Tag Archives: live music

AHRC Carnivalising the Creative Economy project

Well not quite a project perhaps, but funding for an event and to make a short film. I have been awarded a small grant (£7270) to support a contribution to what sounds like a terrific day at the cool spaces of King’s Place, London, on March 12. This is the AHRC’s Creative Economy Showcase, where research projects that collaborate with the creative sectors, in processes of knowledge exchange, are being showcased.

London Jazz Festival logoThe event I’m leading has a panel discussion of academics and leading jazz festival organisers, the academics having been funded by AHRC for their jazz and festivals-related research, and the organisers coming from festivals that value including academic content.

We are also producing a short film, by filmmaker Gemma Thorpe, featuring interviews with both sets of people.

Our academics:

  • Prof Martin Cloonan, Culture & Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, PI/Co-I live music and jazz festivals projects
  • Prof Tony Whyton, Music, University of Salford, PI Rhythm Changes project
  • Alison Eales, University of Glasgow, CDA PhD candidate.

Our festival partners:

Our filmmaker:

  • Gemma Thorpe (made the wonderful film of Cumbrian hill-farmers, A Break in the Clouds, for Connected Communities archaeology/heritage project in 2013).

Glasgow JF logoWe draw on five research projects across music festivals funded directly or indirectly (HERA) by AHRC, and all of which have a central impetus around knowledge exchange / co-production:

  1. Developing Knowledge Exchange in the Live Music Sector project (2012-13)
  2. AHRC Connected Communities Leadership Fellowship (2012-15)
  3. 25 Years of the Glasgow International Jazz Festival: Urban Regeneration, Regional Identity, and Programming Policy CDA (2011-14)
  4. HERA Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities project (2010-13)
  5. The Promotion of Live Music in the UK: a Historical, Cultural and Institutional Analysis project (2008-11).

These projects represent a significant investment by AHRC in at least five current or recent jazz and related music festival-centred research projects, including one of the world’s the leading jazz festivals (according to The Guardian), London. Also included in the events is an AHRC strategic partner (Cheltenham Festivals). They are high-profile organisations. The festivals featured have very different organisational structures and yet each has an established track record of working with universities on KE projects.

Cheltenham JF 2014 announcementKey aims are to explore these issues and to produce the following:

  • International perspectives to KE: working with European festival agencies and the benefits of networking and collaborating with pan-European networks, HERA leading A&H KE practices across EU.
  • Co-production: how useful are academics to festivals, and festivals to academics? What knowledges can they bring for each other? Evaluation (including Qualia), intellectual content for festivals, creative links with music departments, public engagement …
  • Articulating policy / regeneration / urban dialogue between researchers and leading festival organisers.
  • Working with an (AHRC-)experienced filmmaker to produce and show a short film about festivals / HEI collaborations, to be also made available on festivals’, HEIs’ and filmmaker’s websites.
  • Creative KE: where’s the (jazz) music here? How might or do musicians / composers engage in this (new) dialogue?

AHRC-logo-croppedWho will it be of interest to?

Festival and events managers, policy makers, regional and national arts administrators, media organisations, academics and evaluators, music and arts journalists, musicians, the festival-going public.

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Sex Pistols, Christmas Eve 1977, Cromer Links

A very old piece of writing … from youth … of even younger …  an event 36 years ago today. I read in the paper today that Julien Temple has just released footage of the famous Christmas Day Sex Pistols gig in Huddersfield. This was the gig the night before, of which I was reminded. To get the chronology of the text below straight: it’s about 1977, written in c. 1982-or -something. Not sure I even like it. The ticket is sellotaped on the front cover of my copy of Spunk.



A little while after the Sex Pistols play Cromer Links of all places, the one time I see them, in north Norfolk, the hall burns down. No big deal, as a venue it had had its heyday four or five years earlier, long before punk, with Alex Harvey, or, one of the other few worthwhiles from that time, Marc Bolan. (SAHB were so great on occasion, like Alex’s brilliant epic Glasgow deconstruction of faith healing that culminates with Can I put my hands on you? Nearly made you proud to be Scottish; Bolan still sounds good—how did he ever get away with those shocking lines in chart hit Jeepster, I’ll be your vampire, and I want to sssSUCK you!?) On his last tour Bolan was supported by the Clash. I admired him for that, it was a late sign from him before he died of his musical fingerpulse.

The point is that, in its reporting of the fire, the Eastern Daily Press informs its readers that the previous December Cromer Links had hosted a live show by the Sex Pistols. Clearly, for north Norfolk music lovers an apocalyptic sign, the band of no future, by now well on their way to successful fulfilment of that prophecy regarding their own music and, shit, life in one case, bringing eschatology to our doorsteps, just like we all wanted, or thought we wanted, or said we did. I loved them for that. Like Lydon said twenty years later, in his rotten autobiography, the thing with the Pistols was, when it came down to it, on the big occasion, they always let you down. That’s true, it’s the EDP that was wrong, trying to give credit where none’s due. If only the Pistols had been responsible for that fire of music space, that link with the petty bourgeois ball game, then we could have said we had something tangible, some small concrete result to point at for all our earnest effort as punks. Bit pathetic really.


Sex Pistols 1977 ticketI’d managed to persuade my mum to drive me out to Cromer a month or so before, one foggy early winter’s night, to get a couple of tickets for the Pistols gig. I appreciate her help—she knows how serious this is for me. It’s a tortuous drive, out to the coast through swirling mists, the sea blurring itself, saying You’re getting nearer, but she can see the virtues of the politics of punk. When I have the tacky-looking red and white tickets in my hand (The Most Famous Band In The World!), I still don’t believe it; all up to the gig, I don’t believe they will actually turn up.

On the night, the guy we’ve got a lift out with is an arsehole, we get to a railway bridge just outside Cromer and he pulls his little car into a layby and gets changed into his punk gear, bondage trousers, pins, pointy shoes, all that crap. I can’t believe it. How does someone like that get a ticket to see the Pistols? You can’t have part-time punks, it doesn’t work, it has no conviction, when conviction’s the only thing a lot of punks have going for them. His sickly smile in his rear-view mirror at least betrays some awareness of his daftness. Not a good omen.


At the gig, there is no support (how could there be?), but a reggae sound system that’s forcing out music new to us, sounds that contribute to a booming, spacey atmosphere. As the hall gets busier and more tightly packed the music gets emptier, more elemental, stripped like the winter land outside. I am right at the front, in the left-middle. I know I’ll be between Sid and Johnny, can tell by the bass amp and mic stand on stage. The equipment looks like the sound might not be so good, the PA is cheap and battered. Is it Christmas Eve 1977? A surprising date we all accept—this is the Pistols—but will it augur something for the New Year? The crowd is waiting for ages, half-listening to the reggae with puzzled ears. I don’t even know if there’s a bar—I’m just turned seventeen the week before, and too pure to want to drink much anyway. There’s a balcony round the hall, and everyone—well, all the punks anyway, let’s ignore the simply curious and brave—is craning their necks looking for a prowling, manic, jumpy Johnny Rotten. He doesn’t disappoint, spiky hair and shreds of baggy strides like old men wear (I get some soon afterwards; they even look good on me), though in truth he also looks a) sad and tired, and b) with a can of lager, a bit of an innocent actually. Okay, and c) utterly contemptuous of us carrot-crunching country punkins below. Some people try and gob up onto him on the balcony, which doesn’t help.


I’m at the very front, at the bottom of the stage, which is slightly above chest height. Sid is right in front of me as I look up, with frighteningly scarred arms, needle holes and various other mutilations, the recent remains of long cuts swishing across his bare chest. A real-life barechest swashbuckler. A real-life self-harmer. Tight black jeans, a light Fender Precision bass with dark scratchplate strapped low which I don’t recall him playing badly actually, a padlock and chain taut around his neck, the man is a proud performance of a wreck. He seems to have lost touch with the necessary distinction between poseur and authentic punk. In fact, he blurs any clear distinction there: the potency of his pose is predicated on its total authenticity. His state is unfunny, unattractive. He’s on his way to death. I am so young, so young, and have no wish to figure like Sid at all, ever, never. He smiles at us occasionally, though more often sneers and looks hard. It’s surprisingly unconvincing, his hardness. He swears at us, laughs with us, threatens us, invites me for a fight.


Live, the Sex Pistols are unsatisfying—we expect that, we wouldn’t be satisfied otherwise—but they are also kind of, well, touching. I don’t remember anything at all about the music they play, just the effect of Rotten’s barbs and sarcasm between numbers, and the meningital stare, and the slightly curious bent back by the way he holds the mic stand. The guitarist is not a punk, just a rocking lad with entirely conventional poses and licks, signalled by the fact that he plays a Gibson Les Paul; the drummer is, well, just a four-to-the-bar drummer. There’s less musical energy than there is personal tension, and there’s not that much of that.

To be as positive as possible, you could say that the show is a performance of pointlessness, that, following God save the queen topping the charts in jubilee week, the Sex Pistols’s year has become a prolonged interrogation of the limits of relevance. As things become more and more serious for them they are taken and take themselves less and less seriously. You could see that from the moment they call the album Never Mind the Bollocks, which is an adolescent publicity-seeking nip at authority. It’s getting difficult to distinguish between the Pistols as reported on the press and the Pistols as such. They’re blurring tabloid strategies; or, putting a positive spin on things, they throw back tabloid strategies into the faces of editors and journalists with gleeful subversion. I don’t know though; it really is very unsatisfying. I felt a bit sorry for Sid, for all his threatening strikes, and Rotten looks like he wants to be somewhere else (I don’t just mean out of Norfolk) and is going through the motions of being rotten. He’s rotten at it. And yet …


Sex Pistols blue plaque CromerThe back of my head is totally covered in gob. In the car on the way home I will say nothing to the driver, will focus on the gob sliming down my neck. (Why do punks do that? Is that what we’ll be remembered for?) I am selfishly concentrating the night. I realise that I am distilling it for my whole life. There’s been no sharing. It was all mine.

Rotten says in his autobiography something like, in all the years of the Sex Pistols, all two of them. Punk is such a compressed event, the energy, ideas, politics, culture, style, some of it new, some just uncovered by a new generation. While it rushes into self-reflexiveness, it avoids reflection. Which means what?—that, on the one hand it talks endlessly about itself, fighting narcissistic battles and in-wars, slagging off its own, while on the other, it admits no time for consideration, for looking at its own strategies. Well, why should it? It’s a laugh, not cultural politics—how does Anarchy in the UK start? With Rotten’s frightening and comic guttural laugh, that slips into time with the drumbeat. And how does it finish? With the comic-book Get pissed. Destroy. This should not strike terror into the heart of the nation. Except that it does. It is a form of cultural politics. That means to someone like me that it should take itself seriously, as well as self-ironise, self-subvert, etc. It has to avoid stasis, not be sucked into something unimaginative like skinhead style, a mononarrative of mediocrity. Punk refers to the music, the style, and the person: you listen to punk because you are a punk, and these punks need to keep moving.


Spunk album coverWritten in one-inch cap stencils by me to decorate the blank back cover of my copy of the Spunk bootleg: THE SEX PISTOLS WERE A CON JUST ANOTHER FUCKING COP OUT. EGO-WANKERS. MALCOLM HAD US ALL FOOLED FOR A BIT—I mean, is that even true? It is my authentic juvenile text, from the time itself, produced on a bootleg.

With hindsight, it’s the last week of the year of punk when we see them, and they fly off to the States soon after for no good reason other than to split up, kill and die—Jesus!—become embarrassing, make a great new band, et ceterrra. 1977. The two sevens clash. Apocalypse. England’s nightmare. Us young people’s dreams.

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Rhythm Changes 3: Jazz Beyond Borders conference, Amsterdam, September 2014, call for papers

Amsterdam ConservatoryCall for papers

The Third International Rhythm Changes Conference, hosted by the Conservatory of Amsterdam. The event is delivered in partnership with the University of Amsterdam, University of Salford, Birmingham City University, Open University, and Amsterdam World Jazz City 2014.

Keynote speakers

Steven Feld (musician, filmmaker and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico)

John Gennari (Associate Professor of English and Director, ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies Program, University of Vermont)

Conference outline

Jazz Beyond Borders (and: Beyond the Borders of Jazz) seeks to critically explore how borders – real and imagined – have shaped, and continue to shape, debates about jazz. Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities (www.rhythmchanges.net) sought to question traditional ways of understanding and articulating jazz history and the concept of moving beyond borders – whether geographical or aesthetic – has played a key role in the project’s research strategy. Borders can be multifaceted and fluid, from geographical boundaries, to disciplinary fields, there can be theoretical or institutional borders, which permeate discourses relating to the cultural, social, political, national and ethnic as well as artistic, performative, canonical, aesthetic, stylistic and genre-related understandings of jazz. Because of the music’s inherent hybridity, jazz provides an excellent lens through which such borders, and border-policing processes, can be questioned and analysed. The music is ideally placed to think about the dividing lines between, for instance, academia and journalism, popular and art music, ‘new jazz studies’ and ‘traditional musicology’, the sonic and the visual, and so forth.

RC 2014 conference_logoJazz Beyond Borders is a three day multi-disciplinary conference that brings together leading researchers across the arts and humanities and is the largest event of its kind world-wide. Based on our previous conferences (Amsterdam 2011 and Salford 2013), we expect well over 100 participants. The Conference committee invites papers and panel proposals that feed into the Conference theme and is interested in featuring perspectives from a range of international contexts. Although not restricted to specific themes, possible topics could include:

  • Exploring borders: framing, understanding and policing borders; transnational, transcultural, postcolonial, and global perspectives; jazz and its musical others; jazz beyond jazz (jazz as lifestyle from cooking to comedy); genre politics; “frontier” myths; reconfiguring gender, race, ethnicity, disability
  • Challenging binaries: questioning perceived antonyms such as Afrological/Eurological, composition/improvisation, professionals/amateurs, musicians/audiences, theory/practice
  • Jazz historiographies: exploring origins, mythologies, cultural memory, and the different constructions of jazz history
  • (Re-)Mediating jazz: evaluating jazz in film, advertising, literature, art, journalism, criticism
  • Jazz futures: questioning disciplinary boundaries; new directions for jazz research; changing status jazz studies within musicology

The Conference Committee welcomes individual papers and proposals for panels and round table discussions. For individual papers, abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted. Panels and round table proposals should include a session overview, participant biographies and description of individual contributions. Abstracts and proposals (as well as event queries) should be sent to Professor Walter van de Leur (W.vandeLeur@ahk.nl) by 1 March 2014.

Conference Committee

Walter van de Leur (Chair, Conservatory of Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam), Nicholas Gebhardt (Birmingham City University), George McKay (University of Salford), Loes Rusch (University of Amsterdam), Catherine Tackley (Open University), Tony Whyton (University of Salford)

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Playing double bass, by Barrie Marshall

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