Liverpool International Music Festival – celebrity-filled PhD research

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Post by Cat Wilkinson – 1st year PhD student

During last bank holiday weekend, I was granted backstage access at the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF) and was able to rub shoulders with some of the U.K’s most coveted artists. Taking over from the highly celebrated Matthew Street Festival, LIMF focused on three things: celebrating greatness, discovering the new, and inspiring the next.

I received this perk in the form of a press pass from my CASE partner KCC LIVE, a local radio station targeting 10 – 24 year olds in Knowsley. I have been based at the station for the last few months conducting participant observation as part of my PhD research project ‘Connecting Communities through Youth-led Radio’. Being part of the team brings with it many exciting opportunities, such as this.

As well as being exciting, attending LIMF gave a window of insight into one key area of geographical thought, namely cultural regeneration. In particular, the festival, working with both the commercial and voluntary sector, brought to the fore the creativity in Liverpool by showcasing the talent of local, as well as global, artists – for instance the internationally acclaimed Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and Liverpool legends The Christians, Connie Lush and Deaf School

My co-presenter Rob Tobin and I were allocated press passes which enabled us to watch the concerts, both at the Pier Head and Sefton Park from the area between the stage and the audience. We had an amazing view of the action – the only downside was that we kept being hit by flying objects, including jewellery and underwear, aimed at the A-list stars on stage!

Rob says:

“Being behind the scenes at such a big event was amazing. Casually walking past some of the most famous faces in world music was a bit crazy, and being so close to the stage when the artists were performing was fantastic.”

During the weekend we watched as the artists arrived in their tour buses or fancy cars, got changed in their allocated dressing rooms, had something to eat in the catering room, and then went out on stage. Our mission for the weekend was to get a quick photo with all of the artists at some point in that process, whilst keeping our avid listeners up to date with all the backstage gossip – and we did pretty well!

We met some of the U.K’s finest talent backstage, including X Factor favourites Little Mix (with a special mention for my favourite member Jesy), JLS, Union J, Diana Vickers, and Lucy Spraggan, Britain’s Got Talent’sThe Loveable Rogues, upcoming boy band The Vamps, girl groups The Saturdays and Stooshe and Radio 1’s Dev, amongst others.

Rob sums the weekend up nicely:

“The Pierhead and Sefton Park are both great live music venues and almost 40,000 people were there. Any job that involves meeting The Saturdays is a good one. Getting to go to events like LIMF to interview stars is definitely one of my favourite things about working in radio”

As well as having a fantastic time and getting to meet celebrities, I was able to see first-hand and collect important observations for my PhD research on the cultural impact that such regional sounds (or sonic geographies) have on Liverpool as a city. With LIMF scheduled to run for the foreseeable future, it is hoped that by encouraging local artists and nurturing such creativity, this will add to the wider regeneration of Liverpool. As part of this aim, the LIMF Academy are working to inspire young people (home grown talent) who are interested in entering the music industry, also important to my research as I work with a youth-led radio station. So overall, LIMF was successful in both celebrating Liverpool’s musical heritage and showcasing up-and-coming talent, and for me provided a fun and celebrity-filled weekend as well as important data for my research.

The festival events are running through until the 22 September – more information is available from You can listen to Rob and Cat on KCC LIVE on 99.8FM in Knowsley and Liverpool or online at every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm.

Lecturer’s Research in South India

This summer, one of our lecturer’s, Dr Andy Davies, is undertaking a research fellowship in Southern India exploring the political and cultural history of the state of Tamil Nadu, and in particular the city of Puducherry (or as it’s more often known, Pondicherry). Here he explains what he’s up to and why.

“I’m in India on a fellowship organised by the British Association of South Asian Studies, in collaboration with the European Consortium for Asian Field Study and the British Academy, and will be spending two months in New Delhi, Chennai and Pondicherry, where I’ll be based in the Ecole Francais d’Extrême Orient.

The EFEO in Puducherry is typical of French Colonial Architecture in the 'Ville Blanc'

The EFEO in Puducherry is typical of French Colonial Architecture in the ‘Ville Blanc’

The research I’m doing is looking at anti-colonialism in south India in the early 20th Century, particularly looking at Pondicherry because, as a French colony, a group of nationalist activists who wanted India to become independent from British rule, sought political exile from the British there from 1908 onwards. Geographically, this is interesting, as the men who did this were in their ‘homeland’ (many of them, including the poet Subramania Bharati, were Tamil and fiercely proud of this identity), yet were also in ‘exile’ at the same time. Whilst these men and women suffered many hardships whilst in Pondicherry, they were part of international political networks that stretched from India as far as Paris and London. The British Government of India saw these as dangerous ‘terrorist’ networks, and much of the language used in official reports is similar to the language we see used today about organisations like Al-Qaeda.

Statue of Subramania Bharati in Puducherry

Statue of Subramania Bharati in Puducherry

These colonial histories are important to Geography in many ways – in Pondicherry, French colonialism shaped the culture – for instance it is possible to order red wine with a beef steak for dinner – something that is culturally very difficult elsewhere in India! The French influence is also clear in the urban fabric of the city. At the height of colonial rule, the city was divided on grounds of race between the ‘Ville Blanc’ (the French district) and the ‘Ville Noir’ (the Tamil district), and the differences between the two areas still exist today. On top of these, there are also political legacies as well – Subramania Bharati died in 1921, long before India gained its independence, but his poetry was important to people involved in the freedom struggle after he died. His work is still important today, schools and streets in Tamil Nadu are named after him, and more controversially, the poetry he wrote whilst in Pondicherry has been used by Tamils in Sri Lanka to argue for a Tamil homeland in that country (Frost, 2006).
My research will produce a number of academic papers, but also ties into a wider research network of people studying Indian culture and society within the University, and links to the ETIC project based in the University, as well as my own interests in the politics and history of South Asia.”


Frost, CM (2006) ‘Bhakti and nationalism in the poetry of Subramania Bharati’ Hindu Studies 10, p. 150-166

Allotment Success!

This week, our Lab Manager, Mike O’Connor, has been celebrating after the Association of Liverpool Allotments decided that his plot was the 8th best across the city. With issues like ‘food security‘ now at the top of many policy initiatives, the ability to grow our own food in sustainable and eco-friendly ways is likely to become more and more important over the next few years – something which Mike is keen to promote – here’s hoping that his crop does well this year!

Mike's Allotment in north Liverpool

Mike’s Allotment in north Liverpool