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'The pose ... is a stance': popular music and the cultural politics of festival in 1950s Britain

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The aim of this chapter is to contribute to our understanding of the relation between popular music, festival and activism by focusing on a neglected but important area in festival history in Britain, what can arguably be seen as its originary decade, the 1950s. So I chart and interrogate the 1950s in Britain from the perspective of the rise of socio-cultural experimentation in the contexts of youth, some of the ‘new ... old’ (Morgan 1998, 123) sonic landscapes of popular music, social practice and political engagement. I foreground the shifting cultures of the street, of public space, of this extraordinary period, when urgent and compelling questions of youth, race, colonialism and independence, migration, affluence, were being posed to the accompaniment of new soundtracks, and new forms of dress and dance. Some of the more important popular culture events where these features manifested, performed and celebrated themselves, produced what I see as a significant phenomenon: the youthful gathering of the festival, the surprising splash and clash of street culture (McKay 2007).
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... As a growing area of interdisciplinary research (Webster and McKay 2016;McKay 2015), modern festival studies present an opportunity for investigating cross-cultural and trans-national contemporary cultural practices, modes of living or dwelling. As I am writing this through the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown lens, it is worth mentioning that before the lockdown festivals had had a half of century continuous existence in the UK, they had become part of the social gathering year-from June to September. ...
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Burning Man is an annual participatory arts event and temporary city co-created in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Also known as Black Rock City, it has spawned a global movement with over 100 “regional events” (or “burns”) worldwide. Conveying qualitative findings from surveys targeted at European Burning Man participants (or “Burners”) and triangulating these findings with ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in Germany, the chapter explores the complexities of Burning Man’s stature as a transformational event prototype. We recognise burns—Black Rock City and its worldwide progeny events—as experimental heterotopia, or “counter spaces,” that enable a proliferation of ritualesque and carnivalesque performance modes. By addressing Burner values and motivations, we discuss the appeal of burns, notably their multiplex potential for personal and cultural innovation. As this chapter illustrates, the performative/transformative logic of Black Rock City, the complexity of which is mirrored and mutated in progeny events, inheres in an ethos known as the Ten Principles. Part of a larger project addressing the transformative innovation of Burning Man, the multi-methodological investigation of this event culture focuses on the principles of Gifting and Leaving No Trace highlighted in German Burner initiatives.
... Afropunk, which takes place in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Paris, and Johannesburg, proudly advertises a safe space for people of color alongside messages that support gender equality, ableism among other issues (https://afropunk.com/). Music festivals have also historically been sites for political debate and action (McKay 2005(McKay , 2015, serving a stereotypically left-wing agenda (Lewis & Dowsey-Magog, 1993). ...
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The article examines the Greenbelt festival in the UK, looking at how Green and Liberal Christians experiment with sacred spaces during worship occasions, talks and workshops. I show that Greenbelt represents a syncretic encounter between the modern festival culture on one hand and Christian community experiments and aspirations on the other, some that can be traced back to the nineteenth century Romantic Movement. I posit that the festival represents a trans-denominational community of choice for a progressive faction within the main Christian congregations in Britain, and in particular the Anglican Church. Furthermore I discuss ways in which participants experiment with cultural change, adopting a circle model of spatial organisation or via artistic expression. I observe relations between speakers and audiences, showing that a discourse of “openness and vulnerability” represents a critique of the “rigidity” of the Church, whilst a discourse of “secret meanings and misunderstandings” functions as a mechanism for revision inside the tradition. I postulate that the multiple outdoor spaces and fields of the modern art and performance festival can better accommodate the wider contemporary “believing and belonging” spectrum.
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Using an example of punk festivals Mighty Sounds, Pod Parou, Fluff Fest approached qualitatively in years 2015-2017, the text targets two main concerns. The first one is a non-problematized premise of homogeneity of punk seen in many investigations in Czechia. The second one is a conceptual crisis in a research of politics at festivals which is stuck between a threat of over-politicization with scrutinizing a subversive function of festival as such and under-politicization with a resignation to focus at relation between politics and festivals at all. The text moves from the functionalist perspective on politics of festival to non-functionalist scrutiny of fragments of politics at festivals. Such move not only enables to analyse and compare the festivals in contents, forms and positions of the fragments, but as well to trace different logics of punk behind them-multi-or post-subcultural punk of MS, streetpunk of PP and HC/punk of FF. By doing so, heterogeneity of punk is revealed.
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Webster and McKay have pieced together a fascinating jigsaw puzzle of archival material, interviews, and stories from musicians, festival staff and fans alike. Including many evocative images, the book weaves together the story of the festival wit the history of its home city, London, touching on broader social topics such as gender, race, politics, and the search for the meaning of jazz. They also trace the forgotten history of London as a vibrant city of jazz festivals going as far back as the 1940s.
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AHRC-funded report on the impact of music festivals, including links to detailed annotated bibliography
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This is a systematic and scholarly treatment of the history of the British New Left and its key thinkers. It examines the work of Raymond Williams, Edward Thompson, Stuart Hall and Perry Anderson who together forged a particularly British form of new leftism in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Against the background of post-war capitalist advancement, the book traces the origins and formation of the new socialist movement, examining its political and intellectual concerns and assessing its achievements and failures. Using unpublished material and combining biography and readings from key texts, "The British New Left" sheds light on the origins of modern British socialism.
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ConekinBecky E.. “The Autobiography of a Nation”: The 1951 Festival of Britain. Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press; dist. by Palgrave, New York. 2003. Pp. xii, 260. $24.95 paper. ISBN 0-7190-6060-5. - Volume 36 Issue 3 - Fred M. Leventhal
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NehringNeil. Flowers in the Dustbin: Culture, Anarchy, and Postwar England. Ann Arbor, Mich.: The University of Michigan Press. 1993. Pp. 404. $47.50 cloth, $17.95 paper. ISBN 0-472-06526-2. - Volume 26 Issue 3 - James A. Winders