Sunday, August 11, 2013

Against the Terrorizing State

A friend shared this story, about British citizens being effectively denied entry to their country of citizenship, and it set me off on a Sunday morning rant. Of course the nation state is always an ideological construct, and culture, language, geography, ethnicity etc play a much bigger role in identity-formation than legal procedures, but this kind of smoke and mirrors policy-making, aligned with a blatantly exclusionary approach is more characteristic of the values of a fascist or apartheid-regime than a liberal-democratic state. But without the right papers, it's hard to go anywhere... So, rant's angrier than usual, but I thought I would let off some steam...:

...The story below is absolutely characteristic of this bunch of idiots' policy-making process - dream up a slogan, surround it with nasty rhetoric, implement it too fast and never, ever, consider the unintended consequences of this arbitrary bullshit. I came through immigration on Friday and was struck by the hostility of the signage - no 'welcome to the UK' (or even 'welcome to Scotland') to be seen, just large notices warning the queue - all of EU citizens - that 'tougher checks take longer' and other such aggressive bollocks.

People have citizenship rights - the case below would surely suggest that a legal challenge would have good grounds for success. But when the courts label 13 year olds as 'sexual predators' and the police have hundreds of files of their own abuse of citizens left uninvestigated (see yesterday's 'Guardian' headline) - not to mention the industrial scale of state surveillance of communications, and wars fought on fictional grounds at vast expense, while three quarters of the planet struggles to secure a basic livelihood - it's not surprising that people feel cynical about their prospects of securing any kind of justice in this corrupt neoliberal empire.

This is the hijack of the state by corrupt, greedy, short-termist, ignorant windbags who care only for their own self-preservation (because this is intimately bound up with their wealthy paymasters' preservation) . They are doing everything possible to pull up the drawbridge, with a population anaethesetised by sickeningly divisive 'us and them' language, the chains of indebtedness and a continued assault on working conditions and wages in the name of 'global competitiveness' and 'efficiency'.

"Just keep your head down and stay quiet", says Lord Suit-Fracker: "conditions will improve if you don't make any noise or trouble. Oh, and look! Here's some money you can borrow to help feed your family. Get a job! House prices are going up again! Let's have a nice shiny spectacle in a stadium somewhere! Have you bought your private health insurance yet? Just ignore the security vans over there - they've come to keep the terrorists out. Nothing to worry about. Alarm clock Britain! Cut benefits for scroungers! The Greenest Government ever! Let's frack! Tough but fair! More Money for Everyone! We're all in this together!" 

And "Her Majesty's Official Opposition" is virtually silent on these or any other aspects of the coalition's hideous corruption. Total abdication of responsibility. Utterly spineless. 

This is institutionalised abuse of citizens by the state. (Ironically enough, implemented by a government propped up by the so-called "Liberal Democrats"). This is a simulation of democracy, where words are stripped of meaning and in the process, basic rights quietly evaporate in the move to creeping authoritarianism. I'm going to re-read Reich's "Mass Psychology of Fascism" - we need tools to counter this nonsense. Human rights? Civil liberties? Democracy? Social justice, tolerance and solidarity? No, instead we have menacing border guards in black stab-proof vests stopping "suspicious looking" people at stations, demanding to see their papers. A kind of terrorizing state. 

We are genuinely in danger of sleepwalking into a state of fascism. It's frightening. And I suspect that it's fear and insecurity, and sheer exhaustion with the struggle of keeping going, and cynicism about their abilty to change anything, that is also keeping a lot of decent people quiet. Largely as intended.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Perambulations, knotty problems, and other (divided) lines of enquiry

As is usual in the over-leveraged, under-resourced world that I inhabit,  I've been suffering the effects of divided time/divided attention, attempting to keep a number of projects moving simultaneously.

Last week, I went to Newcastle to witness screenings of Hugh Kelly's films as part of Remaking Society and was reminded of just how much has changed in the years since he began working in community media on Tyneside 35 years ago. The abiding image was of his footage of the massive steel frame of the Millennium Bridge moving gracefully down the Tyne before being craned into place, cut together with a soundtrack of a young woman from East Gateshead singing about 'Hollywood Dreams' in a karaoke session in a working men's club (the club has since been demolished; Newcastle-Gateshead's very own "South Bank" is now firmly established, and there are plenty of unanswered questions to explore about 'whose culture is it anyway?' - the title of the screening). In that single sequence Hugh conjured together all the complicated issues about the industrial heritage of North East England making way for a different kind of economy; of the question of what all these rhetorics of  'creativity' and cultural participation are for; of the value of skilled, craft, manual labour almost evaporating as the so-called new/knowledge/creative economy is superimposed on working class communities, with symbolic totems of an industrial past re-purposed for contemporary art and culture. And underneath that, a story about the cultural politics of Northern England, globalisation, oh-so late capitalism and shifting narratives of 'regeneration'. We're going to interview Hugh at the start of June and try to tease out some more answers.

Oddly enough, the similarly de-industrialized and re-purposed spaces of the London Docklands cropped up again at the start of the month, with a trip with my practice-based methods students that began and ended with a drift through "Newham's newest neighbourhood" (if it can be called that), the empty spaces around ExCeL, where we slept. We took the Boris-backed, airline-branded cable car, which stretches out across the Thames like a kind of aspirational gesture, from where all the hollowed, divided, over- and under- capitalised communities of London's East can be seen stretched out on both sides of the river. More to write about that too. We were down there for a spot of urban drifting and exploration as part of the Cultural Hijack exhibition/event at the AA School, which has been put together by UWS PhD student Ben Parry and Glasgow-based artist Peter McCaughey. I'm there again later this week for a big series of events which bring the month to a close, including an exciting conference that we're running at RIBA with some luminaries from the interventionist/activist art worlds.

Alongside this I've been trying to keep the time free to finish off the Remaking Society project, or at least to move it into another phase. The central idea that we've been exploring has been to investigate the ways in which participatory cultural practices are generative of social relations, particularly for communities that are suffering significant hardship/economic deprivation. Linked this to are debates which come from Jon Hawkes' 'fourth pillar of sustainability' argument - trying to examine whether we can show that cultural participation is part of the generation of social wellbeing, of engagement and conversation, of imagining - and enacting - alternative futures. This has been most developed in policy terms in south Australia but there are traces of this argument elsewhere too, most particularly in the arts and health movement and in some of the more radical bits of the community arts movement.

I talked about this a bit at the Artworks conference in Lancaster - the need to try to reclaim the politics of participation and understand that there is a need for some critical engagement with the 'big narratives' of 'participation' or 'inclusion' - ought we to be asking more awkward and fundamental questions about the purpose and value of our work? But artists are also howling with rage at the moment about the effect of funding cuts, so there is an urgency in articulating models of value which can explain why public spending on cultural activity is socially useful/productive; of how it's a form of 'invest to save'?  At the same time, as François Matarasso pointed out at the Imagining Possibilities conference, art is valuable precisely because it is use-less - it matters more than being about simple, instrumentalised social utility or about making money. So do people value the arts and culture because they provide moments of transcendence from their everyday struggles? Or because forms of cultural participation are deeply bound-up with class and other social affliations? Or because cultural participation might be generative of forms of community? I'm quite taken with Greg Sholette and Oliver Ressler's argument that we should attempt to "rescue the notion of the social...through artistic means."

The culture/economy dyad exists in a permanent arm-wrestle. As does art/design: we design to 'solve problems' but art/performance (although they are designed processes) are less about explicit problem-solving or generating 'solutions.' It's interesting to see how people have seized on 'design' as a catch-all metaphor for what the arts and humanities can do for society - whilst design is undoubtedly important, it seems to me that 'problem-posing' is at least as important as 'problem-solving' and the teleologies, the functional logics, of design (which suit our performative times) can crowd out more fuzzy or oblique ways of thinking.

So these tensions are all a bit of a struggle to think through - which my colleagues from Grays School of Art Anne Douglas, Chris Fremantle and Paul Harris did in an interesting seminar they presented on work in progress about the relationships between participatory practices in the arts and user-centred design/communities of practice that we hosted at CCA a couple of weeks ago.

Tatzu Nishi, Ascending Descending from culturalhijack on Vimeo.

In some ways, Cultural Hijack, funded by a mix of distinguished backers, catalogues these issues well, with work in the exhibition that ranges from the whimsical and playful to the almost-illegal, and all of which certainly opposes any easy consensus about the spectacularized, centrally managed consumerist city. On the other hand, when these practices find their way into centres of urban power like AA and RIBA - do they get sanitised and neutralized?  Doesn't their power come from their 'outsider' status?

Within the Remaking Society project we've been trying to resist simplistic formulas for 'measuring' cultural value or wrapping everything up in definitions which are about either economic or 'social' capital. It's not that I don't think cultural economy is important - how stuff happens matters - how projects/organizations get financed, supported, brokered and produced is crucial - but I suppose I'm most interested in the kinds of cultural practices that resist a vision of commodification, being bought and sold...and aren't these actually what generate value? Greg Sholette's "Dark Matter" thesis, about which he will be talking at RIBA next Saturday, explores this. Regimes of performativity - such as the painful REF imperatives to elicit 'impact' - that insist on constant explanation/justification - of constantly generating what Stephen Ball calls 'performative fictions' within a hyper-competitve 'neo-realist' academic identity - are pretty inimical to any sense of community or productivity.

Several people pointed out in response to my last blog, about the '80s, Thatcherism and the present state of the culture business, that I'd failed to mention Neville Brody or The Face. I should have done, and also should have made reference to this Dick Hebdige piece from Hiding in the Light. Just on cue up popped Neville Brody in the Guardian with a characteristically provocative piece on the state of the creative economy which challenges the instrumentalization of Maria Miller's recent speech and the typically anodyne "GREATBritain" (or come to that "Year of Creative Scotland") marketing campaigns that seems to want to reduce UK design and culture to a series of nonsensical branded themepark cyphers. Cultural energy comes from grit and the challenge...not from pre-programmed, set-piece spectacle.

The visible formal cultural economy - markets, institutions, what is bought and sold - rests on a more slippery, less visible informal economy of cultural exchange - which is perhaps to be found in  the combinations of formal/informal learning, apprenticeship and radical interdisciplinarity and friction of particular 'scenes' and networks. We need to resist attempts to make everything measurable, demonstrable, or about buying and selling in marketplaces. The point about arts and cultural practices is that it's their murkiness  and playfulness that opens up 'spaces of possibility', spaces of imagination, imagining other futures. It follows that perhaps a less marketised less Thatcherite definition of 'cultural industry' (and certainly of 'university') is needed.

So that brings me back to another set of reasons to value participatory approaches to making and inventing - thinking about how to build forms of knowledge construction  that span disciplinary divides and build connections between different kinds of communities of interest. People who work in learning institutions should be seeking to enable this, providing infrastructures and support mechanisms that enable connection and collaboration. This is an organisational question and therefore, partially, financial, but it is above all cultural - i.e. the culture of how resources are allocated - the kind of climate and atmosphere in which we work - is it conducive? Is there trust, permission to experiment, calculated risk taking? This is clearly a question of design - in the sense that we need to design more intelligent, reflexive, participatory learning systems - but it's also a question of improvisation and performance...

In that spirit, my colleague Diarmuid McAuliffe and I, with a bit of money from Creative Scotland,  have been leading a project that has brought together a diverse group from across the University to make use of walking and drawing methodologies and exploring sites for learning - connecting outwards and building more networked and collaborative pedagogies - thinking about how to extend projects into external settings. These are more conversational, improvisational styles of teaching and learning - we're trying to generate conversations which are more mobile than fixed. The results of some of this work will be presented at an event we've organised on the Ayr Campus on the 18th June - which is part of the aptly named 'festival of dangerous ideas'. And we're really delighted that we'll be joined for the afternoon by Professor Tim Ingold to explore these lines of enquiry together. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mrs Thatcher, enterprise culture, and unintended consequences

The talk I gave last week at CCA on cultures of collecting and curating music turned out to be eerily topical, and not quite in the way that I intended. Not only because I found out whilst bashing it together that we have almost reached this year's Record Store Day, but because Mrs Thatcher finally exited the planet, right on cue, just as I was digging up memories of living and working in London in the late 80s.

I was there in the year between school and university (1987- 1988), working as a shop assistant in the High Holborn branch of Farringdon Records. This period was arguably a kind of zenith for the music retail trade, before the massive megastores had completely taken a grip, before the World Wide Web, before Amazon, and at a time while the affluent classes were pumped up on a wave of credit and would think nothing of spending £11.99 or even £14.99 on a full price CD. And we still sold LPs and cassettes too.

Farringdon had three branches, one on Cheapside in the City, one on High Holborn and a smaller shop on Lamb's Conduit Street from where its owner Mr Schulman counted the takings and most of its thriving mail order business operated. I can't remember that much about the history of the company, but I know that its founders had started out selling records from a stall in Farringdon Market. The company specialised in selling rare and deleted classical recordings, which had eye-watering mark-ups, but which still offered great value for the customer - we'd buy in the 'product' at 50p or £1 a unit and sell it for £3.99, £4.99, or even £7.99. 300 - 700% margin! Decent niche markets, and we had a reputation for specialist knowledge and good customer service with a worldwide reach.

It was there, in the months following Mrs Thatcher's third election victory - the autumn of the great storm and a great stock market crash - that I first learned that we priced up 'product', put it on shelves in categories, and bought it in 'units'. In that year between school and university I learned a huge amount from the expertise and knowledge of my more experienced colleagues - in the typical fashion that so much learning and informal apprenticeship on the fringes of the so-called 'cultural economy' occurs, and also in that way that record shops become cultural destinations in their own right - places where people share enthusiasms, make discoveries, and meet.

Around the same time (1985 to be precise) the consumer music music technology magazine Sound on Sound launched, marking the beginnings of a big shift from analogue to digital technologies in music, and also the rise of affordable home music production gear, which heralded the demise of big bucks recording and some sort of democratisation of access to affordable music production technology. So there was a sense in which from the seismic shift charted by Walter Benjamin in his landmark essay 'the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction' we were beginning to see some of the consequences for art/music in an age of digital reproduction. All this went much further (and that was the topic of last Tuesday's talk) but in this blogpost I'm thinking more about that late-80s period, and the ways in which we're still living through the consequences of it.

At trade fairs, talking to sales reps, and getting slightly involved with pop music retail, I learned about the entity called 'the music industry'. I wondered about this term long before I read any of Adorno's stuff. Then I went off to the Cambridge music faculty where the only trace of any discussion about the relationship between music, economy and power was in fairly positivist accounts of Henry Purcell's London, patronage and political allegory. The bigger questions of the relationships between music, economy, society, institutions and policy were mainly ignored, the implication perhaps being that money or politics - and certainly 'the music industry' - were too vulgar as topics to consider in relation to the canon of great works (or the celebrated 'imaginary museum') with which we were mainly told that we should be concerned.

Fortunately the libraries and bookshops were good enough for me to dredge up some reading that had a much bigger effect on my thinking than anything I was formally taught - books like Evan Eisenberg's "The Recording Angel" (1987),  Christopher Small's "Music, Society, Education" (1977), Richard Middleton's "Studying Popular Music" (1990), John Shepherd's "Music as Social Text" (1991) and the brilliant MIT anthology edited by a collection of US-based cultural studies scholars/anthropologists: "Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures" (1990).  So I stumbled across cultural studies and popular music studies by accident, as this sort of thinking wasn't really 'encouraged' within the cloisters of the Cambridge curriculum at that time.

In the vacations, in something of a dialectic between the world of abstracted ideas and the need for material subsistence, I went back to work at Farringdon Records to earn some cash, but by that point it had been bought up by the massively expansionary Our Price empire. Mr Schulman, ever the shrewd entrepreneur, managed to sell the company at the top of the market for an undisclosed sum (there were rumours that Our Price had paid more than £2 million) and he, presumably, retired on the proceeds. The company was never the same after it became corporate - for a while it expanded, eventually becoming a branded franchise in the Royal Festival Hall, but by the millennium it had run into trouble and eventually disappeared off the map altogether, like so many of its peers.

It's interesting to think about the atmosphere of London at that time. Ken Livingstone's GLC, which amongst many other populist offerings had championed youth arts, cross-community festivals and policies to promote cultural diversity, had just been abolished. A swaggering post-industrial economy of retail, finance, fashion and media was getting into its stride, for those that were in a position to participate. And swathes of the city were beginning be 'remodelled' in the huge urban experiments of the London Docklands Development Corporation.

The core of Thatcherism, despite the jingoism and the rhetoric of self-enrichment and self-development through hard work, was the decimation of Britain's manufacturing economy and the promotion of rapacious greed and self-interest above all other values. We were moving into a realm of informational exchange, of service providers who serviced other services, of global trade based on 'knowledge exchange' rather than physical exchange, accompanied by an intensification of culture-as-commodity. This atmosphere is captured very well in the video for the Pet Shop Boys' breakthrough single. It's a haunting audiovisual essay on London as a world of glittering surfaces, of blank anomie, of sideways glances and a "west end town in a dead end world", presented with a knowing, studied boredom that captures the ambivalent, libidinal intensity of a restless, money-oriented society.

Thatcher also had an ambivalent but utterly dependent relationship with the media industries. It's a cliché to say it, but she was one of the first European politicians to consciously develop her persona and her party as a 'brand' with the help of her close friend and confidante Lord Bell and image-makers for hire Saatchi and Saatchi.  She looked across the Atlantic to the advertising techniques of American politics to manufacture the necessary consents for neoliberal globalisation, working in tandem with Reagan's Republicans and her allies in the right-of-centre press to offer a consumerist utopia to those families that fitted the aspirant mould, with nuclear family values at the core of the offer.

Despite her espousal of 'traditional values' her government did much to deregulate and liberalise media channels. Arguably this was as much to with the the proliferation of affordable information technologies, lower barriers to entry/production costs/and increasing co-production/internationalized media markets/ the residue of the libertarian ideas of the 1960s and 70s - as it was anything to do with government policy. But in particular, the formation of Channel 4, the rise of the independent production sector and the global success of fashion, advertising, media and music industries meant that by the end of the '80s huge quantities of corporate cash were swirling around what had begun to be described as the 'cultural industries,' which had a far more hedonistic, ostentatious and cosmopolitan style than the stark formica-clad austerity of Thatcherite Little England domesticity. (but the alliance of austerity for some and consumerism for others, or maximising private affluence, with the consequence of public squalor is a theme in Tory rhetoric that I've commented on before)

This TV advert, versions of which aired incessantly on LWT between 1986 and 1991 (and maybe in cinemas as well, but I can't remember), captures the atmosphere of the period rather well. It's a smart and economical bit of storytelling, in which a lone aspirant young musician finds his way through with the help of a cool, older role model of an iconic Black sax player. Its a story of aspiration, mentorship and cosmpolitanism, in a multicultural London, where the power of music binds people together across race and class divides, boiled down into a tight one minute narrative, cut fast, with a grainy, documentary feel. Of course in this fiction the point is that they bond over a beer, but it's a very clever bit of execution. I wish I knew who was responsible for it.

In the figure of the aspirant young entrepreneur of the ad we can also see the traces of subsequent narratives (mythologies?) of 'talent' and individual achievement and informal apprenticeship. But the ad also showcases the spaces of the city as spaces of possibility - the transformation of the young fan who can't afford a ticket and is kicked out of the club, via a chance encounter busking on a central london bridge, rehearsing in a shabby flat, to a mainstage gig at Dingwalls Dance Hall in Camden. So it encapsulates some of the rhetorics of possibility and transformation that were present in attempts to codify and advocate the value of cities as creative spaces - as places that could allow citizens to unlock their desires and dreams - as well as make money in the new economies of culture.  Thatcher (and Major's) Enterprise Allowance Scheme, (which after 1997 morphed into 'New Deal') allowed those young unemployed people who could raise £1000 to reinvent themselves as 'cultural entrepreneurs.' I remember in the work I was doing from the early '90s onwards that we took the rhetorics of 'vocational and enterprise education' and turned them in order to build more project-focussed, applied curricula and make 'partnerships' with 'industry' - which was more often likely to mean working with a self-employed sole trading artist than some glittery multinational conglomorate.

Geoff Mulgan and Ken Worpole's work for the GLC, followed by much work undertaken by the Comedia consultancy, amongst many others, provided a new rationale for public investment in culture - as a foundation for economic growth, regeneration and "talent development", which, eventually, was enthusiastically taken up in the Lottery-fuelled cultural building boom of the mid-90s and morphed into the breathlessly entrepreneurial "Creative Britain" rhetorics of New Labour, - and which, until recently, formed the thematic spine of the master narrative of Creative Scotland, transposed northwards.

Enterprise culture, cultural industries, creative's a long and windy road, described in detail in this very useful survey by David Hesmondhalgh and Andy Pratt.

Another way of thinking about the rise of cultural industries policy discourses is as a kind of civic (and latterly, national) counter-narrative to the threat of permanent redundancy and decline; framing the entreprenurial city as a competitor for 'talent' in a global positioning war for cultural advantage - in an economy where  'symbolic capital'  matters as much as any other kind. As we wrote in both 2000 and 2005, taking a cue from Sharon Zukin, the unanswered question is who really stands to benefit from this competitive city branding? And what can be done to ameliorate the exclusionary effects of competitive city policies?  Hyper-branded cities, culture-as regenerative spectacle, and event economies, and their (recent) origins in the Thatcher-Heseltine axis of the mid-80s (although we mustn't forget the World Fairs and Festival of Britain, etc)  are brilliantly satirised by Jonathan Meades in this programme from 2005.

Angela McRobbie captures some of the traces of class struggle that remain in the precarious state of young people's aspirations for 'creative careers' in this piece that pre-dates the crash of 2008. And for recent reflections on these matters it's also worth reading this, from Geoff Mulgan, one of the people who started it all, before Richard Florida c(r)ashed in.  My money, what little of it that I have, however, is I think on Greg Sholette's thesis on 'dark matter' - on the ways that non-commercial, unofficial oppositional cultures provide the materials that become appropriated by the art market/offical cultural economy. And it follows that the critical importance of the marginal, the informal, the unofficial as a source of cultural vitality is in perpetual struggle with official narratives, with Big Policy and cultural masterplans. What if, paradoxically, value creation ultimately resides in the free exchange of gifts? Or in making places where people would like to live, but also can afford to live well? Nonetheless, until an alternative economy is built, making a living from dark matter is something of a challenge. But I'm really looking forward to hearing him speak on this topic at the Cultural Hijack event that we're running in London on 25th May.

Friday, March 22, 2013

From record collecting to 'music curating'

From record collecting to 'music curating': cultures of discovery and consumption in a 'post-retail' age

Commercial Music Seminar Series 2012 - 13: No 6

Tuesday 9th April 2013

UWS Space, CCA Glasgow, 5.30pm - 7pm

Graham Jeffery
Reader in Music and Performance, UWS

All welcome - to book please contact

My first exposure to the music industry, other than as an occasional public performer, came in the form of a shop-floor job in a celebrated but slightly grubby London specialist classical record store in my year off between school and university. In this talk I will reflect on just how much has changed in how recorded music is bought, sold and consumed since the heady and profitable days of the late eighties, which were arguably a kind of zenith for the record (and CD) industry; these were pre-mass internet days but just at the dawn of the digital revolution that would bring down most of the edifice of 'physical' music retail.  In 1987 Evan Eisenberg published a landmark book, The Recording Angel, which changed the way I (and many others) thought about cultures of collection and consumption of music. He named this field ‘phonography’, and of course since then much has been written in academic work and in fiction about the pleasures and intimacies of ‘crate digging’ and the random musical find, the place of rarity/scarcity in an era of pervasive media, the ‘long tails’  and short wait times of digital sleuthing, and shifts in business models forced by globalization, digitization, peer to peer sharing and fast data transfer. 

What is the future of music consumption, and collecting, now that so much purchasing has migrated online, into the supposedly weightless world of cloud storage? How do we keep and collect our musical treasures? Is the idea of a record shop now an hopeless anachronism or can we see some persistence in the idea of specialism, scarcity and authenticity as a marker of difference within the cultural sphere?

Thursday, January 17, 2013


...after the new year celebrations settled...

....the year has started well with a trip to Derry for the MECCSA conference, where my colleague Neill Patton and I gave a brief overview of some of the issues and debates coming out of the two Scotland-based projects in Remaking Society. More about that another time, but here's the presentation.

Whilst there we visited the Museum of Free Derry, which is a visceral memorial to the struggles of the last 40 years of the Bogside community. Very powerful. Hoping to go back this year for some more of the City of Culture events - the Void Gallery has a really strong programme, but there's lots of good stuff happening. 

In the meantime, here's a good article from the Hindustan Times about Reversing the Gaze, the project that our UWS doctoral student Ben Parry has initiated, working with the Acorn Foundation and sundry others in Dharavi. 

It's shaping up to be a very busy year...and hopefully a little pivotal, as the wheels fall off the scrappy carts peddled by the shameful austerity merchants in the UK government and the Scottish independence debate hots up. Much happening, at home, abroad, at work; feels quite interesting.

Also - a quick plug for The Eskdalemuir Harmonium - the first in a series of coloured vinyl albums being made by my excellent PhD student Chris Dooks, and just released by Toronto-based Komino Records