Last week I had the honour of acting as discussant at a panel on Modern Britain On Drugs at this year’s MBS conference at Birmingham University. (It was a really great conference, but more on that another time.)
Peder Clark, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: ‘“Do You Love What You Feel?”: Ecstasy, Rave, and Ways of Knowing, 1988-1995’.
Ben Mechen, Royal Holloway ‘Rubber Gloves and Liquid Gold: Poppers and the Policing of London’s Queer Nightlife’.
Yewande Okuleye, University of Leicester ‘You Call It Marijuana and I Call It “The Herb”: Cannabis as a Boundary Object’.
I just gave an inaugeral. The most terrifying and life affirming thing I’ve ever done at work. It was a room full of amazing people – I was blessed to have four generations of my family there and loved the opportunity to make my 89 year old mum and my 7 year old grandson all swear in unison.
There’s a recording coming at some point, but there are some things that I really want to share, in a written form, for those who might not be interested in the main body of the talk itself, but might be facing similar questions in their negotiation with the academic structures around us.
How the fuck are we going to get through this shitstorm, intact, together, and without throwing each other under the bus? Who has got our back? and what can we learn from those who have negotiated the faultlines of the shitstorm before us?
The UCU strike for USS has been a roller coaster and I don’t really know what it means yet, being a historian and all. But the strike over pensions and the marketization of universities has changed how I understand our structures and possibilities and how I feel about work, and how I feel about feeling things about work. (But I will leave the truly brilliant Claire Langhamer to take that one on) Its also changed the way academics in different institutions relate to each other, and filled our lives with Twitter.
I’ve never had an overly easy relationship with Universities, or really with education, but over the last few weeks I’ve never felt so completely at home in academia, or wanted to leave academia so much.
I was ‘invited’ to leave school at 15 and allowed to return to sit some O levels, I got 4, not including History. My first attempt at A levels at 17 was interrupted by the birth of my first daughter. As a single parent I lived in families of choice whilst I studied. As an undergraduate I had a team of incredible women who had each others backs. With my incredible friend Vicky, we campaigned about the representation of student motherhood in contraceptive education and over the councils refusal to pay our children’s housing benefit contribution over 52 weeks of the year ( it seemed pretty obvious to us that our babies weren’t actually students).
All my post graduate studies were part-time and unfunded. Structurally it was pretty clear that I wasn’t meant to be there, and certainly that I wasn’t worth investing money in. But on a personal level I was surrounded by lecturers and supervisors who invested in me. I was taught about the value of personal and political investment. And I guess that’s a trajectory I’ve followed ever since. That came to a clashing contradictory conclusion during the strike. I’ve never loved my colleagues more (and I loved them a lot already), I’ve never felt the possibility of taking back the agenda so closely, and I’ve never wanted to jack the whole thing in so much.
The history of queer representation in film is sometimes the history of not being easily seen. It can be the history of having to work really hard to find yourself represented. It can be the history of having to work really hard with what you are given, when you are represented as the freak, the pervert, the duplicitous spy, the blackmailer.
Queerama for me, was the story of how people have negotiated the identities that have been imposed on them. As a history Queerama shows us a series of outside definitions of queer identities that have had to be negotiated; homosexuality, for example, has been seen as a sin, an illness, to an act of dissidence. Sexualities and their identities have been legislated and defined from above, diagnosed by sexologists, feared for contagion, dissected like a guinea pig, but they have also been squeezed through the cracks.
A moment of pure joy washed over me last Wednesday as I watched my two favourite feminist icons sit on stage together and chat about pioneering women in music as part of The Odditorium series of events for Brighton Fringe Festival. Viv Albertine, writer, artist and guitarist of The Slits was invited to talk in conversation with Lucy about the women she had come to recognise as influential in her life. It was like ‘grasping at straws’ she described, born in the fifties and with so few women visible in the public eye, let alone pioneering in alternative and subculture.
(Thanks to Claire Langhamer who excelled herself as travel companion/carer)
I’ve just got back from the launch of Jersey Heritage’s new exhibition ‘Bergerac’s Island: Jersey in the 1980s’. I’ve been working with the team throughout the project’s development and can honestly say the whole experience has been brilliant. This exhibition is clever stuff. It speaks across generation, to the local and the global. But it is also touching, funny and engaging – that’s pretty much what I want history to be.
Have you ever been on holiday with your students? Its got a lot of awkward potential.
This year Chris Warne and I were awarded an Innovation in Teaching Award to take a group of students to Margate and set up a digital pedagogy experiment. DIT Digital: Doing Subcultures Online involved tours and workshops with two of Margate’s significant heritage sites; The Turner Contemporary and Dreamland. Our Twitter hashtag is #DITDreamland
Last year we had run a less ambitious project DIY Digital: Doing Punk Online with students on our Post-Punk Britain module. Students had created open access educational resources around topics from the module. One of the key lessons from the project last year had been the importance of ‘being in the room’ to facilitate virtual interaction so a field trip offered a way of sharing a physical space together whilst doing digital work. Furthermore last year’s MA mentors had been absolutely central to the success of the project and we now had a group of masters students who had been part of the original project as undergraduates who could act as mentors.
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.
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.