Archive for October, 2009

So last week the word escaped among Kate Bush fans about what will surely be the best book published about Kate in 2010, Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory.

Responses have ranged from the indifferent to the excited, to the passive aggressive to the, er, aggressive. Nevertheless, the news has ruffled some curiosity, as indeed it should do. I’ve been working on this for years, and I tell you guys, it’s going to be amazing.

Ever since I had the KB idea (c.2003 in the form of a PhD, not the same as the Adventure opus, but a skeletal ally), I’ve dreamt of a press feature on the book when it hits the critics’ laps. The title of the piece would be, of course, ‘Withering Heights.’

Thankyou to Tannis on ‘The Sensual World of Kate Bush’ forum for this post:

Yes, Paul, Withers’ Kate Pod could be an interesting read, or, as you say, it could be a “car crash” with the author merely ‘body-snatching’ KaTe for her own queer agenda! 😎 Still, it will be interesting to see Kate Bush as you have never seen her before, through the eyes of Debbie Withers’ personal response… Withering Heights… 😀

It seems the dream can’t be far away. My name was made for a Kate Bush related pun, if nothing else. Bring it on.


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Please think before you post deliberately aggressive comments on this blog because they simply will not get published.

If you want to constructively critique something (particularly relating to Kate Bush!) please do so, but no hate mail, thanks.

I am not interested in creating a space where people can be mean to each other and I will not allow it here.

Utopian perhaps, but that’s the way I want it.


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I just had a petition drop into my inbox, asking me to sign to protest against the criteria for measuring how academic research is being awarded funds.

To cut a long story short, one of the key frameworks that has been introduced for measuring the success of a proposal is whether or not it has an ‘impact’ on ‘users’ of that research. These may not neccessarily be other academics. While the language of ‘users’ may invoke the very worst the neoliberal academy in the UK has to offer, I think its actually quite, er, useful, to think about widening the sphere of people who can actively participate in the findings of your research.

When I was constructing a funding proposal for the ESRC this year, I actually found the notion of ‘impact’ to be a very sensible way of thinking about the usefulness of my research proposal. I had little difficulty in writing about the effect my proposed research would have on different parts of society, from secondary education to museums, archives and libraries, to more commercial sites like TV and radio. In fact, the main impetus behind this research proposal is to have an impact on varied users who will most probably not be academics. The promise to write academic journal articles was nothing but a self-indulgent whim to satisfy my intellectualism (and of course, the conditions of the grant). For me it’s all about the impact baby! Otherwise, what’s the point?

The petition’s manifesto is a little more defensive:

‘Academic excellence is the best predictor of impact in the longer term, and it is on academic excellence alone that research should be judged. ‘Users’ who are not academic experts are not fit to judge the academic excellence of research any more than employers are fit to mark student essays’.

I find this to be such a weak argument, and if listened to by the government, or whoever it is that decides what the criteria for judging research proposals is, will only re-affirm the insularity of academic research which has gone on for too long.

At least with a framework that considers impact it forces people to think how their research can be accountable to a wider audience. Academics have to offer creative strategies where knowledge produced through research can become accessible to many different people (blogs, websites, public seminars, theatre and art collaborations, and more). Surely this is a good thing, and much needed too.

I dream of a culture where there is intellectual accountability. Where there is a movement of knowledge in action between people who adjust how they receive the messages, re-package information according to their needs and understanding. Where ideas can translate into different contexts, where people don’t have to pay, lie or sneak in to sit and read in a University library.

Impact is not about dumming down. It’s about communicating to people. Knowledge is power. Distribute it.

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This is the first press release for Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory, which will be published by HammerOn Press in March 2010. Let me know what you think!

A new book, Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory by Deborah M. Withers, that provides the first in-depth engagement with the philosophy of Kate Bush’s music, is being published in March 2010.

Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory will present Kate Bush as you have never seen her before. Here is the polymorphously perverse Kate, the witchy Kate, the queer Kate; the Kate who moves beyond the mime.

Since Bush burst into the public eye in 1978, her fans and admirers have been fascinated by the endless mysteries of her music. She is a pop star whose brain and imagination have inspired, delighted and comforted millions. Former Sex Pistol John Lydon recently said that Bush ‘supplies me with all the clues and it’s up to me put the answers together.’ Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory is one personal response to these clues. Written by a queer woman in her late 20s, its answers are delivered in a unique way.

Through in-depth readings of the often critically neglected works of Bush’s career (The Kick Inside, Lionheart, The Dreaming, The Red Shoes and her film The Line, the Cross and the Curve), Withers guides the reader through the complexity of Bush’s art and how it transformed popular culture.

Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory makes theory accessible to new audiences. Drawing on cutting edge feminist philosophy, critical theory and queer studies, the author uses Bush’s music to demonstrate how these often abstract ideas can be applied to everyday life. Through rigorous analysis of the music, film, video and dance of Kate Bush, it breaks down boundaries between the academic and popular, showing that theory can be sordid, funny and relevant – despite what most people think.

Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory is being published by HammerOn Press, a publishing company set up by Withers herself. She is capitalising on the latest developments in print-on-demand (POD) technology and the economic recession, two important factors which are seeing more and more aspiring authors turn to self-publishing as a way to get their work published and widely read.

Self-publishing using POD technology is also attractive since it carries a low carbon footprint – books are literally only printed when somebody orders one. Simply put, with POD technology, publishing books has never been cheaper, easier or more ethical.

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I’m on the verge of doing it – if purely to publicise Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory – but will Twitter make my already high-level of internet neurosis go through the roof? Are there any horror stories out there? Tell me before it’s too late….tweet!

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Let’s face it, no publishing house in their right mind would have published experimental fiction by a self-defined ‘mad woman’, even if she was a bit snobby and obssessed with the British Empire.

Having oodles of cash helps, but get yourself out there, no matter how many nervous breakdowns you have had in your life. DIY baby, yeah!

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The grid is open and the circuit is raging. In all kinds of directions it disconnects, traversing the apparatus, spreading.

These years I lay dreaming, letting every particle of wonder soak into my porous body, evaporating, shaking with crisis. Embedded in a second, I send out vibrations because I don’t think (i don’t think!) that people will listen. This is more subtle, a drift, something dredging up from the edge of consciousness, a wish, dancing between the tip of spit that leaves my tongue as I sing and pant in the gruesome fight.

In the dark I rush towards hands that look and eyes that touch. Something grows between my toes.

Greed aplenty, bursting, rising, tasting, touching all those dreams escaping.

The rage hasn’t stopped, the rage will never stop. The people in charge got there by accident, I got here by accident.

We cross a path and hesitate. Will we meet this time?

Broken in multiples, enclosed in camps, we are not animated, not fully. Wires in my back have been separated. Only one need slip and the system is in chaos (the system is chaos anyway, we do not need to stop touching!).

We touch with our eyes these days, and look with our hands, a different kind of sympathy.

Stop asking whether the grid is still working, abandonment is not the same as caring.

In response I take a thread of grass and pull the seams tightly, to the edges where the frays are escaping, not in the interest of tidiness, but for clarity.

I wrench taut cities and tower blocks and bridges and churches and surgeries and restaurants and graveyards.

Dispersing, every moment, I hatch, every moment, unpopulated, every moment, a rash so disturbing it never leaves.

Scars left on bodies, scars left on trees.

Everything trickles into everything.

Oh my rest is the consequence of all this raging

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