I was going to write a blog about Twitter, and voice and collectively generated knowledge, but this came out instead. It is a starting point, for thinking through #beforethedrugsrunout
It probably says more about my life than theirs, but I seem to be haunted by old punks propping up the bar telling me stories about the Clash, or showing off their badge collection on ebay. There’s certainly a lot of punk ghosts around – icons– Sid, Nancy, Rotten before he became farmer Lydon , and reunion bands are everywhere. But what are the ghosts for? And why are they following me round all the time?
DIY Digital: Doing Punk Online grew out of the third year Special Subject History course ‘Post-Punk Britain’.
The course is in its second year and from the start, my co-tutor Chris Warne and myself, imagined it as an experiment in democratic teaching and learning. We use the growth of academic work around subcultures and youth culture since 1976 to explore bigger questions around what it means to be a contemporary historian today. This means that we look at local histories, archival practices, life history like memoirs, sound, image and moving images, and oral history alongside popular culture. Although there has been a determined growth in academic work on subcultures in history, sociology, criminology, English studies and beyond, PPB puts these alongside other forms of history work outside of the formal universities. We take the memories that people inherit, share and turn into stories as seriously as the academic theories around the politics of popular culture.
When we began the Brighton hub of Wellcome’s sexology and Song-writing project we imagined that the young women involved would undertake some sort of original research and then write songs about it. It quickly became clear that the young women participants and the youth work and music practitioners had some different priorities. The practitioners wanted to concentrate on building a secure and supportive environment in which to build a collective group identity, and the young women wanted to sing songs that they already knew and liked. The young sexology song-writers didn’t want to write songs. They wanted to cover and recover them. Once we recognised that the priorities of the practitioners and of the young women needed to be our priorities too, we moved towards their goals. We weren’t training them to be researchers. They were training us in their modes of re-enactment: an active and creative intervention in a cultural circuit that brought together the legitimacy of publicly celebrated singer-songwriters, with their own experiences and voices.
I’ve spent a lot of the last five years living with One Direction. For a while, most conversations with my daughter involved The Boys in some way and a life size Harry Styles greets you from the front window of my house.
The Boys have even joined us on a picket line. They opened up the chance for me to work academically with one of my favourite people in the world, documentary maker Daisy Asquith who made the Channel 4 documentary Crazy About One Direction. Between the two of them my daughter and Daisy have helped me connect my feminism with my love of fandoms.
I have a lot to thank The Boys for.
Good News! Chris Warne and I have been awarded one of 6 Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation Scheme awards at the University of Sussex. Our project is called DIY DIGITAL: Doing Punk Online. The award is attached to our shared third year special subject course Post-Punk Britain. The course is in its second year of delivery, and from the very first planning discussions that Chris and I had about setting up the course we wanted to explore free and open ways of taking the discussion out of the class room and really encouraging a DIY learning model.
I’ve been involved in the Brighton Hub of ‘Sexology and Songwriting’, a collaborative project that brings together academic researchers with songwriters and young people. The workshops are attached to to Wellcome Collection’s sexology exhibition and inspired by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL III). We got some additional funding from the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The aim of the project is for the young people involved to become active researchers and song-writers, disseminating their research in the form of their own songs, performed locally and potentially included in recorded form at the Sexology exhibition in February 2015. The workshops are based at the Brighton Youth Centre and in the performances will be developed collaboration with Brighton Dome.
Charity singles were the perfect cultural form for Thatcher’s Eighties. They were packaged and sold within the Victorian values of philanthropy but in a form that fitted well with new media opportunities, new media technology and new ‘yoof’ orientated broadcasting space. Charity singles facilitated a set of donations; the primary donation was the time of musicians and celebrities, (and sometimes technicians and distributors) which may have included additional donations of royalties, rights and or all profits.
The secondary donation was by the consumer who bought the single regardless of their motivation; for the cause, for their favourite pop star, for the song, or for a combination thereof. Whatever Thatcher said about there being no such thing as society, and however many clips of champagne quaffing Yuppies we see on retro documentaries, in the Eighties people turned to charity to fill the gaps they saw opening up in social provision. Charitable donation increased in Thatcher’s Britain, as did the number of charities and the number of ways of making a donation. Charity singles, like all parts of a charity campaign, were not just about raising money. Charitable donation raises funds, but it also raises awareness about particular issues and builds a sense of community. It builds a sense of the community for the donors, as well as an imagined community of worthy recipients. By the end of the Eighties these three functions produced a recognizable charity single formula; collective choruses, recognizable voices on individual lines, and ego-free co-operation between different generations of musicians.
Doctoral researcher Laura Cofield and I have just returned from a research trip to New York in order to scope the Riot Grrrl Archive in the Fales Library. There are hundreds of different zines in the archive across 18 individual collections that cover the years 1974-2003. The trip was funded by the Santander Mobility Fund and set up by Simone Robinson, Tracey Wallace and Paul Roberts from the Doctoral School at Sussex.
Laura’s in the first year of her doctoral research looking at the c20th and c21st history of pubic hair removal as a way into women’s experience of their bodies and the relationship between pornography and feminism. Laura and I were totally inspired by our visit. Everyone was incredibly helpful, going out of their way to help us, from Anthony on the desk at Gem hotel Soho who filled us in on a quick history of the queer politics of Wonder Woman, to Campbell the security guard at Fales who not only recommended where we should get lunch, he rang ahead and made sure we would get in, to Marvin Taylor the Fales Archivist who shared his prize acquisition of a set of homoerotic photographs from 1905 with us. But to top it all off Steve Haugh was our Angel of New York and toured us round Manhattan in his beautiful Jag.
I was part of a panel discussion on fans and music documentary at this year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival. The panel was organised by Emily Renshawe-Smith. We discussed work by Daisy Asquith (Crazy About One Direction), and Nick Abrahams (The Posters Came from the Walls) and Jeanie Finlay Orion: The Man Who Would be King. If you stick with it, you can hear me have a bit of a debate with the one and only Peter York.