In 1989 Ruth Finnegan – an anthropologist based at the Open University – published a book called ‘The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town’. Based on several years of ethnographic research in the ‘new town’ of Milton Keynes, the book uncovered a wealth of amateur music-making in a town which had become widely dubbed as a ‘cultural desert’. ‘The Hidden Musicians’ became a landmark publication in the study of music and culture.
On 11th and 12th January 2016, ‘The Hidden Musicians Revisited’ conference was held at the Open University in Milton Keynes. It was organised by City University music alumna Catherine Tackley (now teaching at the OU) and was attended by about 50 people from across the UK and abroad. Keynote papers were presented by Ruth Finnegan herself and Professor Derek Scott (University of Leeds).
City lecturer Laudan Nooshin and completing PhD student and Visiting Lecturer Stephen WIlford both presented papers at the conference, as follows: ‘Hide and Seek: The Internet as an Alternative Public Space for Iran’s ‘Hidden’ Musicians’ and ‘Hidden Musicians in Public Spaces: Algerian Musics and Festivals in Contemporary London’.
This was a fascinating conference in which papers addressed many different aspects of ‘hidden-ness’ in relation to music and musicians.