Bass Culture


What influence has Jamaican music had on British music and British culture? Mark Banks is a co-investigator on a new three-year AHRC project led by Mykaell Riley and the Black Music Research Unit (BMRU) at the University of Westminster. Bass Culture explores the culture, history and economy of Jamaican music in Britain through a series of collaborations between academics and community researchers. The project involves oral history and archival research, community film-making, conferences and events and includes partnerships with the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) and the British Library.

Care, reciprocity and value in a threatened site of cultural work

How might we understand the affective dimension of the work and subjectivity of cultural intermediaries? Using interview and observational data generated during the run-up to the closure of an independent video rental store, this study will explore the negotiation of cultural and economic logics and investments within a threatened business setting. Key interests will include the framing of work in relation to an ethics of care founded upon notions of community and reciprocity, the handling of financial interactions within the space, and discussion of the economic challenges of sustaining the business within a changing media and technological landscape. By focusing on the closure of a small enterprise, the study also seeks to explore the analytical productivity of attending to endings in the study of cultural economy.

(Counter)Narratives of neoextractivism in Argentina: mapping creative resistance

Resistance to extractive activities such as fossil fuel extraction and mining in Argentina comes from different regions of the country and takes multiple forms, from frontline communities standing against fracking in the province of Neuquén, to performance-based art activism in Buenos Aires, and to a thriving alternative media scene that denounces corporations, neo-imperialism and the destruction of the environment. Movements against the extractive industries vary from localised to nation-wide, and concentrate on a range of issues such as the environment, indigenous land rights, health and corruption. This project, funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant will study current forms of opposition to the extractive economic model in Argentina by focusing on the creative processes of protest, art and media production, looking at how various complex and intersecting narratives on extractivism are formed and performed by different sectors of society through these manifestations. This two-year project will combine interviews, media analysis and participant observation, as well as collaborations with local organisations and researchers at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Creative industries, diversity and austerity - CIDA

The arts sector is culturally and economically vital to the Midlands. However, little is known about the challenges that artistic practitioners face during these times of austerity, nor what could be done to support them. Funding cuts and the wider effects of austerity are having multifaceted impacts on artists and cultural workers, particularly those without secure employment contracts or stable sources of income. Austerity is therefore likely to be particularly challenging for women, BAME people, disabled and working class workers as well as those with caring responsibilities, which is why CIDA focuses on the relationship between austerity and workforce diversity.

CIDA studies the lived experience of creative lives under austerity and how austerity affects access and participation. CIDA Project’s East Midlands Artists Survey is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant and is being conducted in association with The Mighty Creatives (TMC), the Arts Council England bridge organisation for the East Midlands.

Dance Music Scenes and the Night Time Economy

In 2014, Daniel Allington led a research project that combined interview and observational research in London’s electronic music scenes with ‘big data’ statistical research on the SoundCloud website. Both sides of this research led to the same conclusion: that despite the exciting possibilities of digital distribution, place-based music scenes remain crucially important, and that certain real-world locations are privileged above others, with London – and indeed, particular parts of London – being especially favoured. For CAMEo, Daniel will be meeting with researchers and stakeholder in order to design a new research project investigating:

  • the need for specific characteristics of place in order for music scenes to develop
  • the ways in which place can make scenes vulnerable (e.g. through licensing difficulties and rising rents), and
  • the potential of digital communications networks to contribute to place-making and the formation of music scenes.

Diversity meta-analysis for the British Film Institute

Workforce diversity in the screen industries is a key concern for the British Film Institute (BFI) across all of its major activities including film production funding, audience development and film education, and film heritage. The BFI seeks to develop policies and initiatives that support strong and talent-rich screen industries that can attract, retain and progress a diverse workforce. To underpin the BFI’s policies and initiatives CAMEo is delivering a meta-analysis of current research on workforce diversity in the screen sectors. The analysis will establish evidence on the current state of workforce diversity in the screen sectors, evidence on interventions to improve workforce diversity and evidence on the business, cultural and social case for improving workforce diversity.

Document: making and marking time in artistic careers

How do artists reflect on their work and understand their own career trajectories and development? Document is a two-year project created by the East Midlands Contemporary Visual Arts Network, which works with six artists to provide a context for them to reflect on their working life, and engage in activity that documents their own personal and professional development. Mark Banks has recently joined the advisory group of this project, and Paula Serafini will be conducting research with the Document artists about their working practices, career paths, and time.

Labourers of love: photographers and videographers in the British South-Asian wedding industries

This project examines the forms of cultural and aesthetic labour entailed in the production of British South-Asian wedding photography and videography. The wedding industries have been identified as second only to the restaurant and catering sector in terms of successful South-Asian entrepreneurship in the UK, and yet they remain significantly under-researched. Central to this growing industry are videographers who are employed to produce spectacular, expensive and ‘cinematic’ films of ceremonies, using complex equipment such as multiple cameras, glide tracks, jibs, cranes, drones, and radio mics. Alongside their technical expertise, Asian wedding videography companies also position themselves as cultural experts in specific categories of weddings: for example Muslim, Sikh, Gujarati, or Pakistani. This project, based on interviews with wedding videographers in the Midlands of England, will explore how these cultural workers understand their own embodied, gendered and subjective labour practices, the symbolic goods they produce, and their role as both economic subjects and cultural intermediaries – all within a context of ‘contested multiculturalism’ whereby different South Asian groups are unequally invited into the project of ‘Britishness’ (Malik, 2013).

Matters of care or matters of aesthetic? An investigation in Vietnamese art and design

The goal of this project is to understand the complex social and material relationships between artists, incubators, the city and government in the context of Vietnamese art and design. Inspired by STS, it analyses how art, design and aesthetics are relational - how they are co-constituted by socio-cultural values in their context – including values of care. Care is seen an ontological requirement of relational worlds, part of the ‘doings needed to create, hold together and sustain life’s essential heterogeneity’ (Puig de la Bellasca, 2012, p. 198), and so analysing how economies of art and design hold together through relations of care is at the heart of this inquiry. Other key questions include: how are Vietnamese art and design emerging and engaging with the social and technical? How are Vietnamese art and design relating to the global market? What constitute the values of Vietnamese art and design - and how do these translate or travel? What is the role of designers and artists in this process? The project will use participant observations and interviews with Vietnamese artists and designers and is facilitated by The British Council in Vietnam.

Optimal design of unemployment insurance for artists

This project is concerned with France’s system of subsidies for unemployed artists. Lack of such systems in other countries is usually due to the fact that artists supply their labour in self-employment or via temporary/non-standard contracts which are considered hard to regulate. Additional concerns for policy makers include the potential moral hazard problem and the cost of eligibility verification. The authors aim to build a model for artists’ insurance based on the French case and their previous work. Key questions here include: firstly, what are the inefficiencies induced by the lack of insurance? Secondly, is a self-financing, balanced-budget system able to implement the best market outcome? Thirdly, how does the provision of insurance affects sorting of individuals into ``creative occupations’’.

The reception of female directors in contemporary Hollywood

This project is concerned with interrogating how cultural and media economies of female directors are created through the reception of their work and their treatment by the mainstream media. The research will analyse how power/gender structures are reinforced – and challenged – through the media treatment of Hollywood’s female directors. In so doing this project will contribute to wider discourses concerning cultural economies and how these are bound up in issues of gender, privilege and taste cultures. . At present there is no overview of the work of Hollywood’s most prominent female directors (such as Nancy Meyers, Kathryn Bigelow, Nora Ephron, Katherine Hardwick and Sam Taylor-Wood). In a context in which the treatment of women in Hollywood is called into question by both academic critique and the mainstream press, this project will seek to unpick the ways in which the critical and popular discourse surrounding female directors, and their films, actually works to enhance gender divisions.

Where am I? BME role models and leaders in the performing arts

Workers of black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds are under-represented in the cultural industries workforce. This AHRC-funded Clore Leadership Programme project explores the implications of this under-representation for BAME workers’ career aspirations. It will particularly focus on the importance of BAME role models for developing a more diverse workforce. If the arts and culture represent overwhelmingly white, middle class, male aesthetics, history, values and thinking, how are BAME workers to value their own ideas, stories and ambitions? What would a world look and feel like if leaders in arts and culture came from all kinds of backgrounds? If there were more black ballet dancers, a female Asian artistic director of the National Theatre, more BAME drama workshop leaders in schools? Would this encourage a more diverse arts workforce?

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