Conversations on History: The Power of Archives with J. Willgoose, Esq

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Date / time: 16 May, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

The Beveridge Hall, Senate House


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This year’s Creighton lecture is the first in a series of Conversations about why History matters. In each event we ask a public figure to tell us how the past has informed their working life or creative practice. Our opening conversation is with J. Willgoose Esq., a founder member of the electronic / rock guitar band Public Service Broadcasting who have had two top five records and toured the world ‘teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future.’

J. has been making music using archive material since a chance encounter with some British Film Institute footage in 2009. His band specialise in concept albums that represent and play with the past, whilst maintaining a strong connection to place and community. Inform – Educate – Entertain (2013) used archival material from the BFI and The National Archives; The Race for Space (2015) focused on the US and Soviet space race between 1957-1972; Every Valley (2017) explored community and memory through the lens of the coal industry in Wales and was recorded in an Ebbw Vale community hall. In 2022 the band was commissioned by the BBC to create an album length piece to mark the Corporation’s Centenary. This New Noise was performed as Prom 58 in the 2022 season at the Royal Albert Hall. Their latest studio album, Bright Magic (2021), focuses on the history of Berlin and draws on sources such as Walter Ruttmann’s acoustic collage for radio – Wochenende – first performed in 1930.

In this Conversation J. will talk about how he has used archive material and why; how his practice has evolved as the band has grown over the years; and specifically how the band have woven narratives through their albums with the use of samples culled from various historical sources.

Image credit Alex Lake