A Special Relationship? Irish Popular Music in Britain

Call for papers
Northumbria University in conjunction with the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster
27-28 June 2012

Ireland and Britain share in large measure a common, if disputed, history. Ireland is, of course, a former colony of Britain, and Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom so that one of the conundrums of the Irish experience is that it is both post-colonial and neo-colonial; national and regional; periphery and centre. Irish popular music, therefore, displays a complex set of sometimes contradictory characteristics, and Irish artists and musicians work within and against such an intricate web of social, economic, political and cultural influences that their art and music raises dizzying questions about national identity.

Irish musicians in Britain offer an interesting case study for wider debates about identity and cultural expression, as the Irish have been frequently caught between the two poles of assimilation – too alike for difference to matter (and naturalised into honorary Anglo-Americanism) – and ethnic difference (condemned to a narrowly defined ‘Irishness’).

‘A Special Relationship? Irish popular music in Britain’ focuses on the complex relationship of Irish musicians and bands, music journalists and other industry personnel to British popular music culture more generally. The conference is inspired by the publication in 2011 of Sean Campbell’s important book, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’: Second-Generation Irish Musicians in England (Cork University Press), which won Hot Press magazine’s ‘Music Book of the Year’ – a rare accolade for an academic text.

The conference seeks to build upon this book and invites papers exploring any aspect of Irish popular music in Britain and the popular cultural aspects of the Irish diasporic experience. Topics might include:

– British music press and Irish musicians and bands;
– The role of Irish writers in the British music press;
– Case studies of Irish musicians in Britain, whether traditional, folk, pop, rock and from any era (from the Nolans to The Virgin Prunes; Victorian ballads to boy-bands in the ’90s; Val Doonican to Boy George);
– The issue of Irish rock in exile (Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, etc.).

We also welcome a broad range of critical approaches: cultural history, textual analysis, post-colonial, musicological, and so forth.

A selection of papers from the conference will appear in a special issue of the journal Popular Music History. Keynote speakers include Dr Sean Campbell (Irish Blood, English Heart), Dave Laing (One Chord Wonders) and Professor Martin McLoone (Rock and Popular Music in Ireland). The conference will be held at Northumbria University’s City Campus in Newcastle city centre and in the city’s culture quarter, the Ouseburn Valley.

Please send a brief abstract to noel.mclaughlin@northumbria.ac.uk on, or
before, April 10th 2012.