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.
“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…”
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. 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”. To do this I distinguish between what I am describing here as ‘standard music histories’ exemplified by the BBC’s Britannia 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.
 Roger Sabin, ed., Punk Rock: So What? (London: Routledge, 1999), 4.
 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.
 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
 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
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:
·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.
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.
As promised here is the video of my conference presentation about Crass at the Sights&Sounds Conference at Salford. Apart from a few technical issues I think it went well. Comments are always welcome. However I do not have a future in stand up comedy!!
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.
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. http://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/-centres-of-excellence/centre-for-media-and-cul… and http://interactivecultures.org/who-we-areI 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, http://wallofsound.wordpress.com/, 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.