Do you remember singing into your hairbrush along to Top Of The Pops? Did you long to be as cool as Cathy McGowan on Ready Steady Go? Can you remember recording your favourite bands on The Tube or The Chart Show? The project team of the AHRC funded project ‘A History of Television for Women in Britain, 1947-89’ (based at the University of Warwick and De Montfort University) ran a pop-up exhibition and ‘drop-in’ shop in Coventry city centre focusing on the history of British pop programming throughout May 2012. This has arisen as a key area for discussion in our audience research in ways we hadn’t initially anticipated: interviewees have been especially keen to talk about viewing pop programmes, about their importance in keeping up with (and recording) the latest trends in pop music and fashion, and their impact on their evolving identity as teenagers and young women (around key programmes such as Ready Steady Go, Six Five Special, Top of the Pops and The Tube).
The Coventry arts organisation Artspace brokered a deal with Coventry City Council through their ‘Empty Shops’ initiative (recently praised in Mary Portas’ high street review), to house the project team’s exhibition about their work in the disused Co’v’ee shop in Shelton Square in Coventry city centre. The exhibition made use of the large shop window (and the inside of the shop) to display an exhibition of props, documents, and moving-image footage which evokes the rich history of this programming in this period, and to get the passing public thinking and talking about the pop programmes that were important to them. Display items included: 1960s style furniture and artwork that evoke a typical Coventry living room of the time, a 1960s TV set playing pop programmes of this era on a loop, a ‘Cathy McGowan’ mannequin (McGowan has been identified as a significant icon for viewers of the 1960s), reproductions of Radio Times and TV Times coverage, and printed excerpts from the interviews we have already conducted about this aspect of the history of television for women.
The shop was open three times a week (Saturday 10-1, Monday 12-4, and Thursday 9-1) so that members of the public could drop in to talk to the project team about their work and share their memories of television viewing in this period. Furthermore, talking about pop programming inspired people to share with us other memories of the television programming that was significant to them during the period of our research. It was interesting to discover that pop programming was also significant for a male audience, though in fundamentally different ways.
Read Helen Wheatley's blog about the shop for CST Online here.
The Project team: Dr Rachel Moseley and Dr Helen Wheatley (Investigators), and Dr Mary Irwin (Post-doctoral Research Fellow) are at Warwick; Dr Helen Wood (investigator) and Hazel Collie (Doctoral Researcher) are at De Montfort.
Period of occupation: 1-31 May 2013
Contact: Helen Wheatley – Helen.Wheatley@warwick.ac.uk