George McKay


George McKayI joined the University of East Anglia in November 2014, as Professor of Media Studies; before that I was Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford since 2005, before that I held the same position at UCLan since 1999. In 2012 I was appointed to a three-year Leadership Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the Connected Communities Programme. My work has been awarded funding from the AHRC (eight or nine awards to date), British Council, European Commission (Framework 6), Leverhulme Trust, British Academy, HEFCE, among others. I was until 2013 a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, for Media, and for Music. I have been (2010-12) an elected member of the Media, Communication & Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) executive–MeCCSA being the national UK association for scholars and postgraduate students in the field. I have undertaken external examining responsibilities at around 15 institutions, at PhD, MA and BA levels. I have been a Visiting Fellow at University of Southern Maine, USA (1994), University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria (1996), and at University of Sydney, Australia (2008).


In 2011 I was lead organiser for the MeCCSA annual conference at Salford in the UK. In 2012 I was lead organiser for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-UK & Ireland) biennial conference at Salford (this followed the sad death of original organiser Prof Dave Sanjek). The theme of the IASPM conference was of particular interest to Rhythm Changers–Imagining Communities Musically: Putting Popular Music in its Place. I have in total been involved as organiser or co-organsier of over 15 conferences and symposia, including all the Rhythm Changes international conferences to date.


first book published about jazz in Britain, 1927In terms of public engagement, I am a fairly frequent contributor to British and some international media, including BBC and independent radio, having appeared on programmes as varied as Thinking Allowed (several times) and The Johnnie Walker Show. I have also appeared on numerous television programmes–news and documentaries–and written for publications such as the Guardian, Independent, Times Higher Education, New Statesman. A two-part ABC radio documentary in 2009, on the leading Australian music programme Into the Music, focused heavily on my research on street music and popular protest.


My areas of interest and expertise are as follows, and I highlight points that I think will be of particular interest to Rhythm Changes scholars and fans:

Cultures of transatlanticism. My key work in the jazz side of this field is the AHRC-supported Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (Duke UP, 2005). ‘Well-written, witty, and highly original’ (Lewis Porter, International History Review), ‘fascinating … impressive’ (Alyn Shipton, Jazzwise). Transcriptions of interviews undertaken with many British or UK-based jazz musicians and organisers for that book can be read via links on the ‘Team members’ publications’ page of the Rhythm Changes website.


I was co-editor of the 2004 collection Issues in Americanisation and Culture. I am also a member of the editorial board of Jazz Research Journal. I have written a chapter on the neglected Triniadian honky-tonk pop pianist Winifred Atwell for Jason Toynbee et al‘s collection Black British Jazz (2015).


Festival, music and social change. 2015 sees the publication of The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture, an edited international collection which also features the work of Rhythm Changes researchers Dubber, Anne Dvinge, and Nick Gebhardt. I have written several other chapters and articles about jazz festivals in Britain, as well as about the use of jazz in social protest (particularly marching jazz bands on political demonstrations–see ‘A soundtrack to the insurrection’ article). More generally I’ve written other books that feature or focus entirely on festival culture, such as Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties (Verso, 1996) and Glastonbury: A Very English Fair (Gollancz, 2000). I was Professor in Residence at the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival, and at the 2011 Kendal Calling festival, in the English Lake District.


I co-edited Community Music: A Handbook (Russell House, 2005), which includes my chapter on free improvisation and the development of community music in Britain. (I used to work as a community musician; double bass is my instrument–I still play and enjoy playing.) In 2012 I was awarded an AHRC grant in the new Connected Communities programme to produce a research review on community music and digital cultures.


Disability and cultural studies. My recent work draws on a special issue of Popular Music I edited on the topic in 2009; it’s an AHRC-funded monograph entitled Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability, published by University of Michigan Press in its Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series in 2013. ‘A brash, brilliant and fist-pumping book’ (Popular Music and Society), ‘Ground-breaking’ (Popular Music).


Alternative cultures, (post)subcultures, protest and social movements. Not so much jazz in this one, but, hey, do look out for my book on polemic landscapes, floriculture and horticultural politics, Radical Gardening (Frances Lincoln, 2011). ‘A truly important book’, wrote the Times Higher Education.


I was founding co-editor in 2001 of the Routledge journal Social Movement Studies: Journal of  Social, Cultural and Political Protest. Also an EU FP6 project I was involved in, Society & Lifestyles, resulted in a co-edited collection exploring cross-cultural and comparative studies in Europe, Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe.


You can find out more and read quite a lot of my work on my personal website, including as much open access material as I can generate, and five or six Google books:

  • lots of material here, including numerous transcriptions of interviews with British jazz musicians for different projects, many reviews of my work over the past two decades, and a large number of links to other related internet sources.
  • (articles and book extracts accessible).