Music Book of the Year

In REF 2014 our University made its first submission to UoA36: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies. This submission comprised cutting-edge research on contemporary cinema, popular culture and social media. It was highly regarded by the REF panel (70% of outputs were rated 4* or 3*), with the Times Higher ranking it at 15 out of 67 submissions (in the subject area) for Research Intensity.

A key output – and example of impact – in the submission, was Dr Sean Campbell’s book, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’: Second-Generation Irish Musicians in England. Based on extensive archival research of print and audio-visual media – as well as original interviews with the key musicians (including Kevin Rowland, Shane MacGowan and Johnny Marr) – the book explores the creative ways in which trans-cultural identities have been conceived in popular culture. Funded by an AHRC Research Leave Award, the book was named Music Book of the Year in the Sunday Times. It was described by Simon Frith as ‘a subtle and sophisticated scholarly contribution to popular music and Irish studies’ as well as ‘a fine and exciting account of how music can be used to make sense of the complexity, anxiety and exhilaration of contemporary cultural identities.’

Dr Campbell engaged in a range of media activities and public talks to enable the effective sharing of his research, publishing a full-page article in the Irish Times and giving interviews to BBC Radio Four and BBC Radio Two. The findings were presented to high-profile figures from politics, media and music at a range of venues, including the Irish Embassy in London.

He also acted as Series Advisor on a six-part television documentary series that drew on the book. The series reached an audience of 500,000, and met with positive reviews and public responses, indicating it had enriched appreciation of culture. The series also informed public debates about hybrid identities, with newspaper articles on this topic directly citing the material presented in the series. Thus, this research unit ensured that its scholarly work – through newspaper articles, public talks, radio interviews and TV documentary series – had a wide public reach.

We have continued to produce high-quality work on contemporary film/television, social media and popular culture. Our researchers are planning to collaborate with other institutions – and to continue their engagement with the public and mainstream media – through the activities of ARC Media (Anglia Research Centre in Media & Culture), a dedicated ‘hub’ for the vibrant research work of this dynamic new unit.