Top 5 Tips for Engaging with Government as a Researcher – Emma Webster

Emma Webster is currently working as the Research Associate at UEA on the one-year AHRC Connected Communities-funded project, the Impact of Festivals, with Professor George McKay, in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival. She is a co-founder and co-Director of Live Music Exchange, a hub for anyone interested in live music research, and is a co-author on a three-part history of live music in Britain, as well as co-authoring the Edinburgh live music census report and the Association of Independent Festivals’ six-year report. Emma received her doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 2011; her research was a study of live music promotion in the UK, and her field of interest is live music, festivals, and cultural policy. Emma was successful in her application to participate in the AHRC ‘Engaging with Government’ course in London in March 2016, and has written a blog post containing five tips for engaging with policy-makers and decision-makers.

This blogpost has been reposted with Emma’s permission – the original is available on her own website.


Emma Webster with Prof George McKay and David Jones, director of EFG London Jazz Festival, after All-Parliamentary  Jazz Appreciation Group Launch in November 2015

I was lucky enough to attend the three-day AHRC course, ‘Engaging with Government’, at the Institute for Government in London in March 2016. It was a superbly run course, with all aspects of the training obviously well planned and delivered, and some really inspiring guest speakers and course facilitators (Jill Rutter and Katie Thorpe). It was also a real privilege to spend three days with some very smart, passionate early career researchers, whose research interests ranged from genocide to secret intelligence to housing and architecture to live music.

The main messages of the course were that civil servants, Parliamentarians and ‘thinktanks’ are often open to academic research BUT they are always very busy and appreciate being told solutions as well as identifying problems, so to ensure that our research is presented as simply as possible.

We learned many top tips, but these next five are what I will personally be working on over the next few months – I hope that they’re useful to your own research.

  1. Get in contact with those people in government who are directly involved with your field of interest

These include:-

House of Commons and House of Lords libraries – these libraries prepare research briefings for ministers and Peers and their staff. Find out the author’s name(s) of any briefings relevant to your research and contact them to let them know about your research. A searchable list of briefings can be found here.

Select Committees – both the House of Lords and the House of Commons have Select Committees, which deal with specific aspects of government or specific issues. Work out which ones are relevant to your work, then follow them on Twitter and sign up for press alerts; also try to establish a relationship with Committee staff (e.g. ‘specialists’ and researchers). For links to lists of committees and committee members, click here.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups – informal cross-party groups for interested MPs and Lords, ranging from education to jazz to beer. For a register of groups and contacts, click here.

Civil Service directors of research – each of the government departments should have a director of research (or chief analyst or director of learning) – ring the relevant department to find out who this is and make yourself known to them.

  1. Triple-write all your publications

In order for your work to be as useful as possible to the widest number of people, consider preparing three versions of it: a journal article, a briefing sheet for ministers and civil servants, and a press release. These will all need to be written to suit each target audience – you can hold off sending out the briefing sheet and press release until your journal article has been published in order not to cause any problems with the publisher and to maximise impact .

Journal article: aimed at academics, so use of jargon is fine. Paywalls are restrictive and off-putting so ensure that your work is open access where possible.

Briefing sheet: aim for three pages, maximum six, use bullet points, ensure the main thesis is encapsulated in the first paragraph. Keep it simple and avoid jargon.

Press release: aimed at journalists so help them to find the ‘hook’ around which they can write their story.

For more about ‘triple writing’ and engaging with policy-makers more broadly, read this article.

  1. Ensure that your message is clear and engaging

Civil servants can often be more nuanced than ministers, who need definite solutions to problems rather than caveats and academic phraseology such as “on the one hand this, on the other hand that”. To help policy-makers and decision-makers quickly engage with how your research will be helpful to them, use phrases like: ‘This is the field and my latest research shows that ….’ and ‘This is why my research is useful to you …’ Tell stories and use drama and emotion to engage people’s interest – make people care.

  1. Build your online profile

Having a good online profile is crucial (and is the reason I started this blog!). One thing which became very apparent was how much Google is used as a research tool by civil servants and Parliamentary researchers (who often do not get past the first page of Google results), so make sure you appear on the first page of Google and that what comes up in the results is engaging. To climb Google’s page rankings, be sure to use keywords and link back to your blog as much as possible from other websites – cross-posting is one way of doing this. WordPress is easy to use and works well with Google – you can either have a personal blog ( or one which is about your field (Live Music Exchange) – aim to update it every week if possible. Twitter is also highly recommended as a means of building contacts, keeping on top of latest research and government business, and getting your own research out there – combining your research postings with more personal stuff is not easy but aim to emulate other academics who you think use Twitter effectively.

  1. Keep up with the latest issues in Parliament

The sooner you can engage with policy-makers and decision-makers, the better, so keep an eye out for future ‘windows of opportunity’ for which your research may be relevant and useful. To ensure that you are up-to-date with issues within your field of interest, read the Queen’s speech at the start of each session as it sets out the government’s policies and proposed legislative programme for the new parliamentary session – for the Queen’s speech 2015, click here. The other place to keep an eye on Parliamentary business to track current bills, keep up with committees, and follow topical issues.

Finally, keep an eye out for the next ‘Engaging with Government’ course – it was a truly excellent three days and comes highly recommended!


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Out of the shade and into the limelight: Women Amateur Filmmakers in Britain

This blog post originally appeared on Autese Theory: A Blog on Women’s Cinema, and has been reproduced with permission.

Author: Sarah Hill (AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellow, UEA Department of Film, Television and Media Studies)


Cat 3580 - Make Up - Still 2

Joanna Fryer, Make-Up (1978)

This International Women’s Day, the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA), part of the University of East Anglia, has revealed over one hundred newly-digitised films by women amateur filmmakers. This fascinating collection offers unprecedented insights into the concerns and approaches of amateur female filmmakers working between the 1920s and late-1980s. These Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC) award-winning films showcase an impressive variety of themes and topics, including observations of life in Britain (and abroad) and insights into the various social and cultural changes that took place over the period. These themes are explored through dramas, comedies, documentaries, animated films and travelogues.

The films also highlight the different ways in which women amateur filmmakers worked during the last century. Previously assumed to play a secondary or incidental role in amateur film productions, the research undertaken at EAFA during the cataloguing and digitisation of this collection demonstrates a more complex and varied range of production practices. These films were made by lone filmmakers, cine club teams, husband and wife partnerships, young women, students and children. For example, research carried out by Dr Francis Dyson into partnerships such as Stuart and Laurie Day revealed that women were key to such creative collaborations, while the all-female team of Sally Sallies Forth (Frances Lascot, 1928) arose out of cine-club interests. Indeed, the film is credited as the first amateur film produced wholly and exclusively by women.

Many of the women amateur filmmakers went on to make films professionally and the films featured in this collection offer a rare glimpse at the beginnings of the filmmaking styles they would go on to develop professionally. For example, Joanna Fryer’s film Make-Up (1978), produced when she was a student, demonstrates her skill for sketch animation which she would later use as an animator on The Snowman (1982). Meanwhile, animator Sheila Graber’s early films from the 1970s were screened at IAC festivals and seen by an agent, which led to her working on the Just So Stories (1979) and Paddington (1975-1986), and she continues to produce short films today.

The films also offer unique perspectives on significant historical and cultural moments, such as Eustace and Eunice Alliott’s travelogues, which were produced during their trips around Europe in the 1930s. The Alliott’s snapshots of their daily life on their travels are underscored by a sense of foreboding as they depict Europe on the brink of war. On the other hand, sometimes a film only becomes significant long after it was made, as is the case with Her Second Birthday (circa. 1934). The film captures a two-year-old girl playing in the garden and was not initially intended to be shown outside the family. This little girl grew up to be June Thorburn, the British actor who starred in films such as The Cruel Sea (1953) and Tom Thumb (1958), Thorburn was killed in an air crash in 1967, aged 36.

These distinctive films shed light on the contribution women have made to amateur filmmaking in the twentieth century, and they are soon to take their place in the limelight as films are due to be screened in selected cinemas across the UK from the 3rd of March 2016 to celebrate International Women’s Day. This will be followed in the coming weeks by special screenings and events to be announced. You can also find out more about the films via Twitter @EAFAAmateurFilm and Facebook.

The Women Amateur Filmmakers in Britain catalogue and a selection of the digitised films can be accessed here. For more information on the collection, or to arrange a screening, please contact Sarah Hill at the University of East Anglia.

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Video Game Studies at the Norwich Gaming Festival

In this blogpost, Dean Bowman (PhD student in the Department of Art, Media and American Studies, and Features Editor for gaming website Ready Up) introduces the forthcoming Games Study Day, organised in partnership between UEA and the Norwich Gaming Festival. Please do come along and hear our exciting programme of talks (Thursday 31st March, 10am-4pm, The Forum, Norwich) You can find out more details here and sign up to attend the talks via a simple Eventbrite form. We hope to see some of you there!



Dean Bowman and Dr. Tom Phillips (both UEA, right) appear alongside George Beard (NUA, centre) and the Norwich Gaming Festival Organisers.

“Computer games are a bit like duck-billed platypuses, a species which, as Harriet Ritvo has documented, confounded early naturalists; some of them denied that such a creature could exist and denounced early reports as fraud, while others sought to erase all ambiguities about its status, trivializing any problems in classifying this species – which has a duck bill, web feet, and lays eggs – as mammals.” – Henry Jenkins

This is a statement made by Henry Jenkins in response to criticism of his classic article ‘Game Design as Narrative Architecture’. The analogy was designed as a counter to a particular polemic in early game studies: the heated argument between ludologists, who sought to study games chiefly for their ludic elements; and narratologists, who sought to interpret them as part of a larger narrative tradition, both tended to be reductive approaches to an already complex phenomena. But it also spoke to the larger academic establishment’s resistance towards acknowledging videogames as a worthy object of study at all. As videogames and the industry that surrounds them have continued to grow and mutate in strange and fascinating ways, the analogy becomes all the more appropriate on a variety of levels.

As a multimodal medium par excellence, videogames are capable of emulating and utilising every pre-existing medium to date; they not only incorporate the narrative of literature, the liveness of theatre, the visual nature of film, and the audible qualities of music, but they transform each of those things as well as fundamentally challenging the relationship of the user to the work in their heady mixture of interactivity and immersion. As with the duck-billed platypus, it’s increasingly difficult to define exactly what videogames are, who plays them and how they should be studied. This latter point is an issue that game theorists have argued over for decades now – with the aforementioned ludology/narratology debate being the top billed fight in the process of drawing up and policing boundaries for the discipline. But it is also a debate that has played out in the industry and is evident in the sheer variety of genres that exist – from platformers and first person shooters, to simulation games and match 3 puzzles – each of which demonstrates a very different approach to the medium, with very different emphasises on the ludic/narrative continuum; leading to a vast array of categories of game, many of which share very little in common.

Furthermore the audience for games is bigger and more diverse than it ever has been and now considerably encroaches upon and competes for audiences for film and television – the subjects that UEA has traditionally hung its hat from. Year on year research carried out by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), trade bodies for the US and UK games industries respectively, demonstrates this growing level of cultural saturation and additionally reports that the age range of gamers continues to rise (with the average gamer now being in their late thirties), just as the split between male and female gamers has gradually evened out. As Jesper Juul has argued, in his book of the same name, there has been a ‘casual revolution’ with mobile and social media games driving a massive sea change in the industry, just as the rise of the immensely creative and experimental indie games movement continues to challenge the mainstream commercial games industry at virtually every level, resulting in an explosion of new forms and ideas.

Truly, the age old cliché of videogames being seen as the flippant, geeky pastime of teenage boys in their bedrooms is now wholly inappropriate; rather all this points to videogames being the most vibrant and vital media of our age. This rapid mainstreaming and diversifying of the medium, sometimes very much resisted by a traditional ‘hardcore’ of gamers (this is much of the reason behind the recent Gamergate movement), creates an urgency, I think, for the medium to be studied at an academic level. Just as UEA has been a pioneer in fields that initially struggled for academic recognition in the past (film studies and creative writing, for instance, in which UEA became academic leaders), my hope is that we can make the same impact in this burgeoning field, which is becoming increasingly difficult (irresponsible, even) to ignore.

With this in mind, I’d like to introduce a day of talks organised by myself (Dean Bowman) and Dr Tom Phillips on 31 March 2016, which we hope in some small way will demonstrate the importance of, and the growing interest in, studying videogames within the humanities. For two years the Forum has hosted the Norwich Gaming Festival, an immensely successful week long celebration of the cultural significance of games, featuring playable demos of independently made games from near and far, two days of fascinating industry talks and numerous skills workshops supported by The Norwich University of the Arts. This year UEA will contribute to this exciting event by hosting a day of introductory academic talks designed to explore and give a grounding in several key issues of interest to academic game studies, as well as to demonstrate the wide range of knowledge and theoretical approaches to game studies that can already be found at the university.Norwich Gaming Festival team

Dean Bowman, who is working on his PhD in the department of Film, Television and Media Studies, will kick off the day by discussing the categories of videogame narrative put forth in Henry Jenkins previously mentioned article in relation to the PS4 game Bloodborne. Dean also acts as deputy editor of the community blog Ready Up , where he co-hosts their acclaimed podcast, and is assistant editor of Intensities, a journal of cult media. Next, Dr Paul Gooding, UEA’s very own Eastern Arc Research Fellow of Digital Humanities, will speak about the fascinating and problematic issue of games preservation. Co-organiser and Lecturer in the Humanities, Dr Tom Phillips, will then speak about the cultural importance of the game industry via a case study of the phenomenon that is Minecraft. Tarnia Mears (American Studies), who is currently writing her PhD on gender in videogames, will tackle the topical issue of representation in games, asking whether they might be able to move beyond a binary approach to gender. Finally Merlin Seller, who is currently writing a PhD in Art History here at UEA and working as a lecturer at NUA’s Game Design course, will draw on phenomenology and visual cultural studies to discuss games as experiential objects, using the example of the horror adventure game SOMA. You can read some of his insightful thoughts on videogames at his blog Dear Player.

We hope to see some of you at the event on Thursday 31 March 2016 (10am-4pm), but if you can’t make it we’re hoping to record the talks and put them online. The talks are about 20-30 minutes long with space for questions and are intended to appeal to scholars and the curious gaming public alike. You can find out more about the event and book places at the talks here.

All images credit:
All images source: The Forum, Norwich

Works Cited

Entertainment Software Association, 2015. 2015 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data: Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry.

Jenkins, H., 2004. Henry Jenkins responds in turn [WWW Document]. Electronic Book Review. URL (accessed 12.15.15).

Juul, J., 2012. A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

UK Interactive Entertainment, 2015. The games industry in numbers [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 2.8.16).

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Why Jazz (and not, say, Rock or Folk) Music for Thinking about Festival and Cultural Heritage?

This blog has been reposted with the kind permission of Prof. George McKay.


A position paper presented to the Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Music Festivals (CHIME) project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016. All team members were asked to produce short papers about their approach to a key question for the project, a sort of early mapping exercise for this three-year EU-funded research project, which will be made available on the project website. This is mine.

Here are the opening sentences of the EU Heritage+ joint call grant application that the project team wrote in 2014, and which formed the basis of CHIME’s successful submission.

‘What an amazing experience, the clash of seeing Miles Davis in the Roman amphitheatre during the Nice Jazz Festival. The ancient stones and arches are re-sounded, the music somehow more resonant, old and modern at the same time. I’ll never forget that.’ This first-hand experience of a European festival-goer provided the initial inspiration for CHIME.

I want to interrogate the cultural space we have chosen a little further, which I hope will throw further light on my question, why look at jazz (and not, say, rock or folk) festivals?

There was a nice line tweeted on the CHIME Twitter feed recently, a quotation from Chris Goddard’s book Jazz Away From Home that sought to describe the experience of jazz in southern Europe, as a music ‘cut[ting] through the warm, humid Mediterranean night like a chainsaw through cheese’ (1979, ?). Is jazz more cheese wire than chainsaw, do you think, though? If we want chainsaw music we need really to go to something more industrial—or agricultural—starting with the excessive, aggressive culture of rock music. Rock does after all sometimes feature a chainsaw: see southern US rock band Jackyl, who still finish each live set with their signature song ‘The lumberjack’ (the video is great and indeed a little Pythonesque, have a look: Jackyl 1992) in which the lead singer does a chainsaw solo (though not through cheese). (Here is a pressing question for the New Jazz Studies: has a jazz band featured a chainsaw solo, ever?)

So, for questions of the clash or disjunction between heritage, festival site and popular music, the jarring re-sounding when both our ears double-take in stereo, rock music would be very good to think about. Though its history as a popular music has been shorter than folk or jazz (50-60 years as opposed to 100-120, very approximately)—does that mean its heritage is reduced?—rock music can supply a very powerful shock of the new, not least through its characteristic of being superloud, via a practice of extreme volume and a competitive rather than functional culture of amplification. (Even to the extent of rock deafening its bands and fans: McKay 2013, chapter 4.) And its use of chainsaws.

In order to pursue the comparison with Miles in the amphitheatre in Nice, consider an archetypal rock festival-style concert / documentary film, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (concert 1971, film 1972).

  • Filmed with the band playing live, over 4 days in October
  • Used their full and extensive tour amplification
  • Performances were filmed in front on no audience, an empty auditorium (rationale: in part a reaction against festival films like Woodstock, which had contained so many shots of festival-goers, the crowd)
  • It’s a slow, spacey music the band plays, with some very slow long camera focuses in/out and pans (2-3 minutes)
  • Located in the ancient Roman amphitheatre and with a backdrop of Vesuvius
  • Some key resonances: volcano/volume; block architecture of amphitheatre/PA/amp stacks
  • Grandeur of the location fits with the grandeur (or pretentiousness) of Pink Floyd’s musical vision and its filming. (To return to the comedic end of rock, we could think here instead of Spinal Tap and their Stonehenge stage.)

Or consider Glastonbury Festival, originating at much the same time as the Pink Floyd concert (legendary Glastonbury Fayre was held in 1971, also filmed). Near Glastonbury, in the deep green English countryside, there is the invention of tradition and what I’m calling the instant ancient: mist and myth, a stage in the shape of the Great Pyramid of Giza, set on a ley line, with a crystal on top, a Neolithic stone circle—built around 1990.

This is the very place the boy Jesus was brought to by Joseph of Arimathea (so they say), the very place of the Isle of Avalon where Arthur, ‘the once and future king’, is buried (so they say), Glastonbury—where pagan and Xtian meet, and ‘the veil is thin’ (as 1930s occultist writer and ethical vegetarian Dion Fortune wonderfully put it: quoted in McKay 2000, 67).

Not only is Glastonbury possessed of a genius loci, but it has such a powerful genius loci that that spirit is magnified rather than diminished when festival invades each summer solstice. Rather than erase or complicate, the massified infrastructure and event of festival seems to amplify that most intangible of experientialities: the magic (or ‘magick’: Young 2010, ch. 13). In Electric Eden, Rob Young writes about ‘unearthing’ (visionary) music, uncovering folk-rock-landscape links and electric shocks.

Remember, one of our research questions is: how do music festivals (not jazz festivals explicitly) blur the boundaries between tangible [and] intangible … heritage? I have touched on the problem of the critical articulation and interrogation of ‘the often elusive or discarded cultural traces’ of writing about festivals elsewhere. For example, from 2015’s The Pop Festival:

there are some persistent difficulties with such critical terrain. Tracing the influence or impact of some cultural forms at the time under discussion is problematic, due to their elusive, emotive or transitory nature, and the festival as a carnivalesque combination of pop and protest is emblematic in this context…. Also, such cultural forms and practices have not always been treated well over the course of time—some have been discarded, or forgotten, or remembered without prestige. (McKay 2015, 16)

One of our project objectives is ‘[t]o interrogate the relationship between music and place’. Equally it might be useful to think about folk music for these questions of place, resonance, heritage, in the special heightened zone of the festival. Here the situatedness of folk, its fetish of place, its songs that are about place, and often about the past, in voice or accent and in narrative lyric story alike, may offer ways in. I mean, sometimes at the more purist/puritanical end of the second folk revival in Britain in the 1950s the law was that you could only sing songs in the folk clubs from the place you came from. Folk singer and activist Ewan MacColl expressed the policy line more ideologically: ‘we should be pursuing some kind of national identity, not just becoming an arm of American cultural imperialism’ (quoted in McKay 2005b, 55).

Compare these urgent questions of place and music in folk with the global or hemispheric or ‘outernational’ form of jazz. The Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek articulates the binary power of jazz as world music, as global culture, and begins to move towards a critique of it.

‘World music’ to me has at least two meanings. First of all the regular meaning—a music composed of ethnic elements from various parts of the world. But on the other hand, American pop music is the real world music. It’s everywhere in the world and everybody listens to it whether they like it or not. (quoted in McKay 2005a, 11)

Does jazz have any of those homogenising and flattening features of world music, and not in a good way? If it does, how useful is it for thinking about place? And if jazz is a largely instrumental form, does that mean that lyrical reference to place as subject is weaker still?

But, lest this begin to sound like a statement of disavowal of the jazzy aims of CHIME, let’s see if this initial material can reflect usefully back on jazz, on the jazz festival. What opportunities does our focus specifically on jazz give us? What might we be losing, or making more difficult for ourselves? What do we gain?

The urban.

Possibly jazz does not generally require genius loci of its festivals—and indeed may view it as a nostalgising desire from a landscape tradition that doesn’t readily admit the urban, the modern. The jazz festival, then, as metropolitan cosmopolitanism, differs. As Anne Dvinge reminds and challenges us: ‘[a]ny city festival may achieve a temporary transformation of the urban.’ What interests us should be ‘the specific contribution of the musical practice that is jazz to making a particular kind of festival and transformation’ (Dvinge 2015, 185).

New Orleans 1970 festival
Ancient and modern.

Although jazz likes a sheen of modernism, seeks regularly to rebirth the cool or claim futurity, in fact its selling point today may primarily be its heritage. This is seen in the names of some festivals—the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, most obviously, of course, established in 1970 (see right, with museum stand). For its repeated rhetoric of cutting edge, it is arguably a music less of innovation and more of reflexivity today. Besides, all those cover versions, boringly referred to as ‘standards’, mean it has a repertoire which has always revisited itself. Can we say jazz performs the dialogue between old and new (even in its classic instrumentation: traditional analogue/acoustic orchestral instruments like grand piano and double bass, alongside the modern inventions of saxophone, kit drum, electric guitar or keyboard on the other)?

Playing in the moment.

Also, improvisation, the lauded liveness and nowness of jazz music (even if it’s recorded—and jazz recordings are complex objects: ‘powerful’, ‘seductive’, ‘menacing’ even: Whyton 2013, 3)—is a performative gesture that can lead us to compelling cultural questions of intangibility—of experience, of heritage. The free-floating signifier of music, all music—melting into the air—is doubled or multiplied in jazz via its improvisatory impulse. It becomes a case study in difficulty of capture, possibly even the degree zero of that project. Thus: a great intellectual challenge.


For American saxophonist Dave Liebman, jazz (Coltrane anyway) is ‘something beyond words, beyond the music’ (quoted in Whyton 2013, 7); for South African pianist and bandleader Chris McGregor ‘music is in fact very, very precise: it says exactly what words are unable to do’ (quoted in McKay 2005a, 301). I wonder whether there is some thing (transcendent) in these claims that makes jazz about intangibility, inexpressibility. In Alan Rice’s view, ‘[j]azz culture … [has an] easy acquaintance with the dangers and pleasures of evanescence and remembrance’ alike (2010, 126). Here is another powerful one, from African-American novelist James Baldwin, on the culture, politics and origin of jazz:

This is exactly how the music called jazz began … to checkmate the European notion of the world.… [T]here is a very great deal in the world which Europe does not, or cannot, see: in the very same way that the European musical scale cannot transcribe—cannot write down, does not understand—the notes, or the price, of this music. (Baldwin 1979, 326)


Of course the music is also historically firmly, in fact violently, located, in the forced and murderous mass migration of transatlantic slavery. As James Campbell put it, ‘[w]hat sets black American music apart from other folk musics is the circumstances of its creation, which is what gives it its sense of urgency’ (1995, 5). For Rice, ‘African American musicking is the key mode of transmission of a diasporic, routed culture’ (2010, 107).


Also we can argue that jazz has a special place in the story of music as festival: think of calypso, reggae, carnival, and most of all jazz and blues—formed from the experience of global or hemispheric circulation (the triangulation of the Black Atlantic: see Gilroy 1993, Rice 2003), and even in the case of jazz birthing prior to the development of mass media that would give later, newer musics rapid international profile. Carnival is at the core of jazz: parade bands, Mardi Gras, Congo Square, second lining…. Here is my central thesis for the study of the jazz festival, a supposed to rock, or folk, say. There is no jazz without festival, there is no festival without jazz. (Discuss.)

Jazz Utopia conference logoJazz utopia.

(Since we are organising an international conference with over 100 speakers from around 25 countries on the subject as part of the Rhythm Changes event series.) This returns us to Dvinge’s point from earlier, about the specificity of jazz, of the ‘sonic space’ of the urban jazz festival, in all of this.

During the jazz festival,… [t]his sonic process is not (only) an echo of times past but a resonance on what is. At the jazz festival things come together and we fall into step. These memories function not as reactionary, backward-looking stoppages in the community. Rather, they are what places are made of—a series of what-used-to-bes that offer the material for what can be. (Dvinge 2015, 195)

How much further, and in what directions, can we in CHIME push (our understanding of) this (kind of utopian) vision?

Verona amphitheatre concertReferences

  • Baldwin, James. 1979. ‘Of the sorrow song: the cross of redemption.’ In Campbell 1995, 324-31.
  • Campbell, James., ed 1995. The Picador Book of Blues and Jazz. London: Picador.
  • Dvinge, Ann. 2015. ‘Musicking in Motor City: reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival.’ In McKay 2015, 183-97.
  • Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso.
  • Goddard, Chris. 1979. Jazz Away From Home. London: Paddington Press.
  • Jackyl. 1992. ‘The lumberjack.’ Accessed 2-Feb-2016. Music video.
  • McKay, George. 2005a. Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. Durham Duke University Press.
  • ———. 2005b. ‘ The social and countercultural 1960s in the USA, transatlantically.’ In Christoph Grunenberg and Jonathan Harris, eds. Summer of Love: Psychedelic Arts, Social Crisis and the Counterculture in the 1960s. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 35-62.
  • ———. 2013. Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press.
  • ———, ed. 2015. The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Rice, Alan. 2003. Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic. London: Continuum.
  • ———. 2010. Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
  • Whyton, Tony. 2013. Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Young, Rob. 2010. Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music. London: Faber.
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Falling in Love with Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Melanie Williams


Fifty years since its first appearance, David Lean’s epic Doctor Zhivago is once again winning admiration as it gets a nationwide re-release in a 4K digital restoration as the cornerstone of the BFI’s ‘Love’ season. As Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw suggests, it’s a film of ‘panoptic’ scale, demanding that its viewer is ‘swept up and carried along’ by its expansive narrative of thwarted romance in revolutionary Russia, based on Boris Pasternak’s novel. Doctor Zhivago was a huge box-office hit back in the 1960s, topped only by The Sound of Music in that decade, and still remains one of the highest grossing films of all time. It was also one of the films that I was particularly keen to investigate and analyse in my book on David Lean, published last year, not only because of its remarkable popularity (in spite of a lukewarm critical response) but also because it was a personal favourite of mine. When I first saw it, I had been expecting a piece of high-sixties romantic slush, chocolate-box-pretty but essentially superficial. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, Julie Christie as Lara and Omar Sharif as Zhivago are fabulously photographed at the height of their gorgeousness, and there is that love-struck ‘flower power’ scene where Zhivago is overcome by a romantic vision of Lara among a host of golden daffodils. And of course there’s that famous theme music, destined to be played on a million music boxes and in a million lifts and, as critic Raymond Durgnat observed, perhaps slightly more ‘evocative of Venice, gondolas and pizza pie’ than Moscow or the Urals. No matter. There is far more light and shade, and depth and complexity, to this great romantic drama than its kitschy reputation allows for.

The film’s opening moments set the tone, in which Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) offers a summary of the Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union which simultaneously evokes remarkable progress – ‘We’ve come very far very fast’ –but also its terrifying undertow: ‘do you know what it cost? There were children in those days who lived off human flesh. Did you know that?’ No romantic soft-pedalling there. Likewise, the Eastbound train journey of Zhivago and his family away from the dangers of Moscow later in the film presents a cross-section of humanity crowded into a dirty freight wagon, among them Kostoyed (the remarkable Klaus Kinski), an anarchist intellectual being extradited as forced labour but still railing against his guard and the society bent on destroying him: ‘I am a free man, lickspittle and there’s nothing you can do about it. I am the only free man on this train. The rest of you are cattle!’ We’re in a dark, dangerous world a long way from the interwar English suburbs and the civilized train journeys that punctuated the romance between another doctor and married woman in Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945). But in some respects, the distance isn’t so huge. Both films are about personal relationships which are shaped and ultimately stymied by social forces beyond any individual’s control. Both dr-zhivago-largemake a powerful case for the transcendence of romantic love even while – or perhaps precisely because – its full realization remains an impossibility.

Doctor Zhivago is a remarkable achievement on several fronts: a sensitive and skilful adaptation by Robert Bolt of a novel of such delicacy and complexity that he likened the task to ‘straightening cobwebs’; a goldmine of stunning cinematography from first Nicolas Roeg then Freddie Young (‘not realistic. Magic’ is how Lean described Young’s visual style); astonishing production design by John Box, including the creation of an ice palace for the lovers in an abandoned dacha; sumptuous and eloquent costumes from Phyllis Dalton that had a major influence on sixties fashion; a lush enveloping score from Maurice Jarre; and resonant performances from a large, diverse cast, particularly Tom Courtenay as Pasha and Rod Steiger as Komarovsky, young zealot and middle-aged pragmatist respectively, Geraldine Chaplin as Zhivago’s sweet patient wife Tonya, and Rita Tushingham as Zhivago’s possible descendant, scarred by her childhood trauma.

Director Luchino Visconti’s alleged comments after having seen Doctor Zhivago – ‘Let’s see it round again. But don’t tell anyone!’– suggest that the film may have had the misfortune of becoming a guilty pleasure, one that couldn’t be openly admitted among the cognoscenti. But it had some fans in high places. After Bosley Crowther’s harsh review which accused the film of reducing ‘the vast upheaval of the Russian Revolution to the banalities of a doomed romance’, Alexandra Tolstoy wrote a personal letter to Lean to say many of my friends and I do not agree with the criticism of New York Times … I consider that the film was excellent and I, as Leo Tolstoy’s daughter with whom the Pasternaks were very friendly, as a Russian – thank you for the brilliant job you have achieved.’ The response of theatrical agent Peggy Ramsay to the film when she went to see it at the cinema, according to her client Robert Bolt, was to repeatedly utter in a stage whisper, ‘But it’s overwhelming! One is overwhelmed!’ That seems like the most fitting epithet for a film that now has an opportunity to overwhelm a whole new set of cinema audiences.


Read more from Melanie Williams on Doctor Zhivago , and Lean’s subsequent films Ryan’s Daughter and A Passage to India, here:

Melanie will be introducing a screening of Doctor Zhivago at Cinema City on Sunday 6th December.

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‘Researcher in Residence’, EFG London Jazz Festival

We are delighted to welcome to UEA for a 12-month postdoctoral research associate position Dr Emma Webster. Emma is working with Prof. George McKay on a project called The Impact and Value of Festivals, funded by AHRC as part of the ConnectedLondon Jazz Festival logo Communities Programme, working with partner organisation the EFG London Jazz Festival. We think of Emma’s role as being ‘Researcher in Residence’ at the festival and at producers Serious Music office through the year.

You can find out more about this exciting new collaborative research project by visiting its website, and we have the twitter handle @festival_impact so do follow us too if that’s your bag.

Here is some information about Emma:

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 11.27.16Emma Webster is an academic expert on live music and festivals and is also a music and comedy promoter in her spare time.  She received her PhD from the University of Glasgow in November 2011; the title of her thesis was Promoting Live Music: A Behind-the-Scenes Ethnography, and is the first academic account of what live music promoters do and the contexts within which they work. The research focuses on the live music scenes of Glasgow, Bristol and Sheffield, and involved ethnographic fieldwork at arenas, clubs, festivals, concert halls, and pubs, and interviews with promoters, venue staff, musicians and audiences. In 2012, Emma and colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow set up the Live Music Exchange, an online hub for anyone interested in live music research, which contains blogs and resources on a wide range of topics including festivals.

More recently, Emma worked on a census of live music in Edinburgh in 2015 and wrote the six-year report of the Association of Independent Festivals in 2014; she appeared with George McKay on the Festival Britannia panel at Kendal Calling 2015 and gave the keynote speech at the IASPM Postgraduate Conference 2015 in Cardiff. Emma is also an Honorary Research Associate at Oxford Brookes University, where she worked for four years in a variety of roles before starting the Impact of Festivals project. Among her academic publications is the co-authored three-volume series The History of Live Music in Britain (Frith,  Brennan, Cloonan and Webster), of which the first, covering 1950-1967, was published by Ashgate in 2013.


This blog post is reproduced with the permission of Prof. George McKay – the original can be found on his personal website.

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Anime’s Genres and Beyond

Dr. Rayna Denison, Senior Lecturer in the UEA Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, introduces her newly released book: Anime: A Critical Introduction (See here for further details!)


There’s a lot of debate about what “anime” is, and even about what to call it. Ideas like Japanimation may still linger at the margins of anime for some, but for others, and particularly fans, we know it to be a cultural category that has expanded to include a plethora of genres. And more.

Japanese animation began long before anime, back in the earliest years of global animation production. Back then, as Jonathan Clements and others have explained (for a review, see:, Japanese animation wasn’t what we would picture today, including all kinds of experimentation with cut-out paper animation and other forms of un-anime content (for an example see the following video). Even in Japan, then, anime is a relatively late invention. And, anime is only just occasionally a ‘genre.’

More frequently, it is a term used to describe a whole category or mode of cultural production in Japan, one that ranges from mobile phone content, to online short videos, to television, sometimes straying into the realms of high profile globally distributed films like Akira and Spirited Away. I have routinely tried to argue that what we see here in the UK, even in the age of online anime streaming, is still just the tip of a huge cultural iceberg. Because anime isn’t just texts. Anime also includes theme parks (notably Universal Studios theme park in Japan frequently features special anime theatrical shows and rides, usually based around popular franchises like One Piece, its characters can adorn public spaces from signage to statues and anime is everywhere in advertising imagery in Japan. So, more than a genre, anime is a huge cultural industry, and one that is thoroughly entangled with Japan’s wider industrial landscape.

So, when anime becomes part of our, and other country’s popular animation cultures, it does so at a huge step removed from its meanings in its home culture. This may help to explain why early distributors of anime in the USA and UK tended to like its more “extreme” edges; preferring adult-oriented science fiction anime that was obviously distinct from US family-friendly animated films. But, in the years since the global rise of Pokémon and Studio Ghibli, anime has started to contort, becoming widely recognised by fans and general viewers alike for its generic diversity. Terms like shōnen (boys’) and shōjo (girls’) anime are widely understood, and while anime imports are still dominated by the former, the girls (and women’s) markets are diversifying fast thanks to streaming websites like Crunchyroll ( and Animax UK ( In these wider worlds of online distribution, anime’s cultural iceberg is being revealed to global fandom as never before.

anime AW3

It is here that I hope to enter into the fray by partaking in the debates about anime’s ever-shifting and changing global meanings and categories. My book, Anime: A Critical Introduction (, tries to map some of those shifts and changes in order to think about how anime has meant very many different things to its fans and antagonists over time. I have, for example, tried to pick out some of the big generic moments in the process – thinking about anime’s relationship to science fiction, and the many debates about anime’s (post)human bodies. Overall, though, I hope to make some contributions to rebalancing our perceptions of anime. To that end, I have focused on the many anime genres and personnel who tend to get ignored, from the rise of children’s anime in the early days of the medium, to the proliferation of horror anime today. I’ve also attempted to think about how anime is produced, focusing on Studio Ghibli’s main producer, Toshio Suzuki, and his creative behind-the-scenes roles in turning Miyazaki into a global brand of animation. From sometime-genre to a meta-genre or mode of production, anime offers us a chance to think across cultures and to look deeper into our own.

Dr Rayna Denison, Senior Lecturer in Film, Television and Media Studies, UEA

See more about anime at my website:

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Short film of CHIME project at Lancaster Jazz Festival, 2015

Professor George McKay reflects on the recent Lancaster Jazz Festival, and his involvement with the EU funded CHIME Project. The post first appeared on his website a couple of weeks ago.


One mid-September day I decided to stroll from my (current) home, a Victorian town house on the edge of Lancaster city centre, into town to see some of the bands playing on the free outdoors stage in the 2015 Lancaster Jazz Festival.

I was going anyway—it’s my local festival, I’m a jazz scholar and musician, and I usually do something in the festival each year, and always look forward to it—but I thought today I would take a videocamera to film the short journey. You can see the short film I made here, and below are some notes about it.

We had had the first meeting of our new EU Heritage Plus project, CHIME, in Birmingham a couple of days earlier, and I was wondering whether there would be something directly relevant to the project on my own doorstep (it features in the film) the very next weekend.

The outdoor stage is a feature of the Lancaster Jazz Festival that can be risky in September, due to the vagaries of the northern English weather in early autumn, but the day was warm and sunny.

Lancaster Jazz Festival logoI walked past a small Victorian park and fin-de-siècle school building, an elegantly simple Georgian church, a street of Georgian houses. The pavements round here are made of old flagstones. City centre shops quietly bustled on a sunny Saturday. Lancaster’s most famous old pub, Ye Olde John o’ Gaunt, looked inviting.

By the way, in terms of history, Lancaster also has a major medieval castle and some Roman ruins. In terms of jazz history, its Georgian splendour was predicated in large part on the triangulation trade—including transatlantic slavery.

Sun Square itself is one the Georgian city of Lancaster’s hidden gems, just off the main shopping streets. (As the film shows, and pleasingly for jazz myth and desire, to reach it involves plunging down a dark alley, drawn by strange half-heard saxophonic squawks, opening out on the other side into the contained loudness of the music.)

Festival-coloured bunting and free deckchairs add a party atmosphere and help transform—to eventise, one could say—the square itself. Each is a kind of vintage marker, possibly locating jazz not as the leading edge music the festival wants to present, but as seaside soundtrack from a bygone era. Though the sound of the (young) band playing, loudly amplified, more rock than jazz guitar, incorporating samples of soundtracks and sound effects, is pretty contemporary.

The white plastic sheeting and tent-like frame make the stage structure itself disappointingly functional in appearance—couldn’t organisers have got the wonderful local Melodrome mobile stage, say?—and its positioning in the square against some drab and dirty rear walls of buildings with a parked car or two in clear sightline is uninspired if driven by pragmatics.

But really Sun Square is dominated by a specific historic building, now called The Music Room, dating originally from the 1730s as a garden pavilion for a private town garden, the grand house and garden of which now no longer exist. (From our perspective, The Music Room is probably slightly misleading; it’s likely theMusic Room, Lancaster name is a corruption of Muses’ Room.) You see it in the film as the wonderful golden-stone tower with balustrades on top, elegant symmetrical windows and columns, a large arch window on ground level. Inside there is outstanding Baroque stucco work, featuring the muses.

The well-known local history of The Music Room includes its own near loss and destruction. Everyone knows it was saved in the 1970s at the last possible moment. In his influential guides Buildings of England, Nikolaus Pevsner wrote of it with equal parts anger and despair: ‘it is now so decayed that there can be no hope of saving it. It is a disgrace for a town like Lancaster…. In a few years it will all have disappeared.’ Fortunately in this instance Pevsner was wrong. So for Lancastrians Sun Square resonates with architectural history, the narrative of (Georgian) loss, and the triumph of one preservation.

That’s why for CHIME locating the jazz festival’s outdoor stage here is so perfect: it invites us to think about city heritage (Georgian architecture) and history (slavery and triangulation), jazz as soundtrack of modernity, jazz as heritage music, the phenomenon of vintage as retromania, the tradition of festival itself, and the sonic, visual and social clashing of all these experiences together one sunny day, free for anyone who was interested.

Research, on the doorstep.


By Professor George McKay, Professor of Media Studies and an Arts & Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow.

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The Pleasures of the Familiar: Norfolk On-Screen

If we look back at the very birth of cinema, the trend of audiences enjoying the sight of themselves (or people like themselves) and their local areas on-screen is evident.  With their short film La sortie des usines Lumière, the Lumière brothers famously showed workers leaving their factory gates in Lyon, and at the turn of the century Mitchell and Kenyon continued this in the north of Britain with their tours of actuality films. I have come to realise in recent years that although cinema audiences have changed in many ways since then, perhaps becoming more sophisticated in general, some things haven’t changed. We still get pleasure from seeing the familiar – be it on TV or at the cinema, in actuality, or in fiction. Why would we have local broadcasting if we just crave the exotic? Why would films made in Norfolk be popular with Norfolk audiences? As an employee at Cinema City in Norwich I can confirm that this popularity is often the case – sometimes defying the critical and commercial indifference that some Norfolk-set films are met with in the rest of the UK.

As a resident of Norwich for most of my life, and even as a film studies academic and professional, I confess to still getting a jolt of recognition and pleasure whenever I recognise people or places that I know on screen. I let out a little yelp when a resplendent Thor smashed his hammer into the ground of what is clearly the UEA campus in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I loved seeing Eddie Redmayne and Romola Garai flounce around North Norfolk in Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39.

Rarely, if ever, have I seen a film made in Norfolk that is explicit about its location and celebrates it. This does of course happen in the cinema for other locations.  The prime example might be New York.  From Woody Allen’s cool and monochrome Manhattan, to Carrie Bradshaw’s sexy city for the single girl, New York is most often portrayed as the nadir of Western metropolitan existence. But Norwich? It’s famous for the awkwardly parochial Alan Partridge and most of its screen outings might be seen as fleeting and inconsequential (Julie Christie visits Tombland in The Go Between, and Stardust disguised Elm Hill as an exotic market in the fantasy kingdom of Stormhold). And the Norfolk landscape? It’s usually not credited. Holkham beach was disguised as the new world at the end of Shakespeare in Love and when the Norfolk Broads appeared in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket they were doubling as Vietnam.

However, in recent months I have seen two new films that buck this trend and are filmed and firmly set in Norfolk. These are Guy Myhill’s The Goob (on release in May) and Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years (release date 28 August). Both filmmakers present a vision of life in the county which is in turns realistic and uncomfortably grim but also pastoral, peaceful and pleasant. The Goob features a teenage protagonist, ‘Goob’ Taylor (played by Dereham newcomer Liam Walpole), negotiating a bleak future working the fields of west Norfolk governed by his mother’s bullish boyfriend Gene Womack (portrayed by an intimidating Sean Harris). The filming was done over the long hot summer of 2013, and a lot of scenes appear to have been shot in the sunset ‘magic-hour’, giving the grim reality of Norfolk rural life a hazy nostalgic tone.

Goob at magic hour in Norfolk fields.  Photo credit: Emu Films / Amelia Troubridge

Goob at magic hour in Norfolk fields. Photo credit: Emu Films / Amelia Troubridge

45 Years features Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay playing the very middle-class couple Kate and Geoff Mercer, who are in their advanced years and facing their 45th wedding anniversary. They live in retirement in a farmhouse in the Norfolk Broads and the grey skies and misty country lanes add to the feeling of foreboding that builds over the course of a week as their relationship disintegrates due to a slow reveal about Geoff’s past relationship.

Andrew Haigh and Charlotte Rampling on location for 45 Years.  Photo credit: Agatha Nitecka.

Andrew Haigh and Charlotte Rampling on location for 45 Years. Photo credit: Agatha Nitecka.

Myhill and Haigh have both achieved naturalism and authenticity in their films – in the characters, their stories, and the settings.  Myhill presents a rural working-class teenager coming-of-age, whereas Haigh successfully and succinctly portrays a couple realising their ‘coming-of-old-age’ and a discomfort with this and each-other.  Something else that links both films is that they both benefitted from iFeatures, a production fund from national organisation Creative England.  One of the objectives of this fund is to ‘support low budget films that capture a sense of place’.  I hope this is just the beginning of a new era of investment and production in filmmaking in this hitherto rather neglected part of the country.

The films of Richard Curtis (namely Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill) may have put certain sections of London on the tourist trail, but I doubt that many will travel to Norwich and Norfolk to tread the paths of Goob and the Mercers. But The Goob and 45 Years have achieved more than that in my view. They’ve succeeded in finally providing a credible and admirable depiction of my homeland and its people. It might not always be pretty but I’m still proud to call it home.

By Anna Blagrove

Anna is a PhD Researcher in the Film, Television and Media Studies Department. Her thesis is an audience study of young cinema-goers and other research interests include Australian film and the work of Studio Ghibli. She is employed as Education Officer at Cinema City, programming learning provison and chairing special events such as filmmaker Q&As.  She also works on the HLF funded Norfolk at the Pictures project.

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Teaching Theory/Practice: ‘Working in Magazines Podcasts’

As Lecturer in Media Studies in UEA’s Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, one of the modules I convene is ‘Magazines’. It is a theory/practice module, so as well as teaching students academic approaches to the study of magazines it also teaches them the different skills needed to produce them. Before I embarked on my academic career I worked as a magazine editor at British gay culture magazine Attitude, so I am able to draw on 11 years of experience to teach this part of the module. I am also able to draw on a wide network of contacts for the purposes of guest lectures and for a new initiative that I will be introducing to the 2015/2016 version of the module – the ‘Working in Magazines Podcasts’.


In these podcasts I interview various people about their careers in the magazine industry. Once the 2015/2016 term starts they will be available on Blackboard so students enrolled on the Magazine module can listen to them whenever is convenient. So far there are podcasts with Chris Williams, art director of Britain’s largest circulation magazine – Asos magazine; Colin Crummy, film editor at i-D and celebrity editor at Men’s Health; Frank Strachan, freelance pop stylist and editor of The Most Beautiful Man in The World and Patrick Welch, freelance travel journalist. By September more podcasts will be available including one with Chris Lupton, art director of Empire magazine.

The point of the podcasts is to give students up to date insights into a variety of issues within the rapidly changing magazine industry. Particularly given the transformative effect that digital technologies are having on all forms of print media, academic publishing often finds it difficult to keep up with developments within the magazine sector where little remains the same for more than six months. Those interviewed discuss a range of topics including: the rise of digital, the effect of shrinking magazine budgets since the 2008 financial crisis and the difference between the working conditions of freelancers and permanent staff. They also talk more personally about career highs and lows including interviewing Melissa McCarthy and being mistaken for Uma Thurman by paparazzi in Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont! These issues speak directly to content taught on the Magazines module but also more widely to all types of students thinking about breaking into different sectors within the creative industries.

The ‘Working in Magazines Podcast’ is an ongoing project, the overall goal being to collect a large archive of interviews with interesting people who’ve had successful careers in one of Britain’s most dynamic creative industries.

In the below podcast i-D film editor and Men’s Health celebrity editor Colin Crummy talks about his career:

By Dr Jamie Hakim

Lecturer in Media Studies

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