28th February 2014 Still Life After The Office

Since Christ­mas Val Mur­ray and Lynn Pilling (Tea) have been using a space on the sec­ond floor of Fed­er­a­tion House on Bal­loon Street in Man­ches­ter as a play­ful, evolv­ing instal­la­tion. Cur­rently the build­ing is being used as artists’ stu­dios and exhi­bi­tion spaces in a period of tran­si­tion between its past uses as a Coop drapery…

10th December 2013 It Shouldn’t Happen To A Santa

I have, for some time now, been mildly obsessed by Christ­mas. By this I don’t mean that I walk around for twelve months of the year hum­ming Christ­mas car­ols, or wear­ing rein­deer socks (though I must admit to own­ing a pair or two). It’s more to do with the fact that for an event that…

27th August 2013 Aspiration Nation? Young people’s working futures

George Osborne might have coined the catch­phrase ‘aspi­ra­tion nation’ in a bud­get speech ear­lier this year, but the ques­tion of young people’s ‘aspi­ra­tions’, or more broadly, their hopes, dreams, fears, ambi­tions and expec­ta­tions for the future have long been at the cen­tre of social sci­ence research projects in the field of youth stud­ies in particular.…

28th February 2013 Billingsgate Fish Market

Billings­gate fish mar­ket is London’s old­est whole­sale mar­ket. It offi­cially opens at four o’clock in the morn­ing when a bell sig­nals the start of trade and it closes at half past nine. But the day’s work starts well before trade begins and con­tin­ues through the morn­ing on and off the mar­ket floor. The archi­tec­ture of Billingsgate…

8th August 2012 Green Ethics and Cheap Work

It’s been a while. Instead of writ­ing for noway­tomakealiv­ing, I’ve been doing field­work for a research project called ‘Green Col­lar work’, inves­ti­gat­ing the val­ues and moti­va­tions for those work­ing in eco-businesses, with a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in envi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants and those sell­ing eco-products. It’s been fas­ci­nat­ing. I’ve met a shaman, a for­mer banker and a guitarist,…

30th June 2012 Industrial Heritage and the Value of Working-Class Memory

In 2011, I was help­ing one of my soci­ol­ogy stu­dents get started on an essay.  She wanted to write, she said, “some­thing on coalmin­ing com­mu­ni­ties”. I sug­gested she nar­row the topic, since coal min­ing was, until rel­a­tively recently, a wide­spread indus­try in the UK. She responded by sug­gest­ing that she could look at “some­where up…

25th September 2011 How to Use ‘Mad Men’ to Think About Advertising

Towards the end of the first series of the Emmy-award win­ning US drama, Mad Men, set in the fic­tional world of the New York adver­tis­ing agency, Stir­ling Cooper, in the early 1960s, there is a scene which offers a seduc­tive vision of the work of adver­tis­ing prac­ti­tion­ers and their role in weav­ing com­mer­cial fables. The…

9th May 2011 Dreams at Work

On the 13th Feb­ru­ary, 2011, I pho­tographed my work­place at night, as part of a project on dreams. Sound artist Will Mont­gomery was with me, record­ing the uni­ver­sity breath­ing. Click on the pre­sen­ta­tion to hear how the boiler room hums and the air­con­di­tion­ing units buzz. A silent, dream­less night is an illu­sion. Dreams The photographs…

15th April 2011 Picturing The Silent Musician

For some time I’ve been work­ing on a project about musi­cians and the work they do. This started as an inves­ti­ga­tion into the rela­tion­ship between work, con­sump­tion and leisure in the lives of cre­ative work­ers. Here, the pre­car­ity of being a worker in the infor­mal econ­omy, depen­dent on an active, pay­ing audi­ence and (prob­a­bly) a…

14th December 2010 Catching Tuna at Carloforte

There’s blood in the water for months,’ explains the tour guide at the Museo Civico di Car­ol­forte. She’s been telling us about the mat­tanza, the tra­di­tional killing of blue-fin tuna (tonno rosso) in May and June each year as the fish swim past the Isola di San Pietro off the west coast of Sar­dinia on…