School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Vic Gammon

Guest Member of Staff

Background

Introduction

I retired from my post at Newcastle University in 2010 but have remained as variously a Guest Member of Staff and a part-time Strategic Research Advisor since then. I continue working on my research projects and having occasional involvement in extra-curricular music activities.

The quickest way to contact me is via my home email, please reconstitute this: vic dot gammon @ icloud dot com (no spaces).

Background

I joined the International Centre for Music Studies at the University of Newcastle in September 2004 as Senior Lecturer in Folk and Traditional Music. I was previously Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds where I managed the BA in Popular and World Musics. My interests in the vernacular musics of Britain and North America, in social history and my continuing activity as a performer form the basis of my teaching and research.

News

It is a great regret that I will not be performing any more with Dearman, Gammon and Harrison. Due to the advance of Steve Harrison's illness he has decided that he is not fit enough to perform in public any longer and has withdrawn from future music activities. Since his retirement as Professor of Social Policy at Manchester, Steve has relished throwing himself into his various musical activities. We have been performing together since the early 1990s and our summer seasons of performances have been a great source of pleasure to all of us. I have always enjoyed playing with a small group and cultivating long-term musical relationships where responses to each other become very embedded and intuitive. Annie and Steve would like to thank all friends that have supported their musical work over the years at clubs, concerts dances and workshops

I think it is too late in my life to build a new relationship of this sort although I still manage to get together with Will Duke occasionally, which makes it about 45 years that we have played together. So, I am mostly fulfilling future bookings solo, I have always done some solo performing and I think I will have to concentrate on that now. Here is what, in my totally uncommercial way, I am sending to organisers who book or may want to book me. 

Vic Gammon sings and plays the tenor banjo, anglo concertina and melodeon. His repertory of songs and dance tunes is largely drawn from English traditional sources with some US and self-composed material. He has worked as a performer, composer, teacher, writer and researcher. He has played in various combinations including Etchingham Steam Band with Shirley Collins, with Will Duke during his years in Sussex and in Dearman Gammon & Harrison. He is now retired from his job as Director of Newcastle University’s folk degree courses and devotes his time to music and research. CDs he has performed on and/or produced include ‘The Tale of Ale’ (1977) ‘Black Crow, White Crow’ (2004) ‘Gannin’ to Blaydon Races’ (2012) and ‘Early Scottish Ragtime’ (2016). He lives in Hexham, Northumberland.

I tend not to travel too far to perform, unless it is a residential event or part of a tour; when I was a full-time musician in the 1970s I remember playing Exeter one night and Ashington the next. I remember thinking then that this was not an ecologically sound or sustainable way of life for me.

I am working on completing my study of Night Visit Songs, which I have been researching for some time, but has been fascinating. I am also working on a review of Bohlman's new book on Herder -again fascinating. Herder has almost haunted my life without me ever really coming to terms with his thought, and this book is sending into various nooks and crannies to understand more. I then have a couple of papers to complete and I think I may stop and retire properly (if that is possible). I have a range of topics for presentations should you want me to speak at your seminar or event and am contributing to a new module on folk revivals next academic year, including a lecture on the US folk revival I have not given before. It should be interesting - for all the criticisms made of him I will never forget my encounters with Alan Lomax.

I created a new Academia.edu page back In January 2014 for a goodly part of my published work (most of that which is not currently in print in commercial books) to make it more easily available to students, colleagues and people interested. http://newcastle.academia.edu/VicGammon is the address. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest that has been shown in my writings - over 8,000 total views so far.

I recently completed a long (six day!) life story interview for the British Library (part of their Oral History of Oral History project - I was active in the OH movement in the 1980s) and a shorter (though not that short!) interview for Concertina World, which has recently been published. Both were interesting experiences with intelligent interviewers asking good questions. The long Oral History interview is now on the British Library website in full on audio and with a written summary. It can be accessed from https://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Oral-historians/ . I cannot think why people would want to listen to it, but it is there. A shorter (but long enough!) interview with Concertina World is available on my Academia.edu page.

So much for retirement!

Roles and Responsibilities

Member, Editorial Board, Folk Music Journal (1984 - present)

Member, Advisory Group, Traditional Song Forum

Degree Programme Director, BMus in Folk and Traditional Music (2005-2009)

Organiser, Research Forum, International Centre for Music Studies (2006-2009)

Qualifications

BA, MA, D Phil, PGCE (all University of Sussex)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (formerly ILTm)

Memberships

Social History Society

English Folk Dance and Song Society

Traditional Song Forum

University and College Union (retired member)

Musicians Union (retired member)

Updated 10th March 2018

all friends

Research

Research Interests

British (particularly English) traditional song and instrumental music; North American traditional song and instrumental music; English venacular religious music; music social history; political song.

Other Expertise

Performer  of English traditional song and instrumental music. My main instruments are, anglo-concertina, melodeon, tenor banjo, mandolin and voice.

Current Work

Current Research

  • ''Barbara Allen: the cultural resilience of a seventeenth century song' a presentation was given at a at a symposium at Newcastle University entitled Memory and Community in Early Modern Britain, 7th and 8th June 2013. I also gave it at the Social History Society conference in Newcastle in the Spring 2014. I am in the process of writing up the pieces as an academic paper.


  • 'The Night Visiting Song Revisited'.  I contributed to a Radio 4 programme called 'The Night Visit' introduced by Tim Van Eyken and broadcast in October 2013; this was a very fortuitous as, looking at the material on night visit songs, I decided that an up-to-date academic paper on the subject of night visiting songs was needed. I made this my contribution to the celebration of the work of Professor Alun Howkins in Sussex in July and will probably be a contribution to the subsequent festschrift.


  • The Street Ballad Singer in the Nineteenth Century' is an essay drawn from my longer-term work on the street ballad trade. It is for a book on nineteenth century street literature to be edited by Steve Roud and David Atkinson. The essay has been submitted and is in the proofing stage. It is planned and much of the research is completed.

 

  • AHRB project 'Hit songs and their significance in seventeenth-century England' (AH/K003100/1). It is an ambitious project that aims 'to create a website featuring digital images and new recordings by the Carnival Band of 100 of the best-selling ballads from seventeenth-century England, with full scholarly apparatus for the benefit of users.  The site will be freely accessible and hosted by Cambridge University Press (CUP).  (See profile page for more details). This three year project started in January 2014. I have reduced my role in this project to that of occasional consultant due to time constraints.

Postgraduate Supervision

I have supervised masters and doctoral students in traditional music and music education related areas. Topics areas supervised include music in the nineteenth and early twentieth society, popular church music, the history of the tonic sol-fa movement, traditional song collecting and editing, traditional fiddle pedagogy, ballad studies, Tyneside song, improvisation in English traditional instrumental music,  primary and secondary music pedagogy, bass guitar pedagogy, practical music assessment and creative work.

Esteem Indicators

I was awarded the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in 2011. The Gold Badge is 'awarded for unique or outstanding contributions to folk music' and is the highest honour that the Society bestows.

I have been frequently asked to referee for research grants.

I have been external examiner for various universities including Sheffield (master's courses) The Institute of Education (master's courses) and Goldsmiths College, University of London.

I have examined PhDs for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Durham, Huddersfield, Northumbria, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds and Sussex universities.

I have been an external research superviser for Leeds Metropolitan University and Goldsmiths College.

I am asked to broadcast on national radio or television on average two or three times a year. I recently made substantial contributions to 'The Choir' (Radio 3) and 'The Singer Not The Song' (Radio 4). I recently worked on a BBC4 TV social history series 'Rude Brittania' and 'A Very British Murder'.  

 I have acted in an advisory capacity for a number of organisations and projects, including the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and the AHRB-funded Carpenter project.

I have contributed to the DNB, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens

I am an Adviser to the Traditional Song Forum



Publications