Projectraisetheroof's Blog


The anti-EDL protest

Before I launch into describing the WEIRD bonfire night events at Lewes, near Brighton, a few thoughts on the anti-EDL march in Leeds the other day.

I first heard about the English Defense league through the Love Music Hate Racism campaigners at the last raisetheroof. On investigation, it became clear that, despite the ‘but we’re not racists’ whine these people basically were a pack of nazi thugs, to put it it simply. But that was before Nick Griffins appearance on the BBC, when hardly anybody knew or were that bothered about them. Then, after nasty (or should we say, a bit dim) Nick’s airing of views I watched the whole thing go stratospheric. Okay, thats an exaggeration, but the council did decide to remove their christmas tree from the city centre for fear of damage, which seemed like a pretty big deal.

Of course I felt it was my duty to go. I had never been to a protest before (loud proclamations on politics at the dinner table is always so much easier than actually leaving the house) but I’m the daughter of an immigrant. A legal one, and a rather productive one at that, but an immigrant nevertheless. My father has British citizenship after living in England more years than Iran, the country of his birth; doubtless this little difference to a group like the EDL.

And so I arrived at the square, wearing a pretty solemn expression on my face with a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t fear, exactly, just an unpleasantness accompanying the realization that the the argy-bargies about asylum, islam, immigration and race were truly alive, well and slap-bang in the middle of Leeds. In fact, it’s exactly the conflation of these issues that pisses me off. The EDL are, perhaps, right to protest against the minority of militant ‘muslims’ who set fire to British flags and call British soldiers baby-killers. But they do a lot more than this, they use these (highly infrequent) incidents as evidence against the whole religion of Islam. Then, whilst they are at it, its all immigrants and asylum seekers as well (because its not as if there’s any difference between the two – granted one lot might be escaping persecution, but fuck it, they’re all brown and have funny names and can’t speak English proper, they’re out to pollute our pure, white, precious little island).

It’s not that there aren’t serious problems with allowing mass immigration into an Island as wee as ours. Obviously if a Polish person undercuts your labour and puts you out of a job then it would be natural to feel put out. But this crap about ‘indigenous white people’ – please. Okay, so you’re part of an ancient tribe in the amazon rainforest, the trees are falling around you as modern civilisation and the cruel forces of progress close in on you, only then might you be able to use the word ‘indigenous’ as part of your ‘we were here first so could you kindly fuck off?’ rhetoric, without sounding like a silly twat. Essentially, groups like the EDL and the BNP shoot themselves in the foot by mixing together anti-immigration, white supremacy and a good dose of religious hatred and come off looking a bit backwards. Which is, of course, exactly what they are.

Anyway, back to the protest, and can it possibly have anything to do with project raisetheroof? Well, despite the gangs of scary looking youths itching to bash some EDL members, and the dubious looking skinheads that occasionally came to taunt them before being shoved back by the police, I was rather interested in the drumming that was taking place. Two members of Honeydrum were hammering out some infectious rhythms whilst a few crusties obliged them with some jigging about. This was interrupted occasionally by a woman with a megaphone, warning us to stay in the square and not wander down to the station, where the EDL had set themselves up, or else we’d be ‘picked off’ by them. After a while the Honeydrummers stopped for a rest and a chat. Whether or not this caused the dispersal of people, I don’t know, but a policewoman approached and urged them to keep drumming. In fact “why dont you bash us out a few more tunes” were her exact words, “we’ve got to try and get people to stay in the square. Give ’em something to focus on”. And so the beats resumed, and I watched a wave of relief register itself on the faces of the people who were standing about, many expressions of anxiety turned to smiles and chatter, and feet began to tap. Despite quite disparate groups within the EDL oppositon (the asian community clearly more riled up and subsequently eager to march, whilst the predominantly white hippies huddled clustered about the drums) the drum beat enabled two things; firstly, there was a greater feeling of collectivity, of unity, and secondly, it gave the whole thing some positive and light relief. No-one actually wants to spent their saturday afternoons in symbolic protest against a scary looking bunch of skinheads. The whole thing would have been quite depressing, if it hadn’t have been for the Honey-drummers who reminded me that what we were there for was essentially something positive – we weren’t there to just say no to the EDL, we were saying ‘yes’ – to equality and diversity.

A lot of fuss has been made of the intersections of politics and partying, with most scholarly criticism writing fun protests off as simply an elaborate excuse to party. But why should protests be miserable affairs? Why must legitimate politics in this country be pursued via a single stagnant avenue devoid of any expression and exuberance?

I can feel myself descending into a rant now so I will shortly stop, after I tell you about a conversation I had with my Dad after the protest. It turns out that he was living in London when the National Front had thousands of supporters there in the 1970s. One night he was walking alone through a tube station and was approached by three skinheads doctor martin boots – he remembers it vividly. They tried to block his path, and one of them pulled out a knife. Luckily my dad was gripping a bunch of metal keys, that spiked through his fingers. With a clenched fist he punched the keys in his face, and ran for his life.

Rock Against Racism claim that their campaign helped to stem the tide of white supremacy and nationalism in London at the time. To be continued…

Advertisements

Research focus? re-enchantment

Re-enchantment – a little background

As I draft up a section about Mysticism and the Boutique event, I realize there is another theme that is recurring – something I have been interested in for yonks. I first came the concept whilst researching neo-tribalism and events several years ago. And this is the idea of re-mystification and re-enchantment.  Two terms I have always used synonymously which is probably a mistake, I can imagine that a ferocious academic debate on the exact nuanced difference of the terms has already been waged, one that I am probably going to need to become familiar with at some point.

So what does re-enchantment actually mean?  In short, it refers to the way that human beings re-clothe the world with meaning, mystery and wonder in an increasingly secular civilization. It also can be interpreted as an attempt to resist the despotic rationalism and materialism that looks no further than what can be outwardly observed, measured, bought, sold.  In fact, there are so many things that have been labeled as evidence for re-enchantment so as to make its definition problematic.  Some look at astrology, pseudo-scientific alternative medicine, crystals, folklore, social activism, environmental activism as proof of a type of re-enchanted movement that resists and escapes from a world of surfaces – the ‘flatlands’ of modernity, as the American philosopher Ken Wilber describes. But others, like George Ritzer, see the fervor of tourism, shopping, and consumer culture in general as filling the ‘hole’ left by the loss of religion.

And so the idea of re-enchantment is tied to secularization and the idea of disenchantment. This was something I had first heard about doing ALevel Sociology. Sociology of Religion, I think we were doing.  The emancipating floodlights of modernity, the rise of logical, scientific thought: this movement has freed us from the lies and the dogma of institutional religion, we were told. But it seems that it also condemned us to live on the ‘flatlands’ – the one-dimensional world.

And how is this connected to the contemporary events industry?  Watch this space….


Research Focus: participation? (expect corporate-backed ritual burnings in 2010)

Narrowing the Focus: More on Participation

A little over a week has passed since the raisetheroof festival, and I’m sat in the station. I’m eavesdropping on a small group of middle-aged friends drinking coffee and discussing the size of their flatscreen TVs. I’m trying not to feel contempt. These are not bad people. They might not even be superficial people. But there’s something about the way that people rattle on about stuff, that makes me want to smash something. Completely hypocritical of course. I like old stuff. My 1950’s style dressing table purchased from the Retro Boutique is quite literally the light of my life. Having said this, the adoration I have for my dresser is confined to furtive and admiring looks across the bedroom – I try to refrain from banging on about it.

Forgetting the wide-screen flat-screen telly-visual conversation, I’m gradually piecing together the context and hypothesis for my research. Moments of eureka combined with moments of muddled fear – but I think some kind of synthesis is emerging.

As I reread my latest notes and ideas, it is clear that there are two themes that I keep coming back to. I have spent some time worrying myself about these two themes. Which one should I choose? They are both fascinating. They are both important. They are interconnected.

One of the themes, as can be guessed from my inaugural blog, is participation.  This preoccupation can also be described in lots of different ways. Another way I like to describe it is audience evolution.  Of course this is all highly influenced by the ‘unofficial fieldwork’ conducted at Burning Man – the event that calls all attendees ‘participants’ and invites them to perform their own experience in multitudinous ways. I cannot help but connect this clarion call to participate to the musings of ‘media futurist’ Gerd Leonhard who brings to light the participative revolution of the internet – through blogs, customer ratings, networks – we’re closing the gap between the traditional role of the consumer (as passive) and the producer (as active). This seems to parallel the way that the distinction between performers and non-performers dissolved at Burning man – though there were plenty of DJs and bands – none of it was listed. Though there were some headline-material acts, none of it was publicized as such. This removed the tendency to see musical performances as the principal entertainment, and removed the tendency to situate oneself as no more than a spectator to that performance.  I wonder what would happen to artists, whom increasingly rely more on fees from live events as record sales plummet, should this ethos be adopted elsewhere and the packaged identity of bands and DJs was no longer the number one motivating factor for attending an event.

Is there a relationship between the participative use of the internet and the forms of audience participation cropping up within the events industry? Richard Florida‘s bestselling work on ‘creative cities’ describes a dissolution of traditional barriers between work/leisure in Western culture and an increasing demand for a lifestyle “built around creative experiences” whilst Nicola MacLeod has noted the growing ‘spectacular’ nature of events that compete globally. Simple observation confirms this, and I see a more participative audience emerging – BM was an extreme case, granted – but the ethos seems to be cropping up elsewhere (not to mention practices directly inspired by BM ritualised burnings in particular – see articles about David Byrne outdone by the burning at Big Chill, recently taken over by >Festival Republic – expect corporate-backed ritual burnings in 2010!).

So what are these ‘participatory practices’? Of course, you could argue that all aspects of event experience are participatory – listening, watching, dancing, even drinking and eating. In fact, the famous sociologist Pierre Bourdieu observes that all aesthetic appreciation is a form of participation – so what we are talking about is different degrees of participation. Whether or not increasing degrees of participation is a ‘leveling force’ upon the traditional distance between the performer on stage and the audience on the ground, is becoming a crucial question.

Well, trivial as it sounds, costumery and flair is the clearest sign that people are indeed taking on more performative roles. This seems to be becoming more and more frequent as festivals increasingly choose dressing up themes and audiences rise to the challenge. The media, instead of focussing simply on the rock stars and backstage happenings, seem to be increasingly interested in the flamboyancy of the audience (if you are getting frustrated with all the ‘seems’ its because this is all hypothetical – I havent gone out and measured these things but I have a strong suspicions this is the case). A video that promotes the upcoming UK festival awards focussed principally on the premeditated and carefully executed festival-goer constumes. Other practices that demand more of the audience’s creativity include: interactive art installations – those giant montages you can paint on, silly games, workshops, discussions, interactive performance.

Working with the most-awesome Big Love Inflatable Church last summer made me realize the result of a performative context that allows people to reconnect themselves with their own entertainment.  The church is the perfect example. The Inflatable Church’s principal entertainment invited the audience to parody characters: the faux bride, the groom, the bridesmaids and the congregation all become the performance through an enactment which was all the more hilarious and memorable as a result.  (But it’s worth pointing out that, fascinatingly, comic weddings as well as comic sermons used to be a common feature of carnival entertainment centuries ago – see Peter Burke’s Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe).

Admittedly, higher degrees of participation hardly takes place on a mass level. Most events demand little more than very basic and passive forms of participation.  But the cases where high levels of participation is, if not encouraged, then made space for – and the influence that participatory events have over other others – is developing as a research focus.

Some questions about participation that keep recurring, often worded differently, but always connected to the same theme:

  • How is participation connected to the evolution of the audience?
  • Is participation an aspect of of audience evolution?
  • Can audiences evolve?
  • Why do audiences evolve?
  • Does the influence of the more participatory events over others demonstrate a wider human need for creative participation?

References for the books/articles I have cited in this blog are below:

Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books, 2002), p 13

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Havard University Press, 1984)

Peter Burke, ‘The World of Carnival’ in Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), pp. 178-199

Nicola MacLeod, ‘The Placeless Festival: Identity and Place in the Postmodern Festival’ in Festivals, Tourism and Social Change: Remaking Worlds, ed. David Picard and Mike Robinson (Channel View Publications, 2006) pp. 222 – 237.


Leo – it is related to the Project though, honest!

I’m writing this on the train returning from a trip to Bristol, a long overdue visit to my sister and nephew. There’s nothing like a change of scenery and a long train journey to get the brain-juice flowing. ‘Leo’, the ginger munchkin, is one and a half years old. He has learnt to walk and talk and he is into everything. Up at six thirty am, bored of every single one of his toys by 8am. And this is top dollar hi-tech shizzle, being the blessed first-born of the next generation for both sides of the family, he’s been showered with books that pop out and sing, penguins that dance, keyboards with fifty different musical settings ranging from classical to hiphop. All of which are systematically played with and discarded at incredible speed. Bored of the garden by 9am, and by a quarter to ten he’s ratty and decided that he definitely, definitely needs to leave the house. This is non-negotiable, unless we want petulant screaming as a backdrop to the rest of the day. So we go out into the world in search of trees, swings, ponds, parks.

This is not just an enquiring mind, or a penchant for interesting objects – its a relentless search for new experiences, sounds and sensations. Does this pursuit ever really stop?  Nicola Mcleod’s article on postmodern events (irritatingly dense though it is, and confusing – so I may well have totally misread her)  claims that events are increasingly having to compete on a global scale, which has made them “ever-more spectacular”.  This I can believe – what with the Secret Garden festival blowing up a ship, and Electric Picnic burning down a realistically-sized ‘temple’, all as part of the entertainment.  Though maturation may dull the immediacy of our need for new sensory experiences, I think its an in-built desire that remains strong throughout our lives. And what with the extended infantilism of our generation and the increasing reluctancy to ‘grow up and settle down’, maybe the British festivals really are playgrounds for adults!

Full article reference:

Nicola E. MacLeod, ‘The Placeless Festival: Identity and Place in the Post-Modern Festival’, in Festivals, Tourism and Social Change: Remaking Worlds, ed. by David Picard and Mike Robinson (Channel View Publications, 2006), pp. 222-237.


Long overdue: More thoughts from Nevada

Thoughts from Nevada… from scribblings freshly dug out from my grubby journal, over a month after I was there but worth reflecting on nevertheless:

Admittedly I have a tendency to the romanticise the revolutionary power of the event, the unapologetic hippy that I am, and so it struck a chord to hear a panel of boffins elevate festivity to the status of “force that furthers the consciousness of humanity”! Obviously, we can’t argue that Leeds fest lager louts are pushing the boundaries of civilisation (no offense to lager louts, or Leeds fest, of course), but these particular boffins were at the Burning Man festival in the middle of the Nevada desert – a very special event indeed.

The theme of the lectures in the discussions tent seemed to centre around 2012 – cataclysmic change is predicted (was it Nostradamus?) and the different panelists, comprising various academics and intellectuals, argued different interpretations. All a load of old superstitious cobbler, one might say – but coincidence or not, there was a feeling, an atmosphere, a general claim that civilisation must change – is changing.  And the 2012 prediction was a good ‘springboard’ for discussion….

“How will Burning Man affect a new consciousness?” was a question raised at the end of a lengthy lecture.

The replies went something like this:

Here, at Burning Man, we have largely removed ourselves from commercial exchange – we are forced to do things differently. You cannot buy or sell anything, and the remove of the desert forces us to develop strategies for survival as well as, of course, celebration! The community operates by giving and receiving – those that can give more, do so, and this looks after those who can give little. By taking ourselves away from traditional commercial exchanges, we have opened our eyes to the conditions of commerce that exist. We have begun to realise that the conditions of our reality are just that – arbitrary conditions that can be altered. We have understood that the way that wider society is organised is just one way, that exists amongst vast possibilities“.

“By creating a society, despite its fleeting and its impermanent quality, that is based around values that are different to that of the ‘parent culture’, we are planting seeds for change. A society that is based around responsibility, giving, ethics, aesthetics, if only for once a year, gives us an example of what can be achieved in a broader sense”.

“This society has shown how technology can be played with, harnessed for pleasure – the art cars, theme camps – all show us that we don’t have to let the forces of technology control us – and the ‘no spectators’ policy of theme camps experiments with a new kind of sociality. There is an evolution of the idea of intimacy, relationships. We are socialised to believe in an illusion of separateness, distinctness from other people or other types of people – this community seems to break down those barriers”.

“Burning Man is a public show of taking back empowerment by experimenting with the systems that can be used to build new communities”.

I was lying in a puddle of sweat, in the middle of the Nevada desert, swigging down lukewarm water under a flimsy canopy that was doing a crap job of protecting me from the savage midday sun. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but more than slightly inspired.

Some panelist boffs I need to look up:

Martin Ball

Moran Arf

Tony Vigorito

Michael Garfield


Post-raisetheroof ramblings

Well, this one felt a little tougher than usual. I spent a fair amount of raisetheroof and the week(s) leading up to it uptight and tired, a nasty combination and one that can be endured for only so long!

But the speakers from Love Music Hate Racism and the crowd’s reaction to it lifted the whole experience of the night. That was amazing. There was a funny moment when I was trying to absorb a beautifully revolutionary feeling generated by the speaker shouting about shutting down the English Defense League. The whole crowd was screaming and cheering in support, but my good friend Cordelia kept bugging me to look at her phone. Eventually I looked and she was proudly showing me a picture of a little black rabbit and a little white rabbit snuggling up together at the Meanwood Urban Farm.

These were the high points, I’ve wanted to get the campaign involved for so long, and the repeated emails and nagging phone calls to their London office had finally paid off; here were local activists riling up the crowd. Instead of reacting to the mixture of politics and entertainment with disdain (something I was so worried about I nearly hid in the toilets when the speakers went on stage) they seemed to hit a nerve with the audience. This made me extremely happy, still now, Im so so happy when I remember how dedicated these people were and how well it seemed to combine with raisetheroof. Ive wanted to ‘politicise’ raisetheroof for five years, with not a lot of confidence it would work, and seemingly it did. Hooray!!

But it would be an inaccurate post-raisetheroof rambling if I did not mention the low points. Admittedly, raisetheroof this time was not quite as busy as usual. We sold out of advance tickets, but the sales on the door weren’t as good as usual.  Raisetheroof is not about reaching capacity, this is not our aim of the night, it was only mildly disappointing to break our track record of fully selling out every time but it was bound to happen sooner or later. But the top three annoying things were surely these:

1) Magic Lantern visuals – i.e the ones that didn’t happen. These had been agreed for some time, and the VJ arrived with all his gear, hung around for a bit scratching his head and then told me he felt a bit ill so was going to go home. I was speechless with disappointment. “Ill?”, I felt like saying, “Fucking ill? So do I mate. Don’t we all, in fact. But its an hour before doors, get the stuff set up now and stop being such a whining little pussy”.  But of course my eyes filled up with tears, I shook my head and I said pretty much nothing. Felt like a proper pathetic little girl. Upon remembering that the VJ had also agreed to supervise the lights, five minutes before we opened the door to the public, I ran to the stage and tried switching them on. They wouldn’t work of course, and through teary eyes and a massive lump in my throat I begged the stage managers to help me.  These two were amazing, and they did figure it out in time for the first band.

Nevertheless, for next two and a half hours, whenever a friend came up to me all smiles and asking me how I was, I would regale the saga for a full ten minutes: “I can’t believe how he could do that”, “it just doesn’t look the same without the visuals”, “I feel so let down”. I’m certain that this self-pitying tripe left each person a little less excited about raisetheroof than they had been ten minutes before.  I just couldn’t put on a front and pretend to be happy but my upset, victim attitude was infecting other people. I couldn’t help it though. Those plain and exposed blue walls either side of the stage were taunting me, and all I could do was draw further attention to them. IM DOING IT AGAIN NOW! My reaction to being let down is now more regrettable to me than the letting-down itself.

2) complaints on the door about the 12 pounds door price. This was totally necessary to cover the costs of the best possible soundsystem, performer payment and expenses, beautiful decor, promotion costs, etc etc… all the things that make raisetheroof what it is and yet there is no convincing the minority of people that would rather believe in the greed of organisers over the reality of what an event costs.

3) let-downs from the venue staff – I have repeatedly asked the staff to open the bar at nine and for the security to arrive at nine and this never, ever happens and makes us look rather stupid when people arrive which it did, once again. Im always assured beforehand that it will, and the bar staff and the security are ALWAYS half an hour late. Not sure what can be done about this – a later start maybe.

AND NOW FOR THE TOP BEST MOMENTS!!!!!

1) LMHR activists – as mentioned above

2) Paper Tiger’s set. In all honesty their recorded stuff on myspace doesn’t do them justice. It was amazing watching them live. I took a risk booking them because I had never heard them before. A few trusted sources said they would be good for RTR and I took their word for it – so glad I did – there was a full crowd of happy people – properly loving the music. I’m not sure people really ‘got’ Black Diamond Bay, or maybe it just wasn’t well-suited, and there weren’t many people there for the Biscuits which was a shame. Whisky Cats were also wicked live – I hope the gig will put them off splitting up the band.

3) the Wonka arch – okay this was my idea, so I’m kind of blowing my own trumpet here. But the sight of that arch covered in flowers, sweets and ribbons courtesy of Krafty Sluts made me stupidly happy. So did walking under it. I hope the photos have come out well.

If anyone reads this, and went to RTR, maybe leave your best and worst three raisetheroof moments too. Ive expanded more on the bad stuff, tsk! But I definitely have to leave it there.


Pre-raisetheroof ramblings

Written in my journal on Thursday the 8th of October, 10.30pm, the night before WONKALAND:

Is there a coherent thought that can be heard through the clatter in my brain and this complete physical exhaustion?

Im a wimp but there it is.

Incredibly, the things that have bothered me today have been unwashed cutlery and the apparent dossing around of other people in my vicinity.  Today, carefree people have appeared to me as utter bastards.  How dare you walk around all chilled out whilst I am currently enslaved by raisetheroof and household chores?!

Having said that though, without pay, so many people have helped to bring this event together. This amazes and humbles me.  All the decor making, fireproofing, emailing, loading, unloading, flyering, negotiating. My sister and our friend Tony have worked two nights a week (thats after a full days work and making sure a child is fed, watered and asleep) to make inflatable stars to showcase at raisetheroof. They have researched how to make them, drawn up designs, bought the fabrics and the fans that inflate them and rumour has it the end result it pretty spectacular. They will be driving these up along with lots of other beautiful handmade things for raisetheroof and all they will get is some petrol money in return. Im sure they have other purposes for their decor but it seems we are hell bent on this event. Have I remembered why?

Burning Man was an incredible inspiration. During the festival I wrote five things down, five things I was inspired to do for raisetheroof and I realise now, the night before the event that I havent done a single one of them!  Those things were:

1) a LMHR (Love Music Hate Racism) art installation – some sort of saying or a proverb that relates to xenophobia/racism, printed in large display.  Audience are invited to write thoughts and comments and add them to the display.

2) a ‘Door to Perception’ – a psychedelically painted door still on its hinges that people can walk through, for no reason other than the random fun of it.

3) The Love Bug – giant cushioned bug that people can write messages to who they fancy and attach to the bug for luck. (The giant bug was more or less achieved by the Krafty Sluts but part of it remains unsewn and it lacks the provision of message writing materials)

4) Photo-bunting – bunting made out of photographs, images and logos all relating to the LMHR’s struggles against the BNP, and strung up around the campaign’s stall. (a girl did volunteer to do this, sounded really enthusiastic about helping out and then we never heard from her again).

5) A detailed raisetheroof programme/fanzine – a low-fi booklet with articles about raisetheroof, running order of the night, good quotes, poetry, and random stuff. (I got halfway through drawing one up and realised I was not only shit at drawing but ill-equipped at wit under pressure, if at all)

So there we have it. Five failings. My arm is hurting writing this! Yesterday’s six hours flyering student houses was a bad idea, the most gruelling day begins with a body that feels like its ran a marathon.  But on the plus side, there’s only 24 hours to go until I can sit down with a beer.


Synergy – raisetheroof

Since Burning Man the increasing revelation in my head (and it is a sort of gradual, emerging thing) is that greater synergy is required with regards to raisetheroof and the things connected to it. Or rather, that the outward representation of raisetheroof should match the synergy that already exists.  See my attempt to do this in the ‘About’ section. I can’t work out how to divide the paragraphs with spaces tho. Crippled by technology once again…

Synergy means, I suppose, three elements that have distinction at the same time as sharing a basic unity. I’ve been interrupted! I must continue this later.


Audiences

Raisetheroof Research Blog – Roxanne Yeganegy
Here we go. My first proper attempt at blogging… I have questioned whether anyone actually reads these so if you have please leave a comment!

raisetheroof is now ‘officially’ part of a research project, I’m too scared to refer to it as a ‘phd’ research project in case I curse it: I am still only a provisional phd student until I upgrade (upgrading involves horrid things such as handing in a proper piece of writing, printed out and bound and everything).

But the good news is; planning raisetheroof no longer feels like naughty sciving off from the loftier goals of a phd. Its ‘action research’! Annoyingly, though, organising raisetheroof doesn’t actually constitute assessed work. My peers at the school of music can write a fraction of what I have I do, submitted along with the composition of a piece of music that is assessed together as theory and practice.

Well, why can’t raisetheroof be the practical work?! It fulfils the same function doesn’t it? It’s sort of like a composition, manifesting the theoretical ideas of the thesis. Not fair. This is the problem with academia, narrow ideas of what constitutes acceptable work, always having to stuff things into conventional boxes so that you can weigh it and measure it and work out its value according to institutional criteria. Its impossible to stuff raisetheroof into ‘the box’ that the university requires for practical work. This necessitates the production of a book-length thesis whilst simultaneously organising some hardcore entertainment.

POOR ME. MOAN MOAN MOAN! Oh dear, my first blog has descended into a rant already! I seriously need to sort my ungrateful, cynical winging head out.

Because doing all of this is a privilege.

Apologies for a long and rather negative introduction to my first research blog. If you are reading this and wondering what I am on about let me be explicit: I am a phd student split over PCI (Performing Arts and Cultural Industries) and the School of Music at the University of Leeds, I also organise raisetheroof with the help of some great friends, and now…. its all rolling into one expanding ball of ideas and practice.

I can’t give you the official title to my research, because it changes month on month as more literature is incorporated and all of the ideas I thought were originally mine are blown out of the water (this the disconcerting, yet unavoidable situation I am told).

So lets just call it “raisetheroof”.

Social activism, re-enchantment, audience participation, neo-tribalism, producer/consumer proxemics, the evolution and fragmentation of audiences…

These are all ideas that are of interest to me, which are being explored via the ‘Boutique’ event, which I classify as small-scale, multi-arts platforms with a rhetoric of authenticity and social activism.

Recently, its all about the audience. The audience, the audience. Last night, as I painted flourescent blue onto a fake giant sweet for the upcoming ‘Wonka’ event, I watched footage of the Monterey Jazz festival – mid seventies I think it was, but the festival itself is one of the original festivals of jazz, in fact an original festival of popular music, as jazz was the popular style of the time when the event began, which I believe was in the 1950’s. Anyway, I digress.

The point is that the footage was exclusively of the performers, the acts playing on a rather shabby looking stage with a bizarre 2D wimpish looking lion in the background. There were no shots of the audience, though at times they could be heard clapping and shrieking. Without paying attention to the audience you only got half of the picture of what this festival was truly like. Anyone that has ever had to support their friends band playing a gig to three people in an empty room will know what an enormous difference the crowd makes – there’s power in numbers, so they say.

The fact that the filming of an important festival in that era totally neglected the audience is testament to the old view that saw the stage as exclusively ‘where the party’s at’. Footage of the contemporary event is radically different in that almost equal attention is paid to the audience – even when filming massive acts on massive stages; the reaction of the crowd is a crucial element of representing the true atmosphere and experience of the event.

Does this show an increasing realisation that the audience, as well as the bands and the musicians, are performing at the event? Perhaps the word ‘audience’ in no longer relevant in this context, as it suggests passivity. How can festival-goers, in their fancy-dressing, dancing, revelling, riotous raucousness be described with the same word that is used for describing the attendants of a conference or theatre production?

PARTICIPANTS is the word in vogue at the Burning Man Festival, an event I attended a month ago that, quite literally, blew my mind – it blew away old ideas leaving a batch of nice fresh ones! And they are definitely, connected to the audience.

Will go into some more detail on that another time. For now, check out the amazingness – have I linked this right?

And this is me on the wooden pyre, a couple of days before the burn…. the ‘participants’ left messages scrawled all over the wood.


Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!