Dick Hebdidge

I was in London this week, presenting at a conference about Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change. Some really interesting stuff in there – and the keynotes were really quite spectacularly good.

Dick Hebdidge (above), who literally wrote the book on Subcultures, presented a fascinating tour from punk rock to centenarians on Facebook via Japanese popular art, Birmingham nightclubs and the Mojave desert.

David Hesmondhalgh presented an inspiring talk about, essentially, the fact that music’s really lovely and it makes people’s lives better. Which sounds really obvious, but people who study it tend to forget that sometimes.

Jez presents

I was on a panel with Jez Collins (above), who talked (and showed videos) about hip hop and social change in Colombia, and Matt Grimes who has been researching anarcho-punk fanzines online (and the fact that they don’t really exist).

My paper was about the Monkey on the Roof project – in which we went to Delhi, recorded an album with street kids and sold it on the internet to raise money for a music charity.

There’s not much you can say about something like that in 20 minutes, but I was able to get enough said to strike up a few interesting conversations afterwards.

It was a really good conference with some great panels and some really interesting presentations. It was also great to meet up with people like Nabeel Zuberi from the University of Auckland, who I’ve been speaking with online for years but probably haven’t been in the same room with for about a decade.

Of course, there were the obligatory papers that might just as well have been titled ‘Stuff I like is great and stuff I don’t like is rubbish’. Some people appear to spend their working lives justifying their personal taste with academic language and critical positioning.

Johnny Ilan

But by the same token, there were also some fascinating presentations by people from other fields who have perspectives on things you might not come across ordinarily. Who knew, for instance, that criminologists study pop music?

Archives were a real feature of the conference, which was encouraging, as it’s an area that’s really important to our research centre – and it does seem like there is money (and interest) out there to support projects that examine, preserve and disseminate cultural histories.

A panel of archivists

I recorded a few of the presentations, and intend to make my MA students sit through them and come up with interesting things to say afterwards.

That all kicks off tomorrow. A new batch of students turn up to study the music industries, so that’s going to be my main focus over the next few months, and it means that the summer break is coming to an end. I worked through the majority of it, and somehow still didn’t get even a quarter of the writing I wanted to do done.

Perhaps now that I’m going back into a more structured routine, I’ll be able to slot that in. And I can hardly say it hasn’t been a productive period. I think I’ve got more work done in the last couple of months than I’ve managed in the year that preceded it.

But it would be nice to have some more pages of text completed as a result of that, as well as all of these new and exciting projects.