Academic Festival Knowledge Exchange Public engagement

UEA Engagement Awards, Outstanding Achievement 2020

Well I must say it’s very pleasing to have been awarded one of these awards by my university, particularly for (blush) outstanding achievement. Thank you, UEA. This is what the university had to say about my collaborative research work.  

George McKay is a social and cultural historian of festival culture. His work has been a central catalyst for the ways in which jazz festivals now use academic research as part of an ongoing self-conscious engagement with their musical, social and cultural histories. George’s engagement work is both with industry (festival organisers, musicians and creatives) and with festival-goers themselves. He has been researching the social and cultural significance of festivals since his earliest books, Senseless Acts of Beauty (Verso, 1996), DIY Culture (Verso, 1998), and Glastonbury (Gollancz, 2000).

As inaugural Professor in Residence at the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival, George contributed in important ways to festival organisations’ working and thinking practice, as they reflect on their own histories to forge and use new understandings of their impact on culture and the public. His Arts and Humanities Research Council and EU-funded research has brought new knowledge about historic jazz practitioners to creatives and commissioners who have responded by changing their musical repertoires and practices, and to new public audiences at jazz festivals.

In 2015, the BBC Big Weekend festival took place in Earlham Park, Norwich. George organised a free public and academic symposium on festival cultures at UEA for 80 delegates, the speakers including three national festival directors and, as keynote, the then national Director of BBC Music Bob Shennan.

Put together, this work constitutes an impressive and ambitious record of sustained achievement over many years for excellence in engagement, both with the creative industry and with industry audiences. His report, co-authored with Dr Emma Webster, From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury: The Impact of British Music Festivals, is widely cited in the industry.

George’s is “immensely valuable…work that informs our practice as a producer of live music…(it) marks the essential role of academic research in evaluating the impact of the cultural sector in a wider context.” — The late John Cumming OBE, founding director, EFG London Jazz Festival and Serious Music

award certificate, hand-delivered to my home by the framer