Cinemagoing, Film Experience and Memory

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 18 Jan, 2017 10:41:49
Memory Studies Special Issue: Cinemagoing, Film Experience and Memory
Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2017

Annette Kuhn, Daniel Biltereyst and Philippe Meers (issue editors)



Annette Kuhn, Daniel Biltereyst and Philippe Meers
Memories of cinemagoing and film experience: An introduction

Jacqueline Maingard
Cinemagoing in District Six, Cape Town, 1920s to 1960s: History, politics, memory

José Carlos Lozano
Film at the border: Memories of cinemagoing in Laredo, Texas

Lucie Česálková
'Feel the film': Film projectionists and professional memory

Pierluigi Ercole, Daniela Treveri Gennari and Catherine O’Rawe
Mapping cinema memories: Emotional geographies of cinemagoing in Rome in the

Melvyn Stokes and Matthew Jones
Windows on the world: Memories of European cinema in 1960s Britain


'Film Culture: Brno, 1945 – 1970.' The History of Distribution, Reception and Exhibition, Reviewed by Alice Lovejoy

John Seamon, /Memory and Movies: What Films Can Teach Us about Memory/, Reviewed by Ian O'Loughlin

CarrieLynn Reinhard and Christopher Olson (eds.), /Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship/, Reviewed byEmma Pett

Karina Aveyard,/The Lure of the Big Screen: Cinema in Rural Australia and the United Kingdom/, Reviewed by Julia Bohlmann

Marcia Landy, /Cinema and Counter-History/, Reviewed by Mélisande Leventopoulos

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New Book - Co-habiting with Ghosts Knowledge, Experience, Belief and the Domestic Uncanny

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 30 Mar, 2015 17:12:26

Co-habiting with Ghosts: Knowledge, Experience, Belief and the Domestic Uncanny

Caron Lipman (Ashgate, 2014)

How does it feel to live in a ‘haunted home’? How do people negotiate their everyday lives with the experience of uncanny, anomalous or strange events within the domestic interior? What do such experiences reveal of the intersection between the material, immaterial and temporal within the home? How do people interpret, share and narrate experiences which are uncertain and unpredictable? What does this reveal about contested beliefs and different forms of knowledge? And about how people ‘co-habit’ with ghosts, a distinctive self - other relationship within such close quarters?

This book sets out to explore these questions. It applies a non-reductive middle-ground approach which steers beyond an uncritical exploration of supernatural experiences without explaining them away by recourse only to wider social and cultural contexts. The book attends to the ways in which households in England and Wales understand their experience of haunting in relation to ideas of subjectivity, gender, materiality, memory, knowledge and belief. It explores home as a place both dynamic and differentiated, illuminating the complexity of ‘everyday’ experience - the familiarity of the strange as well as the strangeness of the familiar - and the ways in which home continues to be configured as a distinctive space.

Contents: Approaching the ghost. Part I Spaces and Times of the Haunted Home: The material uncanny; The temporalities of the haunted home. Part II Strategies of Cohabitation: Embodying, domesticating, gendering the ghost; Strategies of distance and communication. Part III Belief, Knowledge and Experience: Knowledge and uncertainty; Belief, evidence and experience; Conclusion: the liminal home/self; Appendix: the households; References; Index.

About the Author: Dr Caron Lipman is Research Fellow at the School of Geography, University of London, UK.

Reviews: ‘Most people have heard of ghosts: popular culture is full of them. Many people will know of someone who has seen a ghost or had a ghostly experience. Sometimes, people feel haunted, whether by tragedy or by a sense of loss. But, for a few, paranormal activity is normal activity. People do not just live with ghosts as a cultural or metaphorical or emotional figure: they actually live with ghosts. In this extraordinary book, Caron Lipman deals with extraordinary phenomena in ordinary life, in the home. Rich in testimony, ever sensitive to people’s experience, she reveals how the people who live with ghosts learn to accommodate them - and how, consequently, we all deal with strangers and strangeness in our lives.’
Steve Pile, The Open University, UK

‘What does it mean to share your home with a ghost? Caron Lipman’s answers to this question are thought-provoking and insightful. Foregrounding people’s own experiences and beliefs in her exploration of the uncertain boundary between material and immaterial geographies, she challenges much current thinking about home and subjectivity in this highly original and beautifully written book.’
Ann Varley, UCL (University College London), UK

'Large portions of this book, especially the interviews with the experients, will be of great interest to students of folklore, and should be of interest to psychical researchers and one often gets the sense that there are important insights here'. The Magonia Review of Books

Society and Space review: http://societyandspace.com/reviews/reviews-archive/lipman/

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Popular Cultural Memory Post-Savile

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 18 Dec, 2014 17:36:00

In the two years that have passed since the broadcast of the ITV documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy in October 2012 the impact of the posthumous revelations about the scale and depravity of Jimmy Savile’s crimes, which precipitated the launch of the police investigation Operation Yewtree, has been far-reaching. At the beginning of December, Ray Teret, a DJ and long-standing friend of Savile was the latest public figure to be found guilty of sexual abuse allegations that stretched back decades. And just this week yet another former Radio 1 DJ, Chris Denning, was convicted of the sexual abuse of young boys in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Other household names that have similarly fallen precipitously from grace include musician and entertainer Rolf Harris, DJ Dave Lee Travis, radio and television presenter Stuart Hall, and the public relations advisor Max Clifford. That the likes of Savile, Harris, Hall and, to a lesser extent, Travis have at various times all been prominent fixtures in British popular culture has meant that their ‘legacy’ as entertainers and celebrities – for decades so indelibly entwined with the BBC and its broadcasting heritage – now casts a much darker shadow; a legacy that is no less part of this putative ‘heritage’, however much audiences may now wish to erase it from the nation’s collective memory banks.

In August the near fever-pitch excitement that greeted Kate Bush’s first live performances since 1979 was marred only by the realisation that Rolf Harris’s contribution to Bush’s 2005 album Aerial (and 1982’s The Dreaming) might now be seen in a different and altogether less palatable light (Harris was convicted in June for a series of indecent assaults). If programming one’s CD player or iPod to skip (or delete) the offending tracks offers one way of ‘wiping’ a now despoiled musical legacy, then it is a formula similar to that which TV programmers and archivists have found themselves increasingly having to adopt. Such are the expectations placed upon broadcasters to ensure that all archival traces of Savile and his ilk remain buried in the vaults (outside, that is, of the discursive context of their shaming), that when an otherwise innocuous item slips through (as with the impersonation of Savile that appeared in a repeated episode of the children’s television programme The Tweenies) it is almost as if BBC heads are expected to roll.

In its capacity as curator of Britain’s televised popular music heritage, the BBC’s reliance on a seemingly inexhaustible supply of archival footage to draw on for inexpensive nostalgia programming content has, post-Savile, been severely tested. From 2011, BBC4 started repeating weekly episodes of the long-running BBC chart show Top of the Pops originally aired in 1976. The brief was relatively straightforward: the repeats would mirror those transmitted twenty-five years earlier with episodes shown in succession on a week-by-week basis. However, the appearance of regular hosts Savile and Travis, or disgraced 1970s pop star Gary Glitter (who has convictions for child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography) has resulted in certain episodes having to be omitted. In the wake of the Savile scandal in 2012 the then BBC4 controller Richard Klein considered axing the classic re-runs from the 1970s, but in response to reportedly ‘overwhelming’ public demand he decided to maintain the repeats ‘for the foreseeable future’. The more pragmatic calculation that, on balance, there was still a sufficient amount of unsullied archival material to draw on no doubt also informed Klein’s decision: ‘Looking at it, we decided we will not be showing either the DLT or Jimmy Savile fronted shows but that left us plenty of Top of the Pops to show’.

Not that any of this can, of course, be confined just to Top of the Pops. Indeed, an episode of Savile’s own Clunk Click programme from the 1970s, featuring Savile and Gary Glitter ‘helping themselves’ to a group of girls from the studio audience, makes for particularly disturbing viewing. But just as the Savile scandal and others like it bring the wider culture, customs and practices of the BBC as an institution into the frame of discussion and debate, so too does consideration of these otherwise ‘aberrant’ or isolated cases throw a critical spotlight across the wider broadcasting landscape and culture of the 1960s and 70s. As much as it is easy or desirable to heap the pathological dysfunction squarely on the perpetrators themselves, there is nevertheless a broader societal context that has bearing on questions of why or how such actions were able to be perpetrated at such a scale over such long periods (especially in view of the fact that, as many testimonies have since demonstrated, there was considerable rumour and suspicion about what was going on as far back, in the case of Savile, as the 1960s).

If framed just in terms of ‘the 1970s’, there has emerged, post-Savile, a sense that the decade itself can or perhaps should be held to account in order to fully expunge certain values, cultural norms and attitudes which ‘we’ (i.e. those who inhabit the 2010s) now recognise as completely and utterly abhorrent. Such temporal ‘othering’, while on the one hand functioning to demarcate a clear line of acceptability and unacceptability, on the other carries with it the risk of complacency insofar as what has been morally consigned to an earlier era is deemed to be something from which the 2010s have become in some way immune. A barometer by which these shifts in attitudes towards a more ambivalent sense of a popular cultural past can be measured (at least in part) is that of ‘nostalgia’.

Nostalgia shows have become a staple of television programme schedules, not least for the appeal they offer to broadcasters looking to plunder the archive for cheap recyclable content (and for whom ‘the past’ is an inexhaustible commodity that just keeps on giving). Programmes such as BBC’s I Love the 70s (or their 1980s or 90s variants) have since the early 2000s traded on a reflective nostalgia that music journalist Simon Reynolds has dubbed ‘retromania’. Despite its adherence to the same formulaic narrative style (consisting of celebrity ‘talking heads’ commenting on items or programme clips the producers had pre-selected), a marked departure from the genre was the recent Channel Four two-part documentary It Was Alright in the 1970s¸ broadcast in November 2014. The playful and irreverent take on all things ‘retro’ that was evident in I Love the 1970s gives way, in It Was Alright in the 1970s to an examination of the social and cultural mores of decade now seen through the prism of Savile and Operation Yewtree. Whereas in the earlier nostalgia shows questions of taste were typically pitched on aesthetic and kitsch terms, in this more recent example what is considered ‘distasteful’ relates more to prevailing attitudes of sexism, homophobia and racism. Participants are shown responding to footage taken from a range of 1970s television programmes (The Black and White Mistrels Show, Benny Hill, and Casanova ’73, to name but a few), their reactions typically ranging from jaw-dropping disbelief, to stunned silence or comic outrage. Despite the title, and overshadowed by the legacy of Savile, the shift in tone that is evident in the programme seems to stem from the realisation that things were clearly far from alright in the 1970s and that, with more prosecutions still to come and the reputation (and potential complicity) of the BBC under forensic scrutiny (the Dame Janet Smith Review is due in early 2015), the extent to which it wasn’t so has yet to fully unravel.

As well as the convictions of Teret and Denning that have been in the news over the last couple of weeks, these issues have lurched their way back into my thoughts of late partly through the process of preparing a lecture called ‘Retromania! Popular Culture and Nostalgia’ as part of the new third year module Mediating the Past I am teaching. However unpalatable the subject matter, the issues raised nevertheless touch on debates surrounding the flip side of cultural memory – namely ‘erasure’ and the cultural politics of forgetting – and also the way in which a critical focus on nostalgia can shed valuable insights into the ambivalent relationships that bind present and past popular mediascapes.

Another factor that has prompted the reflections that have developed into this blog entry is the recent publication of the edited collection Sites of Popular Music Heritage (Routledge, 2014), which I co-edited with Sara Cohen and Marion Leonard from the School of Music, and Rob Knifton, formerly a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Music and now based at Kingston University. In the book, Sara and I contribute a chapter called ‘Unveiling Memory: Blue Plaques as In/tangible Markers of Popular Music Heritage’ that briefly discusses the Savile case, albeit in the context of material markers of heritage and memory. As with the process of ‘unmarking’ or erasing memory in the digital domain, the removal of heritage plaques becomes a deeply symbolic gesture in itself. In the case of Savile, a plaque that had been erected at his former home in North Yorkshire by Scarborough Civic Society was removed by the local authorities who also stripped Savile of all other honours that had been bestowed on him over the years. This official gesture followed on from the display of more ‘unofficial’ gestures in the form of graffiti that had been daubed on the memorial plaque. Alongside the words ‘philanthropist and entertainer lived here’ had been added ‘paedophile’ and ‘rapist’. In addition to this, and to complete the official dishonouring of the former television star, Savile’s ostentatious headstone was removed and dumped in a skip to be used as landfill, leaving the body lying in an unmarked grave.

Lastly, Savile reared his ugly head once more recently when revisiting the Merseybeat-era film Ferry Cross the Mersey (Jeremy Summers, 1965), in which he appears in a lengthy scene shot in the Locarno Ballroom (now The Liverpool Olympia). The film has been little seen since its 1960s release (nor has it been officially released on video or DVD) and in this respect the appearance of Savile will have no doubt sealed its fate for good. That said, despite or because of this I would be interested to gauge what local public reaction to the film is or would be, if for no other reason that it is one of the few Liverpool feature films made in the 1960s and as such is an important part of the city’s filmic (and Merseybeat) heritage, irrespective of any cinematic or aesthetic merits (it has few) or its corrosive association with Savile. While the temptation to bury the film for good or edit out the scenes involving Savile is certainly a valid and persuasive option, a more honest and appropriate response would be to recognise it as a part of a legacy or heritage that, warts and all, is what it is. In this respect – and if, as I hope, a public screening can be organised – the film might provide a focus of discussion that productively explores the role of nostalgia and cultural memory – in all its facets and forms – in shaping narratives of a city’s popular cultural past and the ways these are refracted through the mediascapes of the present.

Les Roberts

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Museum of Important Shit

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 16 Sep, 2014 13:13:57
A side venture that has emerged from the Nick Cave film project '20000 Days on Earth' is a virtual museum called 'Museum of Important Shit'. Its creators are the film's directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. It is a happy coincidence from my window on the world given that the new module I am writing called 'Mediating the Past' includes a practical exercise where students are required to curate and upload their own virtual shit (i.e. memories and pop culture memorabilia). I am very much looking forward to seeing the film this week as well...

Forsyth and Pollard explain the background to the museum project below:

"This virtual Museum catalogues the things that remind us of those transformative moments that make us who we are, and unlocks the stories connected to them.

This whole thing started with an old piece of chewing gum. Seriously.

We were shooting the film and Nick told us this spine-tingling story. Nina Simone had been a nightmare backstage at one of her final gigs. But when she walked on and sat down, she took the gum from her mouth and stuck it on the piano, and… transformed. It was one of those rare moments. Nick felt the gears of his heart change. We’ve all had experiences like this.

A few weeks later, we’re shooting another scene. Nick is asking bandmate Warren Ellis if he remembers that Nina Simone gig. Warren interrupts: “I have that gum” he says. And he really does. A pathetic looking dirty piece of gum, wrapped in a towel.

As Nick says in the film, "It’s shit, but it’s important shit. And that’s what this Museum is all about. We might not all have the masticated detritus of a jazz legend tucked away, but we all accumulate objects that have little financial value, but they hold the stories of the things that make us who we are. The Museum will unlock these transformative moments that define our very being. We urge you to share them with us, with the Museum, with the world."

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
London, September 2014.


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Will Self: has English Heritage ruined Stonehenge?

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 26 Jun, 2014 20:27:07
Interesting article by Will Self on English Heritage and the newly opened Stonehenge visitor centre.

The summer solstice, King Arthur, the Holy Grail … Stonehenge is supposed to be a site of myths and mystery. But with timed tickets and a £27m visitor centre, does it herald a rampant commercialisation of our heritage?...


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Counter Mapping Cultural Heritage

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 05 Dec, 2013 14:10:39

Who Needs Experts? Counter-mapping Cultural Heritage
John Schofield (ed.). Ashgate.

Taking the significant Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Council of Europe 2005) as its starting point, this book presents pragmatic views on the rise of the local and the everyday within cultural heritage discourse. Bringing together a range of case studies within a broad geographic context, it examines ways in which authorised or 'expert' views of heritage can be challenged, and recognises how everyone has expertise in familiarity with their local environment. The book concludes that local agenda and everyday places matter, and examines how a realignment of heritage practice to accommodate such things could usefully contribute to more inclusive and socially relevant cultural agenda.


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POPID Plaque

Memory & HeritagePosted by Les Roberts 16 Apr, 2013 15:40:10

This is the rather nice heritage plaque that Sara Cohen and Gurdeep Khabra kindly awarded me to mark my departure from the POPID project. A fitting gift for a project in which all things heritage - and plaques in particular - were the focus of much activity. This will hang pride of place on the wall of whichever office I might happen to find myself in the (hopefully) not too distant future, but for the time being I thought it appropriate to display here in virtual form (again, a fitting scenario in view of the theoretical discussions surrounding heritage and its ineluctably in/tangible properties...).

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