records. The students Nick Moreton, Callum Joynes, Ryan Smith, and Chris Williams set up BOI Records last year based on some of the experiences and knowledge they gained in their 1st year Music Industries modules. They have successfully managed to combine their ongoing degree studies alongside running a business. I am really proud of their achievements and as they have gone ahead and put into practice one of the key principles I try to instil into my lectures-being actively involved in the music business and creating an exit strategy for when they complete their degree as well as demonstrating the possibilities of entrepreneurship. I as their lecturer do what ever I can to support their initiative in the way of mentoring, advice etc. With good time management skills and a commitment to work hard they have shown that it is possible to engage with the profession whilst studying. Hopefully more students will see this as a green light to do the same or similar.


Listen on Posterous

What is particularly interesting about them re-inventing the audio cassette is that they have combined retro with digital and found an innovative and creative way to release music and get some media attention hence the interview and press coverage. I won’t give too much away as the interview is available to listen too. Strangely enough today (Thursday 24th June) there is an article in the Guardian G2 by Alex Petridis about how the audio cassette made him “love music more” and harkens back to the time of creating mixtapes which made you have to “work harder as a music fan” because you had to listen to the music and make judicious us of the record and pause buttons unlike today where it is a matter of drag-drop-burn.

This was exactly what Nick Moreton from BOI Records was saying in the interview about the cultural significance of the mixtape. I think Nick and the rest of the lads could be on the crest of a wave of the revival in the interest of the audio cassette-they might actually be onto something here! I wish them the best of luck with their release.

Sights and Sounds: Interrogating the Music Documentary Conference

Tim, Paul, Oliver, Sam, Rob and I went to the Sights and Sounds Conference which was held at Salford University last Thursday and Friday. I presented a paper based around my research into Anarcho-punk. I talked about the Alexander Oey film about Crass‘There is No Authority But Yourself’. The paper was around how the film could be seen as an intervention into the canons of punk history through the retrieval of memory. The Powerpoint slides can be viewed below though the embedded video may not play. The conference was also filmed so hopefully I will be able to post that up at a later date.


I felt , for my first academic presentation, that it went really well though i did get a bit tongue tied at one point but managed to retrieve my place in the delivery and continued. The feedback I received afterwards from the audience was really positive and encouraging. I was 1 of 3 on a punk/post punk panel, the other 2 contributors on the panel, Ailsa Grant-Turton and Erich Hertz also delivered 2 really good papers that complimented some of the issues I was addressing in my paper. I am hoping that I will find the time to finish writing the paper over the next few months and that it can be included in a forthcoming text on music documentary published on the back of this conference. The other delegates covered a broad range of subject/musical genres of which there was something interesting in all of them. Tim and Paul did an excellent presentation about Tony Palmers 1976 series ‘All you need is Love’ examining the impact of the series as a seminal documentary that established the form that most subsequent popular music documentaries have since taken. Sam and Oli also did a co-presentation examining how Sam’s audio documentary about David Bowie’s visit to New Zealand has been appropriated by fan cultures and re-versioned. The other delegates were very friendly and i made some useful contacts. I met with Mark Duffett a scholar who teaches at Chester University who’s website and blog I have been following with interest. He has done some great work on fan cultures and I am going to meet up with him later in the year to discuss my research and see how he can give me some solid insight into fan culture and cultural memory. Due to the conference programme we didn’t have much time to have an indepth conversation but I am excited at the prospect of spending more time with him to pick his brain and tease out some useful knowledge to aid my research.


What was really great about this conference was the opportunity to spend time with my work colleagues and I felt really proud to be part of a team that represented the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at the Birmingham School of Media in such a good light. We had the largest group from any institution present at the conference and arrived in a ‘Reservoir Dogs’ style.


Ben Halligan who helped organise the conference has asked my to present a paper at another conference he is organising in July titled ‘Noise, Affect, Politics’
-so I thought if I have time I would like to put a paper together about the political lyrics of bands such as Crass, Discharge, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death and how they are mostly undecipherable in their lyrical delivery but central to their ethos and agenda.

Punk’s Underbelly.ppt
Download this file

Here are my conference presentation notes

Download this file

Ozzy Osbourne Award

As Degree Leader for Music Industries at the Birmingham School of Media, I have been thinking for a while about rewarding graduate students by giving awards to two graduating students on the specialist degree as recognition for their performance and achievement. I wanted the awards to not only have some resonance with the music industries but also have a local angle as Birmingham has a rich musical heritage. Ozzy Osbourne seemed like an obvious choice as he was born just up the road from the University where I teach, and is a global star, but I thought that it would be difficult to get him to agree-long story short I managed to contact his agent and manager (Sharon Osbourne) who put it to him and he said that he would be honoured to have his name linked to an award.
My second choice on the recommendation of a colleague, Jez Collins, was Brian Travers, founder member of UB40. Again a local and international music star who has been involved in collaborative projects with the School of Media and works with some of the students. He happily agreed aswell so now there is the Ozzy Osbourne Development award, for the student who has demonstrated the greatest degree of development over the 3 years of their degree; and the Brian Travers Achievement Award for the student with the highest degree rating at graduation.

Thsi is great news for the students concerned and great to have Ozzy and Brian linked to and supporting the Music Industries Degree at the BIrmingham School of Media.

The story was covered by the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail and is starting to get picked up by other international press.

Conference paper

I will be presenting a conference paper this coming Friday (June 4th) at the Popular Music Research Centre, Salford University for the ‘Sights and Sounds: Investigating the Music Documentary’ conference

This will be the first time I have presented a paper, set within the context of my research, at an academic conference. I was fortunate enough to present this paper in front of my colleagues at the Birmingham Centre for Media and  Cultural Research.…

I found the ‘practice’ run extremely useful and got some positive feedback from my colleagues about content and delivery. There were a few issues that needed adressing and with the kind help of my superviser, Professor Tim Wall,, redrafted some parts of the presentation to make it flow better and get to the heart of some of the issues i wanted to cover.
I am hoping that one of my colleagues will film my presentation at Salford and if so i will post it up in the coming weeks.

My PhD Proposal

PhD Research Proposal.doc
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I thought I would post up my outline research proposal to give some insight  into what my research degree is about and what I will be investigating  This is a work in progress and will be re-drafted before it goes in for registration. However it gives some indication of my object of study and some of the methodologies that I will employ. I would welcome any comments or suggestions.

Welcome to my blog

Well here it is-my first blog. I have set this blog up for a few reasons. Firstly I feel that I should start communicating with people besides using e-mail. Secondly and most importantly I have set up this blog to aid me in my research. I am currently studying for a PhD where i am conducting research into British Anarcho-Punk and Cultural/Popular memory. This blog will take on many forms as a research diary and also a place for people to hopefully contribute ideas, comments, suggestions and other ephemera that will add to and aid in my research.


As well as my PhD i am involved in other research projects. I am awaiting the confirmation of a bid, that myself and some coleagues from Birmingham City University, for a pan-European project in using radio as a tool to explore issues around Domestic Violence (DV).


The project involves working with survivors of DV in creating a set of radio spots to be broadcast on community radio stations and from this we will design and  create a DV radio production toolkit for community radio workers and organistaions involved in working with survivors of DV.