‘ A wave of action speaks louder than words’ sang Tina Turner. These words inspired Dr Jill Adams to name a new genre based literary festival ‘Louder Than Words‘.
Held in the Palace Hotel, Manchester over the weekend of November 15th, 16th and 17th, the conference celebrated words – oral, written and published – associated with the music industry.
There was a fantastic line up of authors, musicians, performers, journalists, writers and academics, and the same variety was reflected in the audiences at the event.
It was an opportunity to meet and connect with people you knew, writers and musicians you admired, and a whole crowd of talented people you had only just met.
The worlds of writing, music and archives overlap. Writers and journalists do their research and create their own archives. Musicians need to access their archives to produce books that chart their personal histories. David Bowie has been the subject of a hugely popular exhibition at the V&A, and it was the wealth of archive material that brought his career and legacy to life. These archive sources might be newspaper cuttings carefully cut out and saved, notebooks, diaries, photographs, film clips, gig lists and song lyrics, even costumes and stage wear.
With the development of the internet, sound and video, a huge amount of material can be saved, archived and accessed, charting the career of both musicians and writers.
Considerations around social media and the role of the internet also overlap. How do you open up access to resources and sources for fans, students, academics and writers? The mediation of comments and the value of user generated content came up for discussion more than once. The Manchester District Music Archive is a champion of user generated material.
Barney Hoskyns, journalist and author of many excellent books, is behind Rock’s Backpages, the online library of music journalism, invaluable for students and journalists alike.
Stella Grundy performed her new play ‘The Rise and Fall of a Northern Star‘ turning her own experiences and memories into a thought provoking one woman show.
Wilko Johnson, guitarist and songwriter, formerly of Dr Feelgood, was interviewed too. Now living with the diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, he’s an inspiration to all. He presented the inaugural Wilko Johnson Writing Award for young aspiring music journalists. He quoted Icelandic poetry and gave us a glimpse of the amazing book he has written with Zoe Howe. Due out next year, it’s been created in a scrap book style, a great visual way to share a personal archive of photos, notes and memories.
Elaine Constandine has produced a book and is soon to release a film about Northern Soul. She also had to collect authentic costumes, reflecting the particular fashions of that scene.
Everyone uses archives and creates their own, sometimes simultaneously when undertaking research. We all have our memories, our ticket stubs, posters and flyers.
The music business and the publishing world have a lot in common. Everyone is wondering how the future will unfold. As with archive collections, there are issues around public engagement, building audiences, raising awareness, user generated content, conservation and preservation. The future of exhibitions was also discussed, whether online, actual or digital, podcasts and video links, websites and photo collections.
Music and writing about music is an area of popular culture that is increasingly aware of its relevance, and that relevance is accessed through archives, past, present and future.
It is also becoming a suitable area for academic study, so accessible archives are an important resource.
The choice of city venue for this inaugural conference also highlights the role of heritage tourism – Manchester’s music scene is full of myths and legends.
It was a fascinating opportunity to meet and discuss shared experiences and to make the links between the different worlds of music, writing, journalism, performance and archives.