50 Years On: The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies – an exhibition of contemporary artwork, Midlands Art Centre, 3 May-27 June
About the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
In the inaugural lecture that followed his appointment as Professor of English at the University of Birmingham in 1962, Richard Hoggart announced his intention to conduct research into ‘mass’ culture. Two years later, Hoggart had founded the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS).
Under the directorship of first Hoggart and then Stuart Hall and Richard Johnson, and with the commitment of Michael Green throughout, the CCCS operated in between the academic disciplines of literary criticism, sociology, history and anthropology. Rather than focus on ‘high’ culture, the intention was to carry out group research on areas of popular culture such as chart music, television programmes and advertising. This was something that was largely unheard of in universities.
The Centre had few members of staff and much of the work it produced was the result of collaborations between students, many of whom came from backgrounds that were under-represented in universities. Work produced at the CCCS showed that popular culture was not only worthy of academic study but often also politically significant. It showed, for example, the importance to young people of subcultures based around style and music, the ideological influence of girls’ magazines over their young readership, and why a ‘moral panic’ over the presence of black communities had evolved in 1970s Britain.
The CCCS focus on the ‘contemporary’ in Birmingham, Britain and later around the world was combined with an engagement with critical theory, often introduced from the continent. The application of these theories to contemporary society was rigorously debated during weekly ‘sub groups’.
Conventional boundaries between teachers and students were intentionally broken down at the CCCS, creating a democratic approach to learning that was a training ground for several noted public intellectuals and produced numerous foundational texts. The CCCS also had an important influence outside the academy, with numerous former students playing significant roles in altering the political and cultural landscapes of Birmingham and beyond. Having been merged with the Department of Sociology, the Centre was closed down by the University of Birmingham in 2002.
About this project
To mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment CCCS, this project seeks to re-examine its significance and communicate its pioneering work to a wider audience. An archive of CCCS material has been set up at the Cadbury Research Library, featuring material from former students and staff members. A major conference will take place on the 24 and 25 June 2014 that looks back at the legacies of CCCS. And, in May 2014, an exhibition will be held at the Midland Arts Centre. This will consider the continuing relevance of the Centre’s work by bringing together the work of a range of exciting contemporary artists – including the work of two artists in residence - alongside material from the archive. This blog will keep you updated on the project as it develops. Keep checking back to find updates, blogs by our artists in residence and material from the CCCS archive.