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arch Doing Women’s Film and Television History VI conference

Locating Women in the Archive 

The DWFTH VI conference June 2023 at the University of Sussex was both stimulating and enjoyable. It was valuable to meet up in person and be able to talk to scholars whose work I had read, but never met. I took part in two roundtable events with colleagues from the IWBHN (International Women’s Broadcast History Network); one on women’s television production histories and the other on locating women in the archive, which I’m going to explore in more detail in this blog.  

Despite there being more papers on film than television, there were themes emerging through the conference which spoke to both media. One central concern was the difficulty in locating women in the archive, especially those not in prominent positions. The ordinary histories of women’s work are difficult to find in traditional archives, which we heard in BFI archivist, Lisa Kerrigan’s paper. Somewhat surprisingly, she noted that TV is the largest collection at the BFI. However, we heard that she rarely receives offers of work for acquisition from women, which is telling, and chimes with the lack of prominence of women’s work, as well as women’s perception of the limited value of their work. We also heard of worrying issues in navigating the archive and collection database, with difficulties over cataloguing, because of production hierarchies, which favour directors, as well as human frailties and structural problems.  

Many of us will have examples of struggling to find archival sources, which we know should exist. For instance, in recent contact with the BBC Written Archives, I found there were no files on any of the women I was looking at, despite them being Heads of Department. It seems that acquisition strategies do not prioritise the keeping of records about such women.  

Morgan Wait from University College Dublin explained the challenges she’s faced in accessing archives because of economic and political issues, with archivists sometimes being unhelpful gatekeepers. This necessitates circumventing some institutional archives in Ireland, which have limited time and space and privilege broadcaster access over academics. She told us of having to become a ‘truffle hunter’, exploring the traces of women broadcasters in a whole host of archives, including the archives of men. Oral histories were highlighted as a particularly valuable source for women’s work.  

Alec Badenoch from Utrecht University advised looking for women in broadcasting, in alternative spaces, such as Women’s archives. However, there are difficulties in navigating the gaps you are likely to find. Women’s archives aren’t always ideal for storing media materials, because media is on the margins for them, and they don’t necessarily have the tools to make assets accessible. Conversely, the work of women is also at the margin of media archives, and so we encounter issues wherever we search.  

Taking the argument a stage further, Ipsita Saha from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, spoke of finding YouTube a useful alternative digital archive for her work on Indian television with the ‘Tabassum Talkies’, shared online by the presenter’s family. Informal collections on platforms like YouTube can be a rich source but are also vulnerable and of course uncatalogued.   

So, what can we do as academics to counteract the challenges of locating women in the archives?   

Events and public engagement were highlighted as one solution by Janet McCabe of Birkbeck, University of London. She spoke of the potential for activating histories through curation and display, to awaken a remembered past, particularly at moments of crisis. We can do we do this through creating ‘living archives’, such as the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ event, a screened suffragette drama, encouraging the creative re-use of archives in new works. 

And there are other potential solutions, for instance creating our own ‘idiosyncratic archives’, to plug some of the institutional gaps. These could include recording oral and written histories of living subjects and displaying digital artefacts. My own website, which celebrates the programme making history of BBC Pebble Mill: http://pebblemill.org  is one such example: freely accessible, but with its own limitations and vulnerabilities. For instance, there are cases of similar enthusiast archives where historical materials are being lost for a second time, when citizen curators die or lose momentum.  

Another idea, which Alec Badenoch mentioned, is to pool our collective knowledge of the archives and complete a mapping exercise about which collections hold materials in which areas. This could make an attractive collaborative funding bid for the right partners. 

Additionally, encouraging archivists to make holdings about women more visible, by changing the way they catalogue items, or making ‘women’ an acquisition category, would be worthwhile. An alternative intervention could be alerting archives to the historical materials we may come across in our researches, and find homes for personal collections to avoid them ending up in a skip. 

 

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arch Under the Counter on Soho Radio

On 11 May 2023, Oliver Carter appeared on Soho Radio’s ‘The Soho Society Hour’ to disucss his latest monograph Under the Counter: Britain’s Trade in Hardcore Pornographic 8mm Films and specifically the role Soho played in this illicit film economy. A recording of the episode can be accessed here.

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arch ATINER Conference on Communication and Mass Media, May 2023

The 21st Annual International Conference on Communication and Mass Media was held between the 8-11 May, ’23, in Athens, Greece. The conference, run by the Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER) is sponsored by the Athens Journal of Mass Media and Communications, and provides regular opportunities for academics and researchers of Communications, Mass Media and other related disciplines to share and discuss their work. I was invited to deliver a remote paper titled “Samugam: The Sustained Relevance of Community Radio in India” on May the 8th, during a session moderated by Olga Gkounta.

This presentation took the 75th anniversary of Indian independence as an opportunity to reflect on radio’s progress in the country. I explored the medium’s development in India and considered its ongoing relevance in an increasingly post-digital world. Much of the presentation focused on the development of community radio and used Anna Community Radio in Chennai as a specific case study.

Anna Community Radio, owned and operated by Anna University, serves poor communities, particularly women, who live in low-income areas around the campus. The station has been recognised by the Indian government as one of the leading examples of the community radio movement. I profiled a collaborative media training initiative, funded by the British Council in 2022, which was established between Birmingham City University and Anna University. The project shared best practices in community radio broadcasting while encouraging students to create audio content. The project was titled ‘Samugam’, the word for community in the Tamil language. I discussed the various challenges and successes of the project, and played interviews with station management which I recorded in March 2023 on a visit to Chennai with Dr Siobhan Stevenson.

Here are excerpts from my interviews with Dr. I. Arul Aram, Professor and Head, Dept. of Media Sciences, and Dr. R. Lavanya, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Media Sciences, at Anna University, Chennai, India.

My paper argued for the ongoing relevance of community radio in India and pointed towards opportunities for its future growth. As the medium has continued to evolve and adapt to new technologies, community radio in India has been quick to embrace the use of social media, on-demand audio, streaming, podcasting, etc. Yet, while delivery platforms may have changed, the central principles of community broadcasting in India remain unchanged.

Anna Community Radio, Chennai

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arch MusAct Conference, Helsinki, 2023

In May ‘23 the University of Helsinki held their first ‘Music, Research, and Activism’ conference, which brought together a range of researchers and practitioners engaged in activism around music. This three-day conference explored “the wide spectrum of music research that is committed to social and environmental justice, anti-oppression, and social change” and considered opportunities for combining academic work with activism. Keynote presentations included talks from the ecomusicology and sustainability researcher Aaron S. Allen, Chicana artivista, musician and feminist music theorist Martha Gonzalez, and feminist writer and social critic Minna Salami.

My paper, ‘Ballade de la Désescalade: Profiling Graeme Allwright as Activist’ was presented on the opening day, during a session on ‘Resistance and Community Organisation’, chaired by Marita Buanes Djupvik. I spoke about my research into the life and music of New Zealand born folk singer Graeme Allwright (pictured above), who rose to fame in France as an adaptor of protest songs by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, amongst others. Allwright’s work made the socialist themes of 50s, 60s American folk music accessible to French audiences and especially resonated with the ‘soixante-huitards’ who brought down the Gaullist regime in ‘68. My paper considered the distinctions between Allwright’s interpretations and the original works he translated, alongside assessments of his own protest related compositions. I outlined the various protest movements he was aligned to throughout his life and reflected on how these causes impacted on his musical output. Allwright’s repertoire was intensely humanist, anti-militarist, anti-nuclear, and anti-consumerism. Yet while he was well known in the 60s and 70s, I suggested that Allwright’s refusal to follow traditional artist/fan relationships led to his marginalisation in later life. My paper called for a reappraisal of Allwright’s position in the pantheon of ‘la chanson Francaise’, and as an influencer of French left-wing counterculture.

On the final day of the conference, I was delighted to chair a session which featured excellent papers from Aimée George (Surveillance and Strategy from contemporary South African women in jazz) and Melissa Arkley (“It’s metal as fuck to address these topics”: How women and non-binary extreme metal vocalists are using the conventions of extreme metal to do feminist activism).

My thanks to the organising and scholarly committee for all their work in arranging such an enjoyable conference, and to the Discipline of Musicology at the University of Helsinki, the Suoni Research Association, the Kone Foundation, and the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki for their support.

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arch Under the Counter

The first book of its kind to investigate Britain’s trade in illicit pornographic 8mm film. 

Prior to 2000, it was a criminal offense to sell hardcore pornography in Britain. Despite this, there was a thriving alternative economy producing and distributing such material “under the counter” of Soho’s bookshops and via mail-order. British entrepreneurs circumvented obscenity laws to satisfy the demand for uncensored adult films and profit from their enterprise, with corrupt members of the Metropolitan Police’s Obscene Publications Squad permitting them to trade.

By the late 1960s, Britain had developed an international reputation for producing “rollers,” short hardcore films distributed on 8mm, which were smuggled out of Britain for sale in Western Europe. Following an exposé by Britain’s tabloid press, a crackdown on police corruption, and several high-profile obscenity trials, the trade was all but decimated, with pornography smuggled in from Europe dominating the market.

Drawing on extensive archival research, including the use of legal records, police files, media reportage, and interviews with those who were involved in the business, Under the Counter tells the story of Britain’s trade in 8mm hardcore pornographic films and its regulation.

Under the Counter can be purchased direct from the publisher in paperback, hardback and ebook versions, or from Bookshop.org. It is also available at Amazon.

It is the work of Oliver Carter, a Reader in Creative Economies at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Birmingham City University. His research focuses on alternative economies of cultural production; informal forms of industry that are often removed from a formal cultural industries discourse.

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arch Riffs Volume 6, Issue 2 – February 2023

We are pleased to announce the launch of Volume 6, Issue 2 of Riffs! This issue is the first of two special issues on Popular Music Materiality, edited by Dr. Iain A. Taylor (University of the West of Scotland). Our contributors explore the materiality of popular music, and the forms, formats, and practices which constitute it. In this issue, we consider popular music, and popular music culture, as a thing, a ‘going on’, as a place where several goings on become entwined.

This issue also includes an amazing portrait of Xhosa Cole Quartet by our photographer, Ian Davies.

To download your free PDF of this issue, click here.

Each of the articles in this issue are listed below. Follow the links to each to download individual PDFs.

The editorial team would like to thank Dr. Iain A. Taylor for his expertise and for developing and editing this issue, and also our contributing authors for experimenting with us. With thanks also to the peer reviewers who worked with us to develop these pieces.

The second of this double special issue of Riffs (Volume 7, Issue 1) is already in motion and will be available to download and read in Summer 2023.

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arch India-UK Creative Industries at 75

Professor Rajinder Dudrah (Principal Investigator, BCU), Dr Vishal Chauhan (Co-Investigator, PGDAV College University of Delhi) and Dr Julia Szivak (BCU) successfully completed their 9-month AHRC and Innovate UK funded project ‘India-UK Creative Industries at 75: Opportunities and Challenges’ (1 Feb – 31 October 2022, £49,400).

The project culminated in new networks of research and creative production between Birmingham City University, PGDAV College University of Delhi, and over 30 India-UK creatives working across the screen industries, live performance, and fashion.

Over 15 new creative outputs have been produced (short films, a podcast, music videos, a documentary, dance, presentations on the fashion industries, tribal tattoos & more) and they can be accessed on the project’s website.

The illustrated end of project reports are also available as free downloads. The summary report has been translated into 6 Indian languages (Bangla, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu). Where relevant, please share these with your creative networks, researchers, teachers, students, parents, policy wallahs etc.

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arch Midlands4Cities AHRC funded 2023 PhD Studentship recruitment

Midlands4Cities PhD studentship recruitment launched on Monday 17th October. The M4C website displays all the information applicants will need on the ‘Our Offer’ and ‘Apply’ pages. The link to the Survey Monkey Apply portal is live, this where all applicants must submit their application supported by two references by the 11th of January 2023 deadline.  

For 2023 entry Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership is offering up to 60 fully funded PhD studentships for eligible students in arts and humanities through the Open Competition and 13 Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA). The CDA projects provide diverse and unique project opportunities with national, regional and local partner organisations. New for 2023, the Stuart Hall Foundation (SHF) Scholarship will support at least two studentships a year for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidates to undertake doctoral research in arts and humanities. You can find out more about SHF here.

Application writing workshops are being delivered in each of the four M4C cities for details and registration visit http://www.midlands4cities.ac.uk 

The deadline for AHRC funding applications is 11 January 2023 – 12.00 hours (UTC+0) applicants must also have applied for a place to study at one of the eight M4C universities. 

The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University is inviting applications from students whose research interests connect with our fields of expertise in:

Creative Industries

  • Alternative and marginal economies
  • Cultural labour and entrepreneurship
  • Cultural policy and media regulation
  • Craft making and production practices
  • Equality and diversity

Cultural Theory

  • Migration and refugees
  • Old and new ​Racisms
  • Populism and nationalism
  • Feminist and queer politics; African feminisms, masculinities
  • Postcolonial theory; imperial legacies
  • Posthumanism
  • Higher education institutions as sites of producing and resisting neoliberalism
  • Social movements
  • The politics of voice and listening
  • The politics of time; rhythm, speed/slowness
  • Practice-based research, including artistic and curatorial practice

Game Cultures

  • Historical game studies
  • Video game narratives and adaptation
  • Posthumanism and video games
  • History and (video)game communities, including fan cultures
  • Video games and cultural policy
  • Games and national/transnational identity

Gender and Sexuality

  • Sexualised masculinity
  • The histories of adult film production across Europe
  • Gay men’s use of dating apps
  • Digital intimacies
  • Sex in cinema
  • Fetish communities
  • Drag Cultures

History, Heritage and Archives

  • Media as historical source
  • Historical work in fan communities
  • Media archives and the challenge of the digital for media historians and archivists
  • Refugees, migrants, media history and archives
  • Commemoration and everyday media memory
  • The archive, amateur film and place

Jazz Studies

  • The cultural meaning of jazz
  • Studies of jazz as a transnational practice
  • Improvisation and cultural practice
  • Jazz on television and radio
  • Archives and documentation
  • Mediation and technology
  • Jazz and philosophy
  • Festivals

Media and Place

  • Media and conflict
  • Hyperlocal media narratives
  • Media, populism and nationalism
  • Community media practices and the politics of space
  • Digital media and feminism
  • Media, migration and displacement

Popular Music Studies

  • Popular music consumption
  • Songwriting
  • Music scenes
  • Heritage and cultural memory
  • Mediation and representation
  • Media and technology
  • Music industries
  • Material cultures
  • Experimental writing

For further information, please contact Midlands4Cities Site Director Dr. Oliver Carter

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arch New issue of Makings journal is out

We are excited to announce the release of the new issue of Makings journal. The contributions to this issue address the theme of ‘Disruption’, in line with the BCMCR’s 2021/22 research theme.

The issue consists of eight peer-reviewed articles, which explore wide-ranging disruptions faced by various stakeholders in the cultural and creative industries. In addition, the journal’s response to the theme includes three Studio contributions. Although not peer-reviewed, the Studio pieces are designed to encourage debate via shorter think-pieces, observations, and experimental works.

All articles and the editorial can be found here, and the Studio pieces are available here.

The editorial team of Makings would like to thank all authors for their contributions and peer reviewers for their time and helpful feedback.

The journal is currently co-edited by Kateryna Sivak and Vincent Obia, two of the Centre’s postgraduate researchers. The next issue is already under way, but the journal remains open to submissions – both standard scholarly articles and Studio pieces – that are situated within cultural and creative industries research. Please visit our website for more details on the journal’s focus and contributor guidelines.