Learning to Keep the Faith: Investigating Young People’s Participation in Multi-Generational Dance Music Culture

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Ian FYFE, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Social researchers have been studying youth culture in the UK for over five decades. The seminal work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at University of Birmingham highlighted the potential subversive and counter-hegemonic objectives of youth ‘sub’ and ‘counter’ cultures as forms of resistance against structural social order. Subsequent academic work heralded a post-subcultural epoch with emphasis on young people’s use of stylistic resources, artistic creativity, cultural consumption and the incorporation of images, music, dance and contemporary forms of art, such as graffiti in shaping the cultural identity of modern-day youth.

Emergent research evidence is increasingly concerned with the intergenerational influences on youth culture as ageing adults participate in long-standing music and dance scenes alongside younger peers. The Northern Soul Scene (NSS) typifies such a multi-generational cultural context. The origins of the NSS are the industrial towns in North West of England during the 1960s and 1970s. The scene was built around the celebration and showcase of often-obscure 1960s North American soul music. Unlike many contemporary music and dance club cultures, NSS straddles age boundaries due in part to the longevity of the music and mutual engagement across generations.

Drawing on findings from a small-scale study conducted in the contemporary NSS, this paper presents and discusses aspects of participation and learning in a multi-generational cultural setting. The project utilises the notion of situated learning in the context of the NSS, which in turn is conceived as a community of practice. (Lave 1991 & Wenger 1998). The enquiry focuses on the respective learning experiences of both seasoned NSS participants (adult ‘old-timers’) and more recent joiners (young ‘newcomers’). What can we learn about contemporary youth culture and identity from this multi-generational community of practice?