Guest Post- Stephen Etheridge, PhD Student at the University of Huddersfield (Part 1)

HOWDY EVERYONE! I am please to introduce you to our first guest blogger! STEPHEN ETHERIDGE. So today I will be posting this in his behalf as a contribution to our blog, (isn’t that nice of him?). Please note that this update will take the space of various posts. The information provided in the following lines has all been written by him, I am being basically just the messenger. I hope you enjoy it. If you would like to know more about him get in contact and we will pass your interest to him. ENJOY.


Stephen Etheridge

PhD Student

School of Music, Humanities and Media

University of Huddersfield

Stephen Etheridge is a part-time PhD research student in social history and musicology at the University of Huddersfield. His thesis title is, ‘Slate Grey Rain and Polished Euphoniums.’ The Pennine Brass Band, 1840-1914, Social and Cultural Influences on Working-Class and Northern Identities. Stephen’s research explores contested and popular themes in social history and musicology to explain why, when the brass band movement was a national movement, in the popular imagination, the brass band movement became a metonym for working-class and northern identities in this period. Stephen uses the Pennine brass band to explore a number themes that contributed to the construction of working-class identities that emerged from the mid-nineteenth-century onwards, such as, community, rational recreation and social control, regional identity, working-class leisure, the links between musical performance and class identity, and musical hierarchies and masculinity. Stephen has presented over twenty talks and conference papers to local history groups and academic conferences about his research. He has recently finished jointly-editing, and contributing to, a new collection of essays that challenges accepted norms about the study of labour history, which is due to be released in October. (Anne Baldwin, Chris Ellis, Stephen Etheridge, Keith Laybourn and Neil Pye (Eds) Class Culture and Community: New Perspectives in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Labour History (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, 2012)) We asked Stephen how he came to be a PhD researcher, the reasons for his research, and his experiences of being a part-time PhD student.

How did you pick a research topic?

As a teenager I played the trombone in a number of brass bands around Staffordshire. I later went to Leeds College of Music and ended up following a different musical path, nevertheless, this early experience introduced me to the brass band movement, its traditions, values, and customs. These experiences stayed with me throughout my musical career. I don’t think many people plan a PhD and I feel that occasionally something happens that starts a chain of events that results in an idea. For me, this was picking up a second-hand copy of E.P. Thompson’s classic The Making of the English Working Class (1963) and being influenced by his argument that history was made by the ordinary person. As Thompson argued, class was not a thing, but was largely defined by the productive-and social- relations into which people were born. Thompson wrote, ‘Class-consciousness is the way in which these experiences are handled in cultural terms: embodied in traditions, value-systems, ideas, and institutional forms.’ 1On reading this, the first thing I thought was working-class brass bands have not been explored enough in terms of working-class culture.

Nevertheless, it was not until 2004, when I had the opportunity to study for a part-time master’s degree in social history, that I put this idea into practice. I felt that the brass band movement could shed new light on how the working-class lived their lives from the nineteenth-century onwards. You could say that I was using the writer’s cliché of, ‘write what you know.’ Influenced by Thompson I began my dissertation. Naturally, when I finished my master’s degree I felt there was a lot more research to be undertaken, and so I eventually ended up beginning my PhD at Huddersfield early in 2007. Clearly, I have read widely and have many more influences, Thompson, however, remains the core idea in my work. So, if I had not gone into Oxfam and bought his book I would not be here. In short, for me, PhD theses ideas do not come fully formed they develop over time, and from some unexpected events.

1 E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London, 1963, this edition,1991), pp. 8-9.


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