Southend fanzine archive coming soon!

CERG are very excited to announce the soon to be published Southend on Zine project by Graham Burnett. We have written a foreword to this stunning collection of zines throughout the years – You can read our text below. As soon as it’s published, a link will appear on this blog.

Foreword

Kicking Cultures: How Fanzines Make the Alternative

The impetus for Graham Burnett’s wonderfully comprehensive curation of local fanzine culture apparently began after he attended one of our Club Critical Theory (CCT) events back in 2018. The modest aim of this event, and the others we organised between 2014-18 at the much-missed Railway Hotel, was to generate critical discussion about the usefulness (or otherwise) of theorising the everyday practices we find in local communities. In some ways, we might consider CCT as a kind of hybrid format of fanzine culture. We certainly concentrated on alternative culture, albeit, in our case, the focus was on the application of critical theory to a wider range of cultural and political concerns. CCT was evidently delivered in person rather than in print, nevertheless, like most groups with a vested interest in local culture, we felt our approach deserved a wider audience. For us, criticality is all too often restricted to the rarefied confines, norms and paywalls of the university lecture theatre, as well as the status-seeking antics of a predominately middle-class academic population. CCT was our alternative to this world.

There are other associations to be made between CCT and fanzine culture. All three of the founding members of CCT have participated in the local music scene to some degree at various points in the trajectories of our lives. We have played in bands, DJ’d and significantly contributed to fanzines. Subsequently, from our experiences, we know first-hand that passionate discussions about the ideas and values people care about are always going on in every pub, bar and venue you enter. Another aim of CCT was to provide some structure to these debates. We invited people to speak who had something interesting and relevant to say. One such speaker was the journalist Tim Burrows, an Essex native himself, working for The Guardian at the time. In short, Tim’s writing documents Essex in alternative ways to the norm. His work presents a version of our much-maligned county that reaches out beyond the stereotypes of TOWIE and Essex Boy gangsters that tend to dominate mainstream media accounts. His interest in Essex resonates in many ways with the aims of CCT. Indeed, it was the interaction between Tim and Graham at this particular CCT event (on media demonisation and governmental neglect of coastal towns) that provided the inspiration for the fanzine project. Which is to say, beyond the clichés of seaside culture; beyond the tourist assets of Southend Pier, the amusement arcades and variety show venues, there were seemingly misplaced alternative histories of local culture. Graham’s conclusion at the time was that if these alternative cultures were to be acknowledged by a wider public, then, he needed to document them!

And now, over three years later, in this brilliant publication, Graham’s extensive documentation project has finally been realised. So, as critical theorists, our job in this foreword is to briefly ponder over what Graham’s efforts might tell us about the practices that have made Southend and its surrounding areas such a vibrant space for alternative cultures. One approach to this dynamic might draw on another CCT contributor, the historian Matt Worley, who takes his lead from the notable cultural theorist, Raymond Williams. For Matt, culture can be ‘bottom up’. It can be, as such, what Williams calls ordinary. We might say that the ordinariness of alternative culture emerges because people are impatient to make their voices heard and impart their own take on the world they inhabit.

Another approach needs to consider that all culture is produced. Culture is never a given; it is made. Importantly, then, the creative aspect of alternative culture does not occur in isolation. There needs to be a counter force! As the title of one of the fanzines discussed and archived in this collection makes clear, Southend’s music scene was not only Alive in the 1980s. It was Kicking too! Along these lines, the production of alternative culture needs to be negotiated in opposition to a standardised model of culture; it needs to importantly kick against the norm. But what is the norm that the alternative kicks against? As Matt would readily acknowledge, the production of alternative culture occurs against the backdrop of a relentless reiteration of what we might call official history. Exactly what these official histories amount to is, unsurprisingly, contested in critical theory. On one hand, we might consider them authorised histories, sanctioned by established agencies of the State who have a vested interest in promoting a sanitised version of the world that accords with the values and beliefs that maintain hierarchies of power. In some cases, these are histories of the so-called highbrow cultures one might experience through a ‘good’ education. In others, they are the result of neoliberal economics and crass commercialisation. Culture of this kind is made by local authorities interested in promoting bland tourist economies or local newspapers reporting on culture alongside column space for an advert for double glazing. On the other hand, though, these official histories seem to become further intertwined with the productions of discursive formations of power, which can, sequentially, produce their own stereotypical subjects. For example, dominant media culture can render working class communities, like those living in Southend, as somehow lacking in supposed cultural capital. Condensed in this way, Essex boys and girls become ideal fodder for such things as reality TV, poverty porn and low budget gangster movies.

Nonetheless, wherever we locate the dominant norm, people can become alternatively inspired by what they learn through direct interactions with their local environment. For instance, as an alternative to experiencing culture through the mediation of a local authority press release in The Evening Echo, people can simultaneously negotiate their own experiences in contrast to the normative assumptions they are presented with. Profoundly, then, to be alive; to even exist, alterative cultures need to kick against a norm. As follows, Graham’s documentation of alternative fanzine culture works like an underground press since it only really makes sense if there’s a ‘mainstream’ to kick against. In other words, there is no alterative radical underground culture without a mainstream conservative set of conventions to rally against.

The recollections in this archive are mostly accounts from people producing their own kind of kicking cultures. These are people doing it for themselves, seizing the initiative, and often in less-than-ideal material circumstances. This is because the production of alternative fanzine culture necessitates innovation and street-savvy approaches to resources with near to zero budgets. Certainly, the relation between bottom-up cultural production and cost-cutting exploratory uses of technologies, like early photocopying machines, Letraset transfers and DTP, warrants its own alterative history. This kind of cultural labour requires a highly motivated and skilled worker with an extraordinary degree (not a BA!) of visual creativity. The accounts in this publication of people looking back on what motivated them to produce their fanzines is in itself a fascinating archive of alternative cultural enterprise. In an age when there’s a design app to reproduce every established aesthetic take, it’s remarkable to be reminded of what people with drive, ambition, and a little kick can do on a limited budget. We enjoyed the ride, we’re confident you will too.

Andrew Branch and Tony Sampson

Co-founders, along with Giles Tofield, of the Cultural Engine Research Group, incorporating Club Critical Theory

Essex, summer 2021

Free Market Radicals in Rochford, Essex 10th Sept

After a long break in our events programme, due to the pandemic, CERG are back with the first in a series of Free Market Radical events.

The first event takes place in Rochford, Essex on Friday 10th Sept where our guest speaker, Jon Cruddas MP, will help frame the localism debate (for details see postcard below). This is also an opportunity for people in the town to discuss the future of Rochford.

Free Market Radicals is a project that is focused on developing good ideas and providing support to local partners who want to do good things. It is focused on understand what ‘localism’ means given the challenges faced by towns and villages across the UK today. A lot has happened in the last few years, and certainly since Covid-19 that has changed the context for town and village centres. We are keen to share reports, concepts, ideas and theory that may be of interest for people that want to take action, and some of it may be helpful in making a case for support or investment.

CERG win two awards from UEL

The Cultural Engine Research Group picked up two awards for our community engagement work in June at the University of East London. The first was for ‘Glocal’ Engagement. The second for contribution to the local community through research and project work.

Next Silvertown Session 28th Nov on Youth and the Community

Youth in the Community

This Silvertown Session invites you to debate Youth in the Community from a range of viewpoints, including strategies for youth empowerment, critical thinking on youth crime prevention practice and neighbourhood policing, as well as local perspectives from community leaders on youth safety. We will also hear from Newman Council about the Mayor’s Youth Safety Board and invite you to have your say on these policies.

Join the Debate

Youth culture can play an incredibly important role in sustaining and reinventing the local community. Youth can bring together and refresh communities.

In the past decade, local communities have seen funding cuts to many youth services and crime prevention agencies supposed to help young people flourish and maintain stability in the community. The current rise in youth related violence is arguably a symptom of this decline leaving all of the community feeling increasingly unsafe.

Can this decline be reversed? There are some encouraging signs. The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, has ‘made youth safety a major priority’ in the borough. In 2018 she announced the launch of Youth Citizen Assemblies, enhanced activities and transformed services, including doubling the number of youth hubs. The local authority says they are ‘listening to… young people about their experiences living in the borough,’ asking them what they need to make them feel safe.

Come and join the debate on 28th November

Speakers

Prof William ‘Lez’ Henry (AKA British Reggae Deejay Lezlee Lyrix) was born in Lewisham, of Jamaican Parentage. He is a writer, poet and community activist. Lez has lectured nationally and internationally, featured in numerous documentaries and current affairs television and radio programmes and have written and published extensively on many of the concerns of the African Diaspora in the UK. 

Dr Anthony Gunter, Principal Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of East London and author of Race, Gangs and Violence: Policy, Prevention and Policing (2017), and Black Youth ‘Road Culture and Badness in an East London Neighbourhood (2010). He worked as a community and youth work practitioner for many years prior to entering academia.

Frances Winter is a Senior Policy Officer at the London Borough of Newham, where she focuses on policy relating to children and young people, and has this year been supporting the Mayor of Newham’s Youth Safety Board

Programme

Starts 7pm with food & drink in main hall

Throughout the programme there will be a creche and activities activities for young people provided by Fight for a Peace, RDLAC and the Woodcraft Folk. 

Talks begin in main hall

7.30pm Introduction to Silvertown Sessions (Andrew Branch and Joy Caron-Canter) 5mins

7.35pm Chair’s introductions (Tony Sampson)

7.40pm Guest speaker. Prof Lez Henry – Goal Models

8.05pm Q&A

Panel talks

8.10pm – Frances Winter (Newham Council) on the Mayor’s Youth Safety Board)

8.20pm Dr Anthony Gunter (UEL)

8.30pm short intros by youth work panel

Led by Joy Caron-Canter (RDLAC)

8.40pm Q&A all

8.50pm Break – with food, drink with demonstration by Fight for Peace

9.20pm audience Q&A

End 10pm 

Invite to the next In the City seminar at UEL’s USS building on Weds November 6th

VIRALITY

The next In the City seminar is at UEL’s USS building on Weds November 6th

The Municipal Commons: Urban governance and the idea of community

After nearly a decade of austerity-led neglect, many local urban communities are struggling to cope with the erosion of important services that help to bring them together. Amid all the gloom, however, there are a few encouraging signs on the horizon. Local authorities like Preston and Newham have engaged with the concept of community wealth building and its aim to produce inclusive and seemingly democratic local economies [1]. Similarly, while under economic pressure to grow student numbers and become global players, universities are also being asked to consider how their research can engage with, and impact on, the places in which they are located [2]. Certainly, in contrast to the metrics intended to gauge the global reach of academic work, these institutions need to…

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Next CERG Event: Valuing subcultural histories: the politics of curatorial practice

Date and Time

Wed, July 17, 2019

6:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Pub On The Park

19 Martello Street

London

E8 3PE

Register

Was the cultural commentator, Jacques Peretti correct when he accused retro obsessed ‘cultural necrophiliacs’ of vampirically draining subcultures of their youthful vitality? In enduring the nostalgic proclamations of these middle-aged reactionaries as they assert ownership of a self-proclaimed legacy of radical politics, what does it mean to witness yet another launch event for an institutionalised celebration of an ‘underground’, ‘edgy’ youth tribe? Conversely, how can current dispossessed youth acquire an authorial voice when its public value is limited to news fodder for a rabid right-wing press cynically seeking scapegoats in austerity Britain? Who would want to be young now?

This latest Cultural Engine Research Group event, chaired by Dr Andrew Branch (CERG, UEL), will address these questions by focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing curators of British youth subcultures and how we might usefully define the concept itself. Invited speakers will debate how curatorial bodies can reflexively engage with academics whose work documents the politics of youth subcultural practice, past and present, and why these legacies matter.

Speakers

Iain Aitch
Iain Aitch is an author, journalist and artist whose work looks at the social history of the working class. He is a Director of Rendezvous Projects and is currently working on a book and exhibition about beauty queens. Of particular relevance for this event, Iain has been artist and writer in residence at Turner Contemporary, Margate, producing a photographic show about subcultures as a} result of working with those living in the town and identifying with its subversive heritage. This work was shown alongside work by Banksy, Bowie and Warhol.

Dr Andrew Calcutt
Since graduating 40 years ago, Andrew Calcutt has been a record producer (praised by radio djs John Peel and Charlie Gillett), magazine journalist (his byline appeared in Arena, Blueprint, Living Marxism and The Modern Review, to name but a few), broadcaster (from BBC Radio Four’s Moral Maze to Channel 4’s Zeitgeist), digital pioneer (commissioning editor for Channel Cyberia and award-winning Cscape), and prolific author of a host of books on culture and society, including Fictitious Capital: London After recession, White Noise, Cult Fiction, BritCult, and his own ‘cult classic’ from the 1990s, Arrested Development: pop culture and the erosion of adulthood, which has just been reissued by Bloomsbury. Andrew teaches at all levels of the University of East London’s BA Journalism programme. His research interests include the regeneration of East London and the remaking of journalism. Twenty years ago he coined the term ‘hackademic’ to describe his own transition from journalism to academia.

Dr William Henry
Born in Lewisham of Jamaican parentage, William Henry DJs as British Reggae icon Lezlee Lyrix, as well as being a writer, poet and community activist. Lez’s experience of formal education has taken him from access course student to teaching and researching at the University of West London in his current role as Associate Professor of sociology and anthropology. He is what Gramsci would have identified as an organic intellectual. Lez also has a passion for karate, which reminds us of Pierre Bourdieu’s definition of sociology as a martial art: a tool used by the dominated to defend themselves against the dominant.

Dr Sarah Raine
Sarah Raine is a Research Fellow at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR). Having completed a funded PhD at BCU on the contemporary northern soul scene, she is now an AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow, working in partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival on their Keychange (PRS Foundation) initiative pledge. Sarah is a founding member and co-manages Riffs, a journal run by the staff and students of the BCMCR. She is also the Review Editor for Popular Music History.

Prof Matt Worley
Author of numerous highly-rated journal articles and books, Matt Worley’s (Reading University) interests lie in the field of subcultural histories, and how British youth practice has responded to the divergent political discourse shaping post-war Britain. His most recent book is No future: punk, politics and British youth culture, 1976-1984. Matt has also worked regularly outside of the academy, collaborating recently with the artist, Scott King on the project, Crash! Nostalgia for the Jet Age. His current project is curating the complex histories of British fanzine cultures during and beyond first-wave punk.

Music and visuals on the night. Food avaliable to order, with private outdoor space and bar open until 12am.

Silvertown Session on Community Wealth Building

9th May

The Cultural Engine Research Group (UEL) and the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre present:

The Silvertown Sessions on Community Wealth Building

Date: Thurs 9th May, 7-10.30pm

Venue: Royal Docks Learning & Activity Centre, Albert Road, North Woolwich E16 2J

Admission: Free

———————————————————–

Why does money made in the local community not stay in the community?

Why does global corporate competitiveness always come before local co-operation?

How might the local economy improve if local authorities, universities and businesses procured their products and services from local traders rather than global corporations?

Could these changes increase jobs and bring prosperity closer to home?

Since the 2008 global economic crash many local communities have been devastated by austerity. Brutal cuts to local spending have left already deprived communities with emaciated services and struggling local economies. This event invites you to consider Community Wealth Building as a possible alternative to the broken austerity agenda.

Programme

7pm: Welcome reception with local food and drink

Introduction to the Silvertown Sessions: Dr Tony Sampson (CERG) and Joy Caron-Canter (RDLAC)

7.30: Session one discussion chaired Dr Andrew Branch (CERG)

Framing the Concept: Giles Tofield (CERG)

Guest Talk on the Preston Model by Dr Julian Manley (UCLAN)

Responses from Dan Durcan (Senior Policy Officer, London Borough of Newham) and Chris Abell (Local Affairs Manager, Tate and Lyle)

Audience Q&A

9pm: Break with more local food and drink

9.30pm: Session two facilitated workshops with local community, traders, academics, local authority, academics

Open discussion

10.30pm close

The next Silvertown Session will discuss Youth Wellbeing in the Local Community. See https://cerg.blog/ for more details.

Silvertown Sessions on Community Wealth Building, 9th May 2019 – programme update

The Cultural Engine Research Group (UEL) and the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre present:

The Silvertown Sessions on Community Wealth Building

Date: Thurs 9th May, 7-10.30pm

Venue: Royal Docks Learning & Activity Centre, Albert Road, North Woolwich E16 2J

Admission: Free

———————————————————–

Why does money made in the local community not stay in the community?

Why does global corporate competitiveness always come before local co-operation?

How might the local economy improve if local authorities, universities and businesses procured their products and services from local traders rather than global corporations?

Could these changes increase jobs and bring prosperity closer to home?

Since the 2008 global economic crash many local communities have been devastated by austerity. Brutal cuts to local spending have left already deprived communities with emaciated services and struggling local economies.

This event invites you to consider Community Wealth Building as a possible alternative to the broken austerity agenda.

Programme

7pm: Welcome reception with local food and drink

Introduction to the Silvertown Sessions: Dr Tony Sampson (CERG) and Joy Caron-Canter (RDLAC)

7.30: Session one discussion chaired Dr Andrew Branch (CERG)

Framing the Concept: Giles Tofield (CERG)

Guest Talk on the Preston Model by Dr. Julian Manley (UCLAN)

dr_julian_manley

Responses from Dan Durcan (Senior Policy Officer, London Borough of Newham) and Chris Abell (Local Affairs Manager, Tate and Lyle)

Audience Q&A

9pm: Break with more local food and drink

9.30pm: Session two facilitated workshops with local community, traders, academics, local authority, academics

Open discussion

10.30pm close

Advanced Reading:

Could a grassroots development approach help address inequality?

Julian Manley explains the concept behind the Preston model, and how worker-owned co-operatives supported by major local players could help empower communities.

in the Guardian “In an era of brutal cuts, one ordinary place has the imagination to fight back.”