Former Wire editor Mark Sinker is one of the organisers of a two day symposium scheduled to take place in London next spring that will examine the circumstances and legacy of the seismic changes that took place in UK music journalism at the beginning of the 1970s.
Taking place at Birkbeck's Institute for the Humanities next May, the symposium, titled Underground/Overground: The Changing Politics of UK Music-writing 1968–85, will examine how the UK's mainstream music weeklies NME and Melody Maker reinvented themselves in the early 1970s by hiring journalists from counterculture and underground press titles such as Oz, Frenz and International Times; the symposium will debate the immediate consequences of this process for the established music press as well as its lasting impact, both positive and negative, on the music journalism of the 1980s and beyond.
The symposium has been co-organised by Esther Leslie, Professor in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, and participants will include sociomusicologist Simon Frith, Black Atlantic scholar Paul Gilroy, St Etienne's Bob Stanley, and music journalists Charles Shaar Murray, Cynthia Rose, David Toop and Barney Hoskyns.
Summing up the philosophy behind the symposium, Mark Sinker states: "Rock writing at its conflicted best has been a conversation that musician, writer and reading fan all joined, as equals on the same page, an argument that reflected the crackles of dissent and tension within the songs it explored, and the conflicted world these songs fell out across, the disputatiousness as well as the joy. It has something to teach us."