Attending the 2nd Annual F-List Research Hub Conference: Researchers' Identities in Music at ICMP in May 2023

Written by Lauren Alex Hooper

A day of presentations focused on gender in music based research? That sounds like a lot. Well, it was. And it was absolutely brilliant.

I joined The F-List a while ago but I haven’t really had the chance to get involved until recently and, as it turns out, attending the 2nd Annual F-List Research Hub Conference: Researchers’ Identities in Music was a very inspiring way to start. Putting a spotlight on identity as a central theme in feminist research was fascinating to me as someone relatively new to research since I’ve predominantly been taught that research is not about the researcher. So being introduced to the idea that “‘who we are’” [is] intimately entangled with “‘what we research’” really expanded my understanding of what research can be and what I could potentially research in the future.

After a bit of mingling, the day began with the Keynote speech from Professor Sophie Daniels, where she discussed, amongst other things, her career in the music industry, her founding of the songwriting program at ICMP, her artist project, Liberty’s Mother, and it’s associated advocacy work, as well as her research into why we write songs. I first met Sophie in 2014 and she was my teacher on and off for seven years while I studied at ICMP; so while I knew much of what she was sharing, it was really insightful to hear it presented this way, through the lens of feminism, particularly in the music industry and music education. Sophie has always inspired and supported me – as a songwriter, an artist, a researcher, a mental health and Autism advocate, and, ultimately, as a person – and so it was very special to watch her give the Keynote speech.

The research panels of the day were split into shorter presentations of each person’s research, a set up that was ideal for my ADHD brain; as it turned out, there were many neurodivergent individuals attending so I fast became aware I wasn’t the only one. There were various accommodations (content warnings, a quiet space to recharge, etc) made to make it as accessible as possible, something that – in my experience – is very unusual but wonderful; it made the day much easier to manage and therefore enjoy.

The first panel, moderated by Dr Lia Mice, was focussed around researcher’s identities. Saskhia Menendez opened with her research on Trans & Non-Binary Inclusion in Music & Entertainment, an in-depth introduction into what it means to be transgender and non-binary, experiences in the music industry, and how research can drive activism. Second was Dr Sarah Whitfield with Enacting Queer Potential in Histories of Music (or ‘I never knew before I met you, that you could be an academic and dress like you’), which was engaging and insightful and fifteen minutes just wasn’t enough; I wanted to know more. Third was Natasha Hendry with her recently published research, Fitting in and Sticking Out: An exploratory study of the Whiteness of the school music curriculum and its effects on Global Majority musicians. She shared her history and how she came to research the whiteness in music education, including the impact that that has on people of colour. Her inclusion of the quote, “Don’t be an ally, be an accomplice,” triggered a greater discussion on how to best use our own privilege. And closing the panel was Jemma Roberts with her presentation, The ADHD Music Producer: Is there a need to develop specific resources to support neurodivergent music creators in their careers? This one particularly resonated with me, given that I have ADHD and advocate for neurodivergent people inside and out of the music industry. Her descriptions of living with ADHD were beautifully accessible and her approach to moving forward, working as a community, was really interesting; I signed up straight away.

We broke for lunch and an opportunity to socialise. Everyone was so open and willing to share, about their areas of research and about themselves. As a person who is curious about pretty much everything – from the history of magnolia trees to the alienation effect – I was happy to talk to anyone about anything. But it was also great to have the safe space because sometimes the amount of noise was quite overwhelming; being able to take a break from everything absolutely made the day possible.

The afternoon was split into three parts. First up was In Conversation with Deborah Annetts (led by Vick Bain). She’s had a fascinating life and career and her passion for her work as CEO of the Independent Society of Musicians was really inspiring. I also thought what she said about how badly the arts are treated is really important, how the arts give life meaning: “They lie at the heart of what it means to be a human being.” That really resonated with me.

The second panel, Equalising the Stage, began with Vick Bain and her research on Women’s Careers in Music; Initial Explorations and Emerging Themes. There was a lot of information to take in but the trends in what people were reporting, both negative and positive experiences, were really interesting. Describing the industry as ‘a culture of control’ actually made me shiver because it’s so true on so many levels. Up next was Lexi du Buclet with her project, Exploring Black Feminism through the Music Industry (including an enthusiastically long list of incredible black women in music), which was really engaging, especially in the context of the discussion around intersectionality. Third was Professor Samantha Parsley with her presentation, Embodying the Patriarchy: The Generative Power of ‘Outing Myself’ as a Gender in Music Researcher, and her story of becoming a gender researcher. And last but not least was Dr Metka Potocnik and her research, Intersectionality and Feminism in Intellectual Property Law: Power and Social Justice Corrections. While the words ‘intellectual property law’ had initially intimidated me, the presentation was interesting and accessible and resulted in a great discussion about creating change and what we can do individually.

The final panel was dedicated to emerging researchers. Josh Edbrooke presented the initial stages of his research – Can the Taiwanese Indie/Rock/Band Scene provide useful lessons in terms of increasing gender equality in music? – and described what inspired him and how he thinks we can learn from it. And our final presentation came from Laura Casas Cambra, on 251 Women: Investigating the Interwar Generation of Women Composers at the Royal College of Music. I was fascinated by all the work of these forgotten female composers that she’d uncovered, and I certainly wasn’t the only person wanting her to write a book.

When the panels ended, we converged on the café and the networking slowly turned into hanging out and DJ sets by Dr Lea Mice and Professor Sam Parsley, which was a fun way to close out the day; it seemed like everybody could find something in common with everybody else. A huge congratulations to Sophie Daniels, Vick Bain, and Metka Potocnik for putting on such a great event; I’m already looking forward to the next one.