Saturday, 10 November 2012

The MA

Something very good and very strange started this September; I went back to university as a mature student.  I'd been thinking about studying for a while; in part because it's felt as if my life has been stuck in a place I don't particularly want to be for a while and I've been gnawed at by a sense of dissatisfaction for a long time. I applied to Birmingham City University, Warwick and erm, that ended up being about it to be honest. I had good intentions of applying to others but in the end I never completed the forms. In the end both institutions offered me places, but thanks to a snafu in my understanding of Warwick's procedures, BCU offered me a place first and by the time Warwick's offer came through I had already accepted the place at the more local university.

I'm studying part time and I'll be honest that even with my book worm tendencies working and studying can be a strain, just as writing after work can be, but it's a wonderful feeling to be back in a class room talking to students and tutors. The two academics I've encountered in PME (Performance, Media and English) are both lovely gents and extremely knowledgeable. The course leader is Dr Gregg Leadbetter (http://gregoryleadbetter.blogspot.co.uk/) who's a poet.  

The tutor I'm having the most contact with at present is Ian Marchant (he's here: http://www.ianmarchant.com/) a creative non fiction writer who's enthusiasm for his genre is infectious and make me want to pick up his books, even though it's not my usual kind of thing (I often feel that I'm trying to escape real life, this genre embraces it).

Our coursework for the module is to create a pitch for a creative non fiction book, something tangible that can sent to an agent or publisher; the course is practical, something I'm sure my Mum would approve of. It's aim is to get us, the students, to a point where we can be published and make something of a living from writing (whether it'll be all of our livings is another matter - given the oft repeated maxim that most writers have other sources of income and its only the very lucky ones that get to focus purely on writing).

My project is a book on the Goth scene and, in particular Goths themselves, with the idea that I would travel to the subculture's heartlands and interview Goths about why they became Goths, what... ah sod it here's the blurb I wrote. 

The BlurbAfter thirty years Goth is a definite part of the cultural landscape, shifting in and out of mainstream consciousness in successive waves. Vaunted and vilified in equal measure, enshrined in high culture but also hated, the cause of attacks and even murder, Goth has survived nonetheless, spawning new generations of black clad followers. No longer just a fad for disgruntled teenagers, the idea that there are only young Goths and dead Goths has been and gone. But what draws people to the subculture in the first place; what makes them stay? How far do the roots of the community reach? And are there Goths in Transylvania? Steve Cotterill sets off on a tour of the places where Goth prospers and grows to explore the subculture in a journey from Whitby to Belgrade, via London markets, German nightclubs and Czech ossuaries.

Of course since that was written, another leg has been added to the journey; an American tour that goes from coast to coast, travelling from Poe to Bela Lugosi's grave and taking in cities like New York, New Orleans, Columbia (Missouri) if only to document the demise of the scene in middle America and the tightening of the Bible Belt, and then out westward to the likes of Seattle, birthplace of both Grunge and, arguably, Steampunk, before sliding down the coast to the City of Angels and the faded glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

On the way I'm hoping to see things I've never seen before, to visit Dracula's Castle and find out why Germany is the new heartland of Goth. I just need to sell the thing first. In the meantime I guess I have to go to lots of club nights and gigs of bands that I like... Such a tragedy, that. 

I'm planning to post some more bits and pieces about the project here, as a way to raise awareness of it ( as I'd really like to do it) and hope to get a map sorted showing my intended route.

In the meantime this is the playlist I'm building on Spotify: Goth Songs . I'd welcome more suggestions of bands and tracks you think I'm missing as I'm always keen to find new music.

Right, better go and do some work!