From Detroit to Dundee: Examining the Impact of Northern Soul on Learning in Communities

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The seminal 1960s soul music recorded in and around Detroit holds a central place in contemporary dance club culture worldwide. The Northern Soul (NS) dance scene emerged in the early 1970s across industrial towns in North of England. Through a network of iconic venues, the scene celebrated and showcased often-obscure 1960s recordings by relatively unknown African American artists. The impact and allure of NS spread across the UK including Scotland.
The discrete scene in Scotland continues to thrive with dedicated events taking place every weekend across the country. The contemporary scene relies on broader appeal with regards to the style of music and the age demographic of participants. However, key facets from the 1960s have endured, including a ‘neighbourhood’ ethos in predominantly local working-class communities. Unlike many contemporary club cultures, the NS scene straddles age boundaries due in part to the longevity of the original 1960s music and mutual engagement across generations.
Drawing on findings from a small-scale qualitative study conducted in the contemporary Scottish NS scene, this paper presents and discusses aspects of multi-generational participation and learning in a cultural setting. The project utilises the notion of situated learning in the context of the NS scene, which in turn is conceived as a community of practice. (Lave 1991 & Wenger 1998).
The enquiry focuses on the respective learning experiences of both seasoned participants (adult ‘old-timers’) and more recent joiners (young and adult ‘newcomers’). The findings offer insight to continuity and change in this community of cultural practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2021
EventInternational Association for the Study of Popular Music (US): Annual Conference - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States
Duration: 18 May 202122 May 2021


ConferenceInternational Association for the Study of Popular Music (US)
Abbreviated titleIASPM-US
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnn Arbor
Internet address


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