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Re-Rewind: Heritage, Representation and Music City Aspiration in Southampton

Bennett, T. ORCID: 0000-0003-0078-9315 (2020). Re-Rewind: Heritage, Representation and Music City Aspiration in Southampton. In: Music Cities. New Directions in Cultural Policy Research. (pp. 19-42). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-35872-3_2


What kind of a city is a Music City? This chapter holds on to the common-sense notion that there is no single, final answer to this question; no blueprint and no original. Nonetheless, the argument made here takes place against a backdrop not only of the proliferation of Music City discourse, but also of its increasingly precise definition. Focusing on the UK, it begins by outlining two distinct economic imaginaries, where UNESCO’s ‘Cities of Music’ development agenda is increasingly paralleled and challenged by a more recent incarnation, ‘Music Cities’, aligned more closely with the normative aims of mainstream national and international music industries. It then moves to explore the relevance and the negotiation of these two imaginaries in the specific case of Southampton, a medium-sized port city on the south coast of the UK. Southampton presents an atypical example—lacking a distinctive or widely recognised cultural identity—yet an aspirational one, where the city’s cultural development strategy evolved to include an aim to become a recognised ‘Music City’. It is thus an intriguing case to explore how such a project might be constructed from scratch. Doing so raises the challenge of recognising the cultural embeddedness of local music economies, particularly through the common frame of ‘heritage’. The aim here is not to assess whether these designations are legitimate in this case but to consider the difficult and diverse work of recognising and remembering local music histories, beyond calls to ‘celebrate’ and ‘promote’ them, in unfolding a present-day cultural economy.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is the accepted manuscript version of a chapter published by Palgrave Macmillan. The final published version is available at
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
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