One of the problems with having lots of things to blog about is having no time at all in which to blog them. It’s been an incredibly busy time, and I’ve been moving around a lot…
I’m actually writing this in an airport in Munich, on my way back from Graz in Austria, where I’ve been meeting with my colleagues from the Rhythm Changes European jazz research project I work on. We have partners in a bunch of different places, and so over the course of the three year project, we get together in each other’s towns (Amsterdam, Manchester, Lancaster, Copenhagen, Stavanger, Graz… though not Birmingham yet, curiously) – and it was Graz’s turn this time.
It was really great to hang out with those guys, as it always is, but especially great to do it somewhere I’ve never been before, and get a chance to go sightseeing and experience some great food and local culture along the way.
Skopje / Brussels / Zagreb
Last week, I was in Skopje, Macedonia speaking at what was ostensibly the first ever music industry conference there. Not a place I ever thought I’d end up visiting – and not an easy place to get to either. It’s three flights from Birmingham, and long connections. I was six hours in Brussels on the way there, and seven in Zagreb on the way back. Consequently, I left the airport and spent the day being a bit of a tourist each time.
I’ve also done a fair bit of moving around within the UK itself – and there’s quite a lot of that coming up soon too. I did an early morning guest lecture at the Leeds College of Music and so travelled up the night before, and took a bit of time to wander around the city afterwards before taking a midday train back to Birmingham. The trains are quieter and cheaper that way, and you can usually get a table and get some work done.
Manchester / Hulme / Rusholme
I’ve also been up in Manchester for Un-Convention, talking about grassroots and independent music. I spent the day in Hulme, which has a real history of alternative culture, squatting and – perhaps more than anything – rave parties. I moderated a panel of key figures in the development of rave culture as well as contemporary dance music artists, talking about the role of politics in electronic dance music. I learned an awful lot that day.
And while I didn’t stay the next day for the British Asian music day on the Curry Mile in Rusholme the next day, I did spend the morning at the venue, meeting with people and talking about independent music – so that counts as a visit as well. Fascinating venue too. It’s called Antwerp Mansion – and it’s not what it sounds like at all…
I popped down to London for (of all things) a visit to the Argentine ambassador’s residence. There was a Creative Industries meeting going on with some presentations promoting cultural connections between Argentina and the UK, and because I’d spoken at something in Buenos Aires that the Ministry for Creative Industries had organised, I managed to get an invite.
In fact, the Minister himself flew over that day, and proudly showed a 6 minute video of the work that he’d been doing since he took office. That event I was at featured prominently – and, in fact, I was actually on screen for about 20 seconds of that 6 minutes. I managed to get an invitation back to Argentina out of that bit of good fortune.
And all these travels over the last month or so started off with a seminar about my book Radio in the Digital Age that I gave in Sunderland. It was a good place to do it, because there are a lot of key radio academics based there, whose books I reference. The chance to lay out the central premise and talk through my opening chapters in front of a sharp and critical audience was really helpful. I was put on the spot quite ferociously at times – but I think I managed to explain myself, take on board a few important points and maybe even win a couple of people over, given what is a fairly provocative approach to radio studies. And then we went out for a meal, which was lovely. Sunderland itself, however, was grey and bleak.
And it’s writing that book that will take me on my next journey. I have the rest of the year to finish it. The deadline is the end of December. It’s a LONG way from being done – but I’m almost certain I’ve managed to secure a short sabbatical and will be able to hide myself away on a writer’s retreat or two to just focus on it for a few weeks. For one of those retreats, I’ll be heading up to visit my friend Clutch and family next week. They have a remote farmhouse in Aberdeenshire – and lots of space for me to just disappear and type words.
It’s a beautiful place. You can expect lots of photos.