Mapping the Book
Brett Lashua & Paul Thompson
Ginger Works are proud to have had the brilliant researchers Brett Lashua and Paul Thompson in residency at our Leeds Freeroom from March to April 2022.
Brett and Paul are contributing to and editing a book 'Popular Music in Leeds; Histories, Heritage, People and Places', documenting the histories and heritage of popular music in Leeds. The book features 18 chapters from 23 authors with content ranging from histories of the City Varieties, Leeds Carnival, and punk and post-punk venues to accounts of folk, indie rock, hip-hop and dance music scenes in the city. The book offers a diverse mosaic snapshot of Leeds, much like the kaleidoscopic city that it represents.
During their residency at Ginger Works, Brett and Paul created an installation that maps the sites that are documented across 18 chapters of the book. We ended the show with an evening event where the 23 individual authors could meet; some for the first time, to celebrate the final book draft and submission to the publisher.
B. Lashua, P. Thompson, K. Spracklen & K.Ross
Rebecca Solnit contends that ‘every place deserves an atlas’ (2010: vii), and this book is intended as a kind of atlas of popular music in Leeds. It is the first academic collection dedicated to mapping Leeds’ popular music histories, heritage, people and places. As each of the contributing authors uniquely argue, Leeds is deserving of, and long overdue for, serious attention.
The city has spawned crooners, folk singers, punks, post-punks, Goths, DJs, popstars, rappers, indie rockers and more. Yet – with a few exceptions (O’Brien 2012, Riches and Lashua 2014, Spracklen, Henderson and Procter 2016, Spracklen, Richter and Spracklen 2013, Thompson and Nicholls 2021) – Leeds has not been studied for its musical cultures in ways that other UK cities, such as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, have been. Having lived, worked, studied and even performed here, we have found the absence of literature about Leeds’ popular music histories and heritage curious.
In some ways, Leeds is a city with a “lost” local musical heritage (Carr 2019), hidden even to those who reside there. While a number of bands from Leeds remain beloved by fans – late 1970s groups Gang of Four, Delta 5, and the Mekons; early 1980s goth-rock group Sisters of Mercy, indie rock band The Wedding Present, and Kaiser Chiefs in the early 2000s – the recent death of Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill (1 February 2020) sparked renewed interest in the city’s musical heritage. This book aims to put popular music in Leeds firmly on the map.
This introductory chapter is designed to help contextualise the book, to give the reader an overview of Leeds and establish the socio-historical context of the chapters that follow. It also offers an overview of some of the theoretical developments in scholarship on popular music, cultural heritage, and music geographies (Baker, Istvandity, Strong, and Cantillon 2018, Lashua, Wagg, Spracklen and Yavuz 2019). Finally, it provides a snapshot of the book’s 18 chapters, delineating and linking some of the shared and contrasting threads among them. The collection has been developed from the work of interdisciplinary scholars, musicians, local historians and community members. In addition, elements of it have been drawn from a major public museum exhibition ‘Sounds of Our City: Leeds’ Music History’ (2020-2021); all build upon contemporary research.