Category Archives: Conference

LitCom 1 conference programme, 2-3 March, Norwich

Below is the programme for the literature and communities conference. This is the latest event in the programme we organise from UEA for and with Connected Communities. Further information is here

Venue: Writers’ Centre Norwich, Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich         

Thursday 2 March

12:15-13:00                 Registration

13:00-13:15                 Welcome and introduction

13:15-14:00                 1. Keynote address

 Celebrating Reading in Athens

Ava Chalkiadaki, UNESCO World Book Capital, Athens

Chair: George McKay, UEA

14:00-15:30                 2. Community and Place A

Writing ‘home’: madness, health and gender in the work of the female authors of the Greater Moray Firth Issie MacPhail, University of the Highlands and Islands Rural Health and Wellbeing and Jane Verburg, Cromarty History Society

The John Hewitt Society: ‘Once alien here’ Jan Carson, writer and community arts facilitator, and Hilary Copeland, General Manager, The John Hewitt Society

Creative writing and / as community arts practice Lynne Bryan and Belona Greenwood, Words and Women

Community relations and affect in post-industrial townscapes: ‘Merthyr gave me a hug’ Peter Davies, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Chair: Jos Smith, UEA

15:30-16:00                 Tea and coffee

16:00-17:30                 Parallel sessions

  1. Poetry and community

Poetry Postie Sally Crabtree, Independent Researcher

“That was England in nineteen eighty four” – non-professional poets (re)write the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike in post-industrial South Yorkshire Ryan Bramley, University of Sheffield

Writing from within/without the LGBTQ Communities Dr Cath Nichols, University of Leeds

Chair: Eleanor Rees, Liverpool Hope University

16:00-17:30                 4. Writing Home – Workshop*

Jane Moss, Independent Researcher

*Places limited. See Workshops for more information.

19:30                           Evening meal for speakers at The Last Wine Bar

Friday 3 March

9:00-9:30                     Tea and coffee

9:30-10:15                   5. Keynote address

The Amazing Push Poem Machine: How Writing Connects Communities Dave Ward, Co-ordinator, The Windows Project

Chair: Eleanor Rees, Liverpool Hope University

10:30-12:30                 6. Digital and Publishing

Small Publishers Fair  Helen Mitchell, Director, Small Publishers Fair

White Water Writers Francesca Baker and Dr Joseph Reddington, White Water Writers

‘Stand out from the crowd!’ Literary advice in online writing communities Bronwen Thomas, Bournemouth University

Connecting communities through digital fiction Isabelle van der Bom, Sheffield Hallam University

Chair: Jane Moss, Independent Researcher 

12:30-13:15                 Lunch

13:15-14:45                 Parallel sessions

  1. Practices and Reading(s)

Spaces of possibility: literary communities in and outside the classroom Tom Sperlinger, Bristol University

Shared reading: creating and connecting communities Susan Jones, University of Nottingham

Mother earth in translation: Exploring the literary geographies and aesthetic borderlands of demiurgical figures in transnational indigenous activism Naomi Millner, Bristol University

Chair: Hugh Escott, Sheffield Hallam University

  1. Life Chances

Life Chances: re-imagining future regulatory systems for low-income families in modern urban settings through co-writing a fictional sociology Debbie Watson, Bristol University, Simon Poulter, Artist, Moestak Hussein and Nathan Evans, Community Partner

*Places limited. See Workshops for more information

14:45-15:15             Tea and coffee

15:15-16:45             9. Community and Place B

Literary pathways in the co-creation and re-presentation of stories by, with and from disadvantaged young people Candice Satchwell, University of Central Lancashire

A Tale of Two Cities Polly Moseley, Liverpool John Moores University

The Gloves of Democracy: Co-Constructing Stories with Children and Young People Hugh Escott, Sheffield Hallam University, and Sarah Christie, Grimm and Co.

Chair: Dave Ward, The Windows Project

Parallel Sessions

Spaces limited – booking will be available at registration

Day 1 16:00 – 17:30

Writing home

Jane Moss, Independent Researcher

This practical writing workshop offers an approach to writing about our personal ideas of home and community; the places and communities we consider our homelands, whether we live in them now, are in exile, or have moved on from them. The session is facilitated by Jane Moss, a writer working in communities in Cornwall. Jane will use the Dear Homeland model established by Steve Potter ( to demonstrate the way writing letters to and from our homelands can give rise to reflection and realisations about our concepts of home and our relationship with the communities in which we live. Jane, with colleagues in Lapidus Cornwall (, has hosted this workshop at the Penzance Literary Festival and other community settings, and is interested in the potential for creative writing to bring people together to enhance community cohesion and a shared sense of story making across diverse communities of interest and place within localities. You will need to bring a pen and paper, and are warmly invited to participate and reflect on the process of writing as an individual practice and as a group experience, and of the role of the writer-facilitator in the community.

Day 2 13:15-14:45

Life Chances

Debbie Watson, Bristol University, Simon Poulter, Artist, Moestak Hussein & Nathan Evans, Community Partner

The middle classes form a buffer between the super-rich and the detached poor. They join in with the finger pointing by proxy through being uninformed about the reality of what’s right in front of us.

Life Chances is a project within the Productive Margins programme. Participants, community organisations, the researchers and artists have together produced a published fictional novel, an interactive game, and jewellery.

The novel combines participant’s characterisations into a collaborative storyline that is both critical of policies and services and provides radical inclusive alternatives from community perspectives. The focus is on welfare provisions and reform and foregrounding how families experience these in their daily lives. Utopian thinking and re-imagining is introduced in order to offer alternative systems of regulation such as benefits, housing, immigration and child protection. Whilst ostensibly a work of fiction, Life Chances is also a rich data source allowing different understandings of people’s lives to be co-constructed in ways that provide people control over the story telling and making. How much of the novel is art and how much social science data collection and how the two disciplines have been utilised, and for what purposes, will be the focus of our presentation.

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Reggae Research Network, report of first meeting, Norwich 25 January

… music, politics, religion, culture and media, the music industry and economy, black cultural identity and expression, history, white adaptation/appropriations, diaspora of transatlanticism, semitones and cannabinoids, the body and the bass, sound systems … vibrations … dubplates on a turntable, books & films & exhibitions, archives in museums and garages, the translation of music as it circulated hemispherically or globally, dance and drumming, and more, all centred on reggae, and moving out to forms it touched or made, including grime, punk, dancehall, dub in electronica… GM

[My report of the first symposium of the AHRC-funded Reggae Research Network, Norwich 24-25 January, taken from the network website]

In the introductory remarks by the team Paul Gilroy observed that this forum for the critical discussion of reggae music is long overdue. Charles Forsdick talked about the idea of reggae as a musical culture formed in translation. George McKay simply welcomed everyone to the day and wished for a fruitful and continuing dialogue over the network events.

The first panel brought together two current AHRC-funded projects around aspects of reggae music and culture.

In a presentation drawing together history, industry, cultural politics Mykaell Riley and Caspar Melville introduced the AHRC large grant project Bass Culture focused on ‘the impact and legacy of reggae in Britain.’ Did you see the Wailers on TV on Old Grey Whistle Test in the 1970s? We all talked about that: ‘Did you see that? Oh no you missed it.’ ‘But British reggae was second fiddle—the power and impact of Jamaican music at that time, its relaxed but intricate performance—we couldn’t play like that. (‘Life was never the same’ after we saw Bob Marley and the Wailers on OGWT in 1973, said Gilroy later.) It was all a huge challenge to us as black British musicians.’ The project involves 100 filmed interviews and 1000 other interviews with key players across black British music-making around reggae music.

Shawn Naphtali-Sobers told us about his AHRC research network on Emperor Haile Selassie I in Bath in the 1940s (escaping Mussolini), and the museum and archive at Fairfield House, Bath—the house where, for Rastafarians, for a while ‘literally, God lived’. Fairfield contains information and insight as a location of European colonial conquest and African liberation alike, a ‘reluctant site’, a place of meaning. ‘Roots reggae became our textbooks.’

Sound system research. Julian Henriques opened with a very nice comment about the network, that ‘It is a joy and a pleasure to be here among so much reggae love!’ We heard about ways of (embodied) listening, eg at sound system, with triangulated speakers for dancing crowd, multi-media, and ways of making, a live technology. In Julian’s work with Outernational Sound System events, there has been a deliberate focus on recognition and inclusion of women in the scene, as well as intersectionality and intergenerational contributions to sound system culture. His theorisations have led to what he terms a ‘sonic logos’, a way of understanding that is not text- or word-based (logos as ratio, as in sound proportion/wave and frequency). Enjoying the vibe of sound system has given Julian a different way into understanding understanding, a ‘vibrational understanding’.

Then Mandeep Samra’s work on Huddersfield sound system culture showed us an(other) instance of neglected or remembered without prestige history—not only of reggae, but of sound system culture. ‘There were probably 30 or 40 sound systems from Huddersfield’ alone—and the project, its history book, its children’s book, film, and related travelling interactive exhibition, were partly about the further neglect that a scene such as in Huddersfield (rather than London, or Handsworth, say). She played us ‘dub plates’ of music including extracts of oral history interviews with local sound systems—creative music, academic and participatory research, community interviews ….

2017 is an important year for understanding Jamaican culture and music in France. Independent curator Sébastien Carayol introduced his work on the major French exhibition and some related filming of Jamaica musical history. As one interviewee says in the film we saw, about sound systems, ‘Most people do not understand the value of preserving little pieces of history’. Then we saw interview footage showing King Tubby’s 1958 bass bin which is now stored with other sound systems in Jeremy Collingwood’s suburban garage in a village in the English West Country. The Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition is on in Paris from April to August this year. Attached to the exhibition is the catalogue, which Thomas Vendryes has co-written with Sébastien, as well as a special issue of academic journal Volume! on Jamaican music. The latter is intended to help address the lack of French-language written scholarship about Jamaican music.

In the first session of the afternoon a number of academic and independent researchers presented from their work, where it some way touched or was touched by reggae.

Joy White has been researching grime, as ‘a diaspora cultural form, a Black Atlantic creative expression’. 140 bpm, it can be hard on the ear, lyrics delivered so fast not always comprehensible. It’s ‘a darker side of garage … a darker sound’, a music that sounds like where it’s from: street corners and council estates of east London. Its original (media) forum was pirate radio. One grime MC interviewed by Joy: ‘of course the roots of all this was reggae’. So, the sonic genealogy goes back to the sound system, in three ways: crew, sound clash or battle, delivering (‘spitting’) lyrics over a beat and track (cf toasting). Old school grime NASTY Crew is one named outfit, but here knowingly NASTY is an actually an acronym, of Natural Artistic Sounds Touching You. East London, Caribbean heritage (often through older family member—eg a number of grime artists told Joy ‘my dad / uncle was a reggae musician’), global audience.

We moved on to looking at Audioweb and Congo Natty by Shara Rambarran, beginning with context of 1990s Britpop, when white music was privileged in the popular music press. Then Rowan Oliver played versions of bass lines of the same song to discuss groove, space, timbre or texture of the rhythm section. ‘Groove relies on a multi-layered, empathic understanding’. Also we were reminded here of Christopher Small’s noting of ‘musicking’ in which music is not an artefact but a (social) activity. ‘All this thing is just a feel, you know’—Ernest Ranglin. Music as shared feeling. Reggae led to ‘an expansion of musical space’—space which could be filled, or not; this also gives a glimpse towards dub.

Further dub took away from reggae in the studio to thinking about the place of dub in electronic dance music, with Gonnie Rietveld’s work on the ‘dub diaspora’. Dub as ‘a signature style of spatialized rhythm and sound’ within reggae, a disruptive remix of the original. She draws on sonic aesthetic or acoustemology (Steven Feld) or sonic ‘way of knowing’ (Julian Henriques). She quotes from Paul Sullivan’s Remixology: ‘every spoil is a style’. Dub as haunted absence. But is dub a dilution of reggae’s political and social effort, as the words themselves are fragmented or removed. Echo ‘is the sound of a lonely disembodied voice’, hence, for her, diaspora.

Our final session provided an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to present their work. Sam Flynn’s musicological analysis of Jamaican trombonist Don Drummond’s ‘Far East sound’ of 1960s ska related it to debates about colonialism, Orientalism and black nationalism.  Yowande Okuleye brought her work on the re-medicalisation of cannabis and discussed how it contributed to an understanding of Rastafari and nyabinghi spiritual drumming. Following a historical and theoretical introduction on the black dancing body, H. Patten danced his way round the floor, to illustrate ways in which dancehall moves are not only sexual but also draw on spiritual corporeal practices. Edwina Peart presented her work on theorising modes of listening—a practice which is more than an individual introspective one—with her central cultural focus, the music of Gregory Isaacs.

At the end of the day someone said what a warm vibe there had been, another that this was one of the best events they’d been to, I heard a third say I can’t wait for Liverpool! (Liverpool symposium 2, Expanding the field, 19 May.) We had discussed—I should say began to discuss—music, politics, religion, culture and media, the music industry and economy, black cultural identity and expression, history, white adaptation/appropriations, diaspora of transatlanticism, semitones and cannabinoids, the body and the bass, sound systems … vibrations … dubplates on a turntable, books & films & exhibitions, archives in museums and garages, the translation of music as it circulated hemispherically or globally, dance and drumming, and more, all centred on reggae, and moving out to forms it touched or made, including grime, punk, dancehall, dub in electronica. And there is more to come…

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