Design a site like this with
Get started

Upcoming Talks

Just a quick post to let you know about upcoming academic/research conferences where I’ll be giving updates on my research project:

08/05/19: at Sound Waves: Music and Sound Beyond Borders (Manchester Metropolitan University). My talk will be titled ‘Document It Yourself: Unauthorised Heritage Praxis in UK-based DIY Music Spaces’.

19/06/19: Departmental seminar at Department of Information Studies (UCL). This is open to externals, free to attend. My talk will be titled ‘Developing cooperative archival methodologies for UK-based DIY music spaces’ (it’s my upgrade presentation). This will be in Foster Court, room G31.

08/07/19-12/07/19: Archival Education and Research Institute (University of Liverpool). My talk will be titled ‘Collective Collecting and Documentation Practice in UK DIY Music Spaces’


Working With and Within: Thoughts on Embedded Archival Practice

After some prolonged writing time and some time off my research, this week I am returning to reading and focusing on thinking about how archival/documentation practice in active communities works.

I have spent the majority of my career to date working with relatively modern collections, having originally started out working in digitisation of AV/photographic collections and then motivated to become an archivist following my own politicisation about documentation and history making practice in the communities in which I have participated. This means that active and ongoing interactions with record creators or communities involved in archive creation has been a fairly common experience in my creative practice.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my position in relation to my PhD research, and also to archival practice in these contexts. I am someone who is already within DIY music subcultures and spaces, and who has a legacy of involvement and documentation work in my past cultural activism. This means that I start my project aware of a certain set of shared concerns and anxieties that emerge from the closure and threat of closure DIY spaces often experience. It also means that I’ve worked in the organisational context in which this study takes place – either through working non-hierarchical or through distributed organising networks.

I am spending a lot of time thinking about the importance of archive/heritage workers (I do not use this word to mean exclusively professionally qualified archivists) who politicise undertaking documentation work within their own community. These people act as what Thomas called an “embedded curator”, someone who “uses his or her physical and virtual presence within a selected community to document that community while simultaneously serving as a resource to it” (Thomas, 2012: p. 38). Other archival theorists have too drawn attention to the ways in which shared identity or cultural background can be an asset to archival or history making projects (Neal, 2002). The dynamics involved in archival practice in this context is very different than those I’ve observed in collecting projects and project undertaken in historical contexts, in which the focus is more on pursuing the collection of existing traces, or reaching out to establish connections with record creators. 

I’m exploring collaborative collecting and documentation strategies, and their application in community heritage, as a way to think about how to mobilise the creation of archives and new documentary practice in the collective working contexts of DIY music spaces/subcultures. It goes beyond working in a community too – I am thinking about what it means to work with the everyday rhythms of a space. In reference to personal archives, Ashmore, Craggs and Neate describe the experiences of sorting in a domestic space:

“Working in a domestic space as archive necessitated particular social interactions of comportment, restraint, deference between ourselves and the owner of the archive. It also meant working-with and amidst the rhythms and ruptures of the multiple geographies of home. The plumber came and went, the printer broke, the front door received a fresh coat of paint, the printer was put back in working order, friends and relatives visited, the ‘phone rang, a ‘ping’ sound from the computer signalled the arrival of another email. These domestic spaces, activities and timings produced particular sets of sociability” (Ashmore et al., 2012: p. 84).

For me, as for the authors here (in reference to arranging and sorting a personal archive in a domestic space), there is a poetics and a politics in the way in which spaces and archives intersect, in the way in which working practices, relationships and connections develop in this sort of collaboration. For me, I’m interested in how archival/documentation practice (and the traditions of both) change when undertaken in the community-led, non-hierarchical and highly collaborative nature of DIY cultural networks.

These authors also discuss the development of collaborative arrangement and description practices throughout their project:

“Working-with the owner of an archival collection offers an opportunity to consider the archival practices of historical and cultural geographers where the archive presents both traces of past and ongoing lives, and where archival research becomes explicitly sociable and collaborative. Such collaboration unsettles traditional notions of historical credibility gained through painstaking archival research, but, we argue, offers alternative forms of communal knowledge formation which are worthy of further consideration. The process of working-with, combining the physical graft of moving and discarding, intellectual work of evaluating, organising and making connections, and emotional work of listening, discussing and reviewing particular objects can be productive” (Ashmore et al., 2012: p. 82).

What came through from this for me was the intersections of social networks, sociability and the process of archiving. My experiences of arrangement and cataloguing have been predominantly lonesome, often working through a collection in a processing room by myself or with one colleague/volunteers, and whilst by the end of the process I normally feel as if I “know” the archive’s creator/owner, I can’t say I’ve ever felt very sociable. Talking and sorting with a record creator sounds like a way to collaboratively embed the voice(s) and originating context/community into an archive, and also to embed social support networks into our work.

Ashmore, P., Craggs, R., Neate, H., 2012. Working-with: talking and sorting in personal archives. Journal of Historical Geography 38, 81–89.
Neal, K.M., 2002. Cultivating Diversity. Collection Management 27, 33–42.
Thomas, L.M., 2012. The Embedded Curator: Reexamining the Documentation Strategy of Archival Acquisitions in a Web 2.0 Environment. RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage 13, 38–48.

Another one down…

Today via Stereogum, I found out that Myspace has confirmed the loss of 50 million songs that were uploaded to it’s music player due to an error that occurred during server migrations. The materials affected have been confirmed as lost, and I have since seen reverberations of feelings travel through my personal social media networks. Most people around my age (32) probably grew up in the Myspace age, and probably anyone who was creative at that time also uploaded embarrassing teenage music demos as well as selfies and star backgrounds. I think I deleted my myspace profile years ago, but occasionally I nostalgically logged in to check on my old band’s profile. Myspace was a platform I couldn’t disconnect from my teenage self, so like most people I know, I’m half relieved and half sad that all that music is gone. 
For me, the responses to Myspace’s loss raise questions about what records are “good” and “bad”. I cringe a lot when I think about the way I behaved on the internet in my teenage years, but there’s no denying that the songs I wrote about crushes and depression and not being understood in my small town are a method of and record of some of my earliest DIY cultural production (via home recordings on my desktop computer). I don’t have those recordings anymore, they too were long lost on another hard drive also lost in computer upgrades and laptop malfunctions.
The question I’ve asked myself is, would I keep those songs given the choice? What does it mean when the choice is taken away before we’ve had a chance to think about this? I’m not sure I would, but I would definitely keep the music of others in the same subcultural pockets. Or maybe I would, because those were the records of my first attempts at amateur creative practice. Are the archival traces of our shambolic first projects any less valid as records then us at our best? Do we want some traces to disappear?
I’ve been reading about digital activist archives in the last week for another project, and in that context I’ve come across the phrase strategic ephemerality in an article about the development of online archives for marginalised communities by Shawna Ferris and Danielle Allard. They write:

we have begun to consider whether some activist-produced materials might need to be strategically ephemeral, or be allowed to “disappear”/be forgotten/drop out of public circulation. If this is the case, we have started, in consultation with groups whose materials we hope to archive, to think about whether the content producers of such materials might be politically contravened by the permanent placement of their materials in the Sex Work Database (Ferris and Allard, 2016: p. 197).

This is a completely different context, but sometimes our music spaces and subcultures are dangerous too. Research I’ve previous undertaken about the archiving of queer zines (Fife, forthcoming) and other work into the digitisation of feminist archives (Eichhorn, 2014) has shown that mass digitisation and open access to these materials (as sought after by the information sector) may contravene the originating contexts in which records are produced (“safe spaces” or distribution via controlled methods within a small community). Permanent (or close to permanent) preservation and open access as considered to be a common goal in the archive sector, but what if what we do is ephemeral, even our archival traces?
DeVille, C., 2019. Myspace Confirms Loss Of 50 Million Songs Uploaded Between 2003 And 2015. Stereogum.
Eichhorn, K., 2014. Beyond digitisation: a case study of three contemporary feminist collections. Archives and Manuscripts 42, 227–237.
Ferris, S., Allard, D., 2016. Tagging for activist ends and strategic ephemerality: creating the Sex Work Database as an activist digital archive. Feminist Media Studies 16, 189–204.
Fife, K., 2019. Not for you? Ethical implications of archiving self-publishing. Punk and Post-Punk Journal.
Pearson, J., 2019. MySpace Lost 12 Years of Music in “Server Migration” [WWW Document]. Motherboard. URL (accessed 3.19.19).

Critical Archives and Records Reading Group: Queerness and Recordkeeping/Critical Feminism in the Archives


Hi everyone! I’ve been a bit slow updating this with the resources from the critical archives and records reading group. We’ve now had 3/5 sessions exploring white supremacy, queerness and critical feminism. You can follow the above link to access our reading list, find out about where it happens and see the dates for future sessions. So far we’ve been a mix of students, academics, professionals and people interested in archive work (in a broad sense), and it’s been nice to link the readings to our own practice-led questions about archival practice and historical research.

Queerness and Record Keeping Session Summary is a pdf summary of the notes we made as part of the queerness and record keeping session. I’ve uploaded it here so that those who were unable to attend are able to catch up with some of the discussion remotely!

I will shamefully admit that I sadly left the notes from the critical feminism workshop on the train back to Leeds so I can’t type those up! As a personal reflection though, I found this session interesting for our explorations of feminist archival practice and the nature of feminist archives. Again, questions around undertaking radical work in an institutional context emerged frequently, and the tensions that emerge when trying to navigate patriarchal institutional structures. We also talked about the need to understand different feminisms, particularly the way in which some people are excluded by feminism (for example, trans exclusionary radical feminism) and how this affects the ability to create a singular feminist archive. We talked about the recent celebrations following the Representation of the People Act (1918), and the often depoliticised interpretations of feminist histories which ignore or erase current struggles (or the continuation of historical struggles). People anyone else who attended can comment here with any reflections they have to add!

Three sessions in, each of these subjects have raised questions about the nature of records and archives, the foundations and principles which underpin archival practice (for example, preservation, public/private access, stability, gatekeeping and custody), collections development practices, dynamics between institutional and community-led heritage, and the make up of the archive profession.

If you haven’t yet come along to one, our next session is on the 1st May and explores critical heritage and commemoration. Readings and further info available via UCL.

Digital cultural organising is precarious

I have been meaning to write a post about an experience I had earlier this year of the takedown of my own cultural organising via a social media platform, so that’s this week’s weekly blog!

I run Weirdo Zine Fest, a self-publishing fair which I started in 2016 in order to centre work made by radical and/or marginalised individuals or groups in diy cultures. My motivations behind this came from experiences of tabling at other zine fairs which didn’t engage with the politicised ethos behind zine making. This ethos, for me, is about feeling like your voice is unheard in some way, and feeling motivated to document and give testimony to your experiences, share knowledge or resources, or make space for your own cultural/creative practice outside of creative industries (like the art market or mainstream media). It’s also about not needing to be technically good or proficient in order to make things, and instead prioritises scavenging and haphazard making over technical development.

Weirdo Zine Fest happened this February for the first time in about 18 months, at Leeds Central Library (thanks to Leeds Libraries and Leeds Zine Library for giving me some space in their LGBT history month programme!).

About a week before the event, I think I joked to friends that the organising was going “too well”, because nothing had gone wrong yet. Obviously this was like a klaxon, and shortly afterwards the facebook event that I’d been using to promote the event via social media was taken down because it “violated community standards”. Around the same time, Girl Gang Leeds and other feminist and queer organising groups in the North of England had events and facebook pages taken down. Historically there have been comparable cases within DIY music cultures and spaces (LaDIYfest Sheffield, 2014), which have restricted organising capacity and destroyed documentary traces of DIY cultural organising in the process.

I, and others affected in the same way, appealed our decisions (still waiting to hear back, Facebook) and quickly acknowledged that we had little choice but to start afresh. Having built an RSVP list of nearly 1,000, I went back to square one and reset up another event on the same platform. I had used paper fliers in local spaces and other online platforms (Twitter, Instagram) to promote the event but in many ways, due to our current understanding that DIY cultural producers and organisers make use of social media (Jones, 2018), I had little option but to return to and reuse a platform that had deemed my event to be “violating”. This made me feel sad, angry and anxious, about what we do when our data is stored on platforms which are in many ways unsafe for us.

These small individual cases are microcosms of much wider problems relating to the use of large online corporate social media to hold information. Recently, social digital platforms including Tumblr (Waterson, 2018) have changed policies about what constitutes acceptable content on their websites. In the case of tumblr, a policy change which meant that all adult content was removed from the site negatively impacted communities, visibility and networks of sex workers, queer artists and diy cultural producers (amongst others). In the case of the former, this move has been linked to the passing of the Allow State and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act in the USA, which has restricted sex workers ability to form online communities and networks that can help improve safety in sex work. Alongside this, other online platforms that have been used to store documentary traces of DIY cultures and self-publishers including Flickr and Geocities (both owned by Yahoo) have deleted materials and closed sites down due to new regulations about allowance or lack of current relevance/usage (Hern, 2018; Gottsegen, 2018). These institutional procedures, initiated by large corporations, often show little care for the value of materials and networks developed using their tools.

We rely on social media because of its ease and network capacity. These platforms are powerful tools for collective memory practice too (Collins and Long, 2015; Baker and Huber, 2013; Collins, 2012). I am politicised by archival practice that breaks rules and goes against standard practice, practice which might be ephemeral but prioritises access and community-building over long term preservation, as dangerous as that feels. At the same time I am scared of the precarity and temporality of this practice, of what it means when our labour and memory and evidence is destroyed because of policy or a need to reclaim server space. I am nervous about relying on platforms that don’t care about my communities or history, but without time or resource to pursue alternatives. We are often trapped between institutions and corporations, carving out niches and networks that reside in neither and are too easily lost down the cracks.

Baker, S., Huber, A., 2013. Notes towards a typology of the DIY institution: Identifying do-it-yourself places of popular music preservation. European Journal of Cultural Studies 16, 513–530.

Collins, J., 2012. Multiple voices, multiple memories: Public history-making and activist archivism in online popular music archives. University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

Collins, J., Long, P., 2015. “Fillin’’ in Any Blanks I Can”: Online Archival Practice and Virtual Sites of Musical Memory,” in: Cohen, S., Roberts, L., Leonard, M., Knifton, R. (Eds.), Sites of Popular Music Heritage: Memories, Histories, Places, Routledge Studies in Popular Music. Routledge, London and New York.

Girl Gang Leeds, n.d. GIRL GANG Leeds – Home [WWW Document]. Facebook. URL (accessed 3.12.19).

Gottsegen, G., 2018. GeoCities dies in March 2019, and with it a piece of internet history – CNET [WWW Document]. CNET. URL (accessed 3.12.19).

Hern, A., 2018. Flickr to delete millions of photos as it reduces allowance for free users [WWW Document]. The Guardian. URL (accessed 3.12.19).

Jones, E., 2018. Platform DIY: Examining the impact of social media on cultural resistance in contemporary DIY music (Doctoral). University of Leeds, Leeds.

LaDIYfest Sheffield, 2014. The Deletion of the LaDIYfest Facebook Account [WWW Document]. LaDIYfest Sheffield. URL (accessed 10.29.18).

Vagianos, A., 2018. Trump Signs Controversial FOSTA Bill Targeting Online Sex Trafficking | HuffPost UK [WWW Document]. Huffington Post. URL (accessed 3.12.19).

Waterson, J., 2018. Tumblr to ban all adult content | Technology | The Guardian [WWW Document]. Guardian. URL (accessed 3.12.19).


A beginning autoethnographic reflection

Hello! I’ll be aiming to update this weekly from now on, as I move from literature reviewing into more active writing and the start of data collection. The next few posts will be about situating myself in relation to my research. 

To begin with, I thought I would briefly outline my own identity intersections and personal history of participation in DIY cultures, as it is my own networks that enable me to undertake this work and therefore influence the forward direction of this research. As an individual, I would identify myself as a working class, queer/bisexual, disabled, white, British, cisgendered woman. Through scholarship and bursary funding, I have been able to access a high level of education (MA and this PhD study) and professional employment as an archivist – which in turn has allowed me to access markers of middle class status and more cultural capital than my original background affords.

The intersections of my class, sexuality and disability have often made me feel othered in DIY cultures dominated by straight, white, middle class and able-bodied men and led me to pursue involvement in other communities and sub-sections which are led by women and queer-identified people. However, because of my whiteness and British background, I have also been able to participate in white-led cultures without experiencing othering because of my race or ethnicity.  Disclosures of experiences of racism in DIY music spaces including Wharf Chambers (Wharf Chambers, 2018; anonymous via Wharf Abuse and Racism, 2018) and zine writing by POC-led collectives including Decolonise Fest (2017) provide valuable first person testimony about the way in which racism and white supremacy is able to manifest within DIY cultures, often alongside perceived anti-racist political stances. As a person with a non-visible disability, I am also physically able to participate in the majority of DIY music spaces without any additional accessibility needs. My ability to participate in these cultures is thus framed via experiences of both being othered and blending in or feeling part of a community. I experience both privilege and marginalisation in different measures and at different points, and both inform my ability to organise and participate in DIY music spaces.

My own entrance into DIY cultures came via Livejournal communities in around 2007. Through this platform, which I used primarily to host a sort of online diary, I discovered small online communities of zine makers and radical body positive feminist activists. Livejournal was a natural progression for many zine makers in this era of online community – individual journals had privacy levels (private, friends only, public) that enabled users to choose who could see their writing. The ability to have other users listed as “friends” enabled users to build primitive social networks. Via interaction with other users on this platform and other social media platforms, I began to order zines and attend DIY cultural events in London, Leeds and Brighton. Later, in 2010, I launched “Fatty Unbound”, a fat positive and anti-capitalist fashion blog, which was active primarily between 2010 and 2013. Through this platform, I developed friendships with DIY cultural producers who were primarily zine makers and illustrators but also sometimes participated in local music scenes.

In 2011, via these connections and early networks I began to organise events. My first cultural organising was in the form of plus size clothes swaps, which I ran with a friend who was another zine maker, and also went to see and played in DIY punk and indie pop bands in Leeds. These clothes swaps were intended to be a community resource – a way to share and distribute clothing without money changing hands. Together and separately, we have run clothes swaps in Leeds and London, using as our base various radical, autonomous DIY community centres and music spaces. These spaces were supportive of the political underpinning of our organising practice, provided the level of accessibility we needed and were affordable for us to use. Because of using and promoting cultural events to other users of these spaces, I also began to meet people who participated in DIY cultures via music, and particularly punk, subcultures. Due to the varied use of these spaces to host gigs, art exhibitions, talks, screenings, activist group meetings, clothes swaps, skills sharing workshops and zine fairs, the multiple networks of radical and DIY cultures often overlap, collaborate and inform different forms of cultural and organising practice.

In 2013, I formed a band. At the time, I was attending events via the first UK iteration of a scheme called First Timers (First Timers, 2018). Inspired by similar schemes in North America, First Timers seeks to empower marginalised people to start making music. A series of workshops allowed potential new band members to try out instruments for the first time, and at the end of the scheme 20 bands played a first gig in London, over the course of one weekend. At the time of writing, the scheme is still active and has created over 80 new bands between London and Sydney. Whilst I didn’t play the final gig, my band formed through the social events, workshops and was informed by the politics of the scheme. In order to find a bass player, I taught a friend how to play bass, and instead of waiting to be good at our instruments and confident on stage, we started playing anyway, growing more comfortable on stage but not necessarily any more technically able.

For me, forming one band led to playing other queer and feminist music nights, discovering other DIY musicians, going to see their bands play and forging friendships. I played gigs, got to know other bands, and often formed new bands with members of other DIY punk bands. Via social networks, bands I played in were invited to festivals and gigs in other cities, with networks of organisers and other bands supporting each other by providing sofas to sleep on, meals and use of equipment at gigs. Between then and now, I have played in six bands in this context, organised shows and tours for my and other bands and collaborated on zine and music projects across the UK. In 2015 I also started working for DIY Space for London, a then newly opened DIY music and community space in Peckham, as an events collective member. Through friendship, work and creativity, I grew to understand the intricate, dispersed and precarious nature of DIY music spaces and the subcultures they nourish. 

All of these creative and cultural activities have relied upon the availability and existence of UK DIY music and community spaces across the UK. Since the (relatively recent) formation of my first DIY band, I have also seen the closure of many small and grassroots venues, particularly (but not exclusively) in London due to gentrification and rent increases. The loss of spaces impacts DIY music subcultures and impedes their growth – when ever two years, a space is launched, grown and closed down without time or money to find an alternative. This can also affect the income and housing of workers in these spaces, who rely on them to make a living and to provide their shelter. As much as I associate my involvement in UK DIY music spaces with feelings of transformation, empowerment and excitement, I also associate them with feelings of anxiety, grief, loss and heartbreak. These emotions, shared between me and others with histories in these spaces, inform our collective memory practice. There is a mutual understanding that what we do is ephemeral, temporary and easily lost or destroyed, unless we ourselves intervene to collect, keep, and document.

Anonymous, 2018. Wharf Chambers Statement Response – Abuse Apologism and Racism. Wharf Abuse and Racism. URL (accessed 2.26.19).
Decolonise Fest, 2017. What’s it Like to be a Punk of Colour? Decolonise Fest, London.
First timers, n.d. First Timers. First Timers. URL (accessed 3.8.19).
Wharf Chambers Coop and Club Collective, 2018. Accountability & abuse – Wharf Chambers. Wharf Chambers. URL (accessed 2.26.19).

The first Critical Archives and Records Reading Group meeting


Hello again! I’m planning to update this blog a lot more over 2019 with information about projects I’m working on.

I’ve started co-convening a new reading group at UCL’s Department of Information Studies. The Critical Archives and Records Reading Group is a space for academics, professionals, archive users, volunteers and anyone at all interested in archives to come together to discuss archival practice in an intersectionality and critical fashion.

Debates about the role of archives and records in cultural, social and political processes are of long-standing. Since the early 2000s theorists and practitioners have confronted the ways in which they have served as ‘tools for both oppression and liberation’ (Caswell, Punzalan & Sangwand, 2017).  Subsequently approaches informed by postcolonialism, critical race studies, feminism, queer theory and deconstructionism have interrogated the role of archives and records in social justice and equity for marginalised and ‘symbolically annihilated’ communities (Caswell, 2016). Recent research has emphasised the need to address imbalances of power, to support the ‘archival autonomy’ of plural voices (Evans et al, 2015), to create collaborative, open spaces in the ‘archival multiverse’ (Evans, McKemmish & Rolan, 2017) and to generate ‘radical empathy’ (Caswell & Cifor, 2016).  Critical approaches have been central to this work, in seeking ‘to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them’ (Horkheimer, 1982) through reflection and critique.

Each month (in term time) the Critical Archives and Records Reading Group meets to discuss an article, paper, podcast or output in any media that is relevant to archival studies, in order to reflect the current state of recordkeeping practice and research using critical approaches from across humanities and social science disciplines. Sessions are open to anyone who is interested, including practitioners and students. We will try where possible to focus on resources that are freely available; if something is behind a paywall efforts will be made to share it people who don’t have access. You can find out what/where/when we’re reading here.

We had the first session this week – it was overwhelming but really great (I hope!). We looked at white supremacy in archival practice and read this article about documenting police violence in Cleveland. After that we worked together to do Michelle Caswell’s exercise about Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives. I found this (the first time I’d done it myself) to be a really helpful learning tool, and something which I’d like to incorporate into staff development in any service I manage in the future. We ended up filling a wall with post its (see above pictures), which I have also summarised in a PDF – white supremacy exercise summary I thought it would be good to circulate and share this as a way to disseminate this conversation, and also individuals to personally reflect.

Our next meeting is on the 20th February, where we’ll be discussing queering record keeping. Info available here, and get in touch with me directly (via the email on the web page) if you can’t access any of the readings.


Places to Start From

Hi! I’ve decided to start a blog to document my PhD study and generally share some things that I’m up to outside of academic research. It’s the end of my second full week of PhD study, maybe the first that I’ve spent doing more reading than administration, and I’m thinking a lot about what’s ahead.

For the next 3-4 years I’m researching methods for documenting and archiving UK-based DIY music subcultures in the Department of Information Studies at UCL, thanks to a studentship from the London Arts and Humanities Partnership. Because my research is about DIY culture and motivated by my own position as a participant in DIY music spaces, the politics of counter cultural knowledge production/sharing, skills sharing, mutual aid and co-production are really central to my research. I’m expecting to feel a lot of tensions as I navigate the next years – tensions between insider/outsider, academic/professional/diy cultural producer, institution/community and so on. I’m expecting points in time when I feel part of none of the spaces I occupy, where none of these positions feel right to me. I can anticipate these points, and I also need to strategise about how I support myself in these situations (which will probably be isolating).

I want to disseminate the outputs of this research widely, but I also want to publish as I go (formally and informally), especially to create a space where I can situate myself within my research and discuss it’s impact on me personally. The last few years I’ve been reflecting more and more about emotions and archives, whether cultural objects or archival labour through professional practice. As I move into archival research which will centre spaces that have nurtured and supported my own cultural practice, the intersection between my own subjectivity, relationships, spaces and research will be at the centre of my reflections for a while. I came across fieldwork and research zines through previous DIY academic research (Jones, 2016; Downes, Breeze and Griffin, 2013), which I’ll probably adopt as a method, but I’ve also set up this space so I can publish as I go.

These next few weeks I’m revisiting reading I first encountered on DIY music and cultures, and also revisiting my research proposal to adapt it to where I’m at now. At the point of writing my application I was interested predominantly in the relationship between institutions and subcultures, but unsurprisingly in the nine months I’ve spent waiting to start it’s shifted in focus a lot. Here’s a nice little map I did to re-design my research questions:


At the point of writing this proposal I was an archivist in a museum concerned with sound and vision practices. My motivations for this project came from wanting to see more equitable and ethical relationships with subcultural producers, particularly in collecting practice. As I’ve moved out of that space, I find myself motivated differently – in a heritage practice which is led from and rooted in community spaces – particularly those in which I have a pre-existing profile. What I’m interested to start with is the methods of documentation that already exist in our spaces, some of which are politicised and some aren’t. I’m thinking about zines and podcasts and documentary text and photographic sources, fliers and programmes and signs. I’m interested to know what we already do, what micro-methods we employ to capture small parts of our cultures, and why we’re motivated to do this. What don’t we document, and why not? I want to know what archives of DIY spaces look like, both when they’re open and also after they’re gone. How do external factors affect our ability to document our cultures, and how do/could/should external heritage organisations interact with subcultures?

I want to write about how this research makes me feel on this blog a lot, because it does make me feel things and those feelings are central to what I’m doing too. Right now I feel anxious. I’m anxious because spaces I love are under constant threat of closure (DIY Space for London, 2018), and others are long gone (Garland, 2015). Digital platforms delete our content without warning too, we’re all reliant on these external factors that do not have our back. I’m anxious because austerity and precarity are taking a lot of things out of our control, maybe it even takes this research out of my control. This feels urgent, and that’s hard.

DIY Space for London, 2018. Update on our financial situation. Available at (last accessed 12th October 2018)
Garland, E., 2015. Long Live Power Lunches, a Space for Everyone. Noisey. Available at (last accessed 12th October 2018)
Downes, J., Breeze, M., Griffin, N., 2013. Researching DIY Cultures: Towards a Situated Ethical Practice for Activist-Academia. Graduate Journal of Social Science 10, 100–124.

Jones, Ellis (2016). “Autocomplet”. Self-published zine, Leeds.



Hello! I am Kirsty Fife – a DIY cultural organiser, creative practitioner, academic and archivist based in Leeds, Yorkshire.

I have a background in DIY cultural production and organising. My projects include Make It WorkMove Under Yr Own Power and Hard Femme zines – publications which cover intersections between fat, gender, class, sexuality and DIY cultures. Until 2016 I also ran Fatty Unbound – a skinflint fat fashion blog – which has been featured on platforms including the BBCThe Times and Bitch magazine. I have organised several zine fests (Weirdo Zine Fest delivered with DIY Space for London and the National Trust) and spoken at panels about zines, organising, fat activism, femme identity and class politics.

I am also a qualified archivist with experience of working with cultural, media-based and community-led heritage collections. My ten years in the archive sector to date include roles working for audio-visual archives, museums, and organisational archive services. I am currently undertaking PhD study in the Department of Information Studies at University College London. My PhD research explores methods for documenting and archiving current UK-based DIY music subcultures, particularly drawing on practices of record keeping in punk and autonomous spaces across the UK.

I plan to use this blog as an informal way to share things I’m involved in at the minute (research, activism, organising, creative projects) and to critically reflect on my practice and research. I hope it will be a useful record of things I’ve done (and less chaotic than recording this information over many other social media platforms!).