Today was finalist results day for the students on my Post-Punk Britain Module. Together we’ve laughed, done cutting and pasting, swapped celebrity gossip, kicked over a few statues and analysed the history of subcultural theory and practice. They have made me laugh and they have me think in new ways.
In the end I watched it because Catherine Grant very kindly invited me to speak at an event that she organised with Diarmaid Kelliher, on Pride and its Precursors and I was too honoured, and too embarrassed, to say no. When the film first came out I ducked and dived out of numerous press requests to comment on it. I had toyed with the idea of presenting at the symposium without actually having watched the film, maybe as a sort of thought experiment. I’d floated the idea over drinks with the talented historian Ben Jones from UEA but lost my confidence after he described some of the scenes I might have missed out on (the alien invasion and massive shoot out at the end).
It probably says more about my life than theirs, but I seem to be haunted by old punks propping up the bar telling me stories about the Clash, or showing off their badge collection on ebay. There’s certainly a lot of punk ghosts around – icons– Sid, Nancy, Rotten before he became farmer Lydon , and reunion bands are everywhere. But what are the ghosts for? And why are they following me round all the time?
I’ve spent a lot of the last five years living with One Direction. For a while, most conversations with my daughter involved The Boys in some way and a life size Harry Styles greets you from the front window of my house.
The Boys have even joined us on a picket line. They opened up the chance for me to work academically with one of my favourite people in the world, documentary maker Daisy Asquith who made the Channel 4 documentary Crazy About One Direction. Between the two of them my daughter and Daisy have helped me connect my feminism with my love of fandoms.
I have a lot to thank The Boys for.
I’ve just parked up a chapter on Princess Diana that will eventually end up in my new book about the 1980s. I’ve been writing the chapter for a long time and I’m not sure I’ve finished it – but it is definitely not getting any better for now so I better leave it alone. I’ve read more books on Diana in the last couple of months than I ever dreamed likely. The more I worked through the pile of unauthorised biographies and memoirs, the more the lines between the two sorts of books began to blur. It became harder to tell when people were writing about Diana, and when they were writing about themselves. I should also add, the more I read the less of an idea of what she was ‘really like’ I had. Although to be honest that wasn’t what I was looking for and it isn’t really what I’m interested in. What I’m interested in is how and why these books sell the idea of the Real Diana. Whilst academic approaches have tended to displace the Real Diana, by analysing what she signified and why people cared about her. Popular biographies and memoirs market their access to the ‘real woman’ underneath; who she was.
I was part of a panel discussion on fans and music documentary at this year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival. The panel was organised by Emily Renshawe-Smith. We discussed work by Daisy Asquith (Crazy About One Direction), and Nick Abrahams (The Posters Came from the Walls) and Jeanie Finlay Orion: The Man Who Would be King. If you stick with it, you can hear me have a bit of a debate with the one and only Peter York.
This post was a response to a number of conversations, conferences and social situations which have turned into something of an obsession – just why are people so sniffy about music that girls like?