An event to celebrate the launch of a book co-edited by Senior Lecturers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, Lee Brooks, Mark Donnelly and Richard Mills, was held at the House of Commons last week.
The event saw a panel, which was chaired by Rupa Huq MP, discuss Mad Dogs and Englishness: Popular Music and English Identities in front of a packed audience that included MPs, musicians and actors.
The panel included Paolo Hewitt, writer and author of Bowie: Album by Album (2013); Stephen Mallinder, academic, writer and founder member of Cabaret Voltaire; Robert Henrit, former drummer with The Kinks; and Carey Fleiner, academic and author of The Kinks: A Thoroughly English Phenomenon (2017), who also authored one of the chapters in the volume.
The Bloomsbury Academic collection connects popular music with questions about English national identities. Case studies include Bowie and Burial, PJ Harvey, Cabaret Voltaire, The Kinks, Bishi and Tricky, with each chapter based on original research; Taken as a whole, the volume represents a key text on the intersection of popular music and the English imaginary.
The event was organised by Richard Mills and Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Media at St Mary’s Jon Hackett, each of whom are chapter authors, and Mel Crosby from the office of Rupa Huq MP.
The audience featured a number of Members of Parliament including Sharon Hodgson MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Alex Sobel MP, Ian Paisley MP and Lord Jones, many of whom made valuable and knowledgeable contributions to the discussion.
The panel of Paolo, Stephen, Robert and Carey were articulate, insightful and authoritative in contextualising several decades of popular music production in terms of wider debates about English cultural identity as a contested concept.
A wide-ranging discussion ensued, noting the influence at varying times on the British pop sensibility of phenomena as disparate as variety, music hall and skiffle; US soul music and German music of the 1970s; gender, class and accent; hybrid identities; and nostalgia and exile.
Rupa Huq MP, who wrote the foreword to the edited collection, drew on her own extensive knowledge of popular music culture in her perceptive questions to the panel.
Richard said, “After a thought-provoking panel, the discussion on Englishness and pop continued in a convivial atmosphere with academics, and book contributors, Dene October, Abigail Gardner, Johnny Hopkins, Christian Lloyd and Shara Rambarran. The broad appeal of the book was typified by the presence of scholars, music fans, musicians and actors, including the singer and Little Voice star, Jane Horrocks.”