February 28, 2014 Still Life After The Office

Since Christmas Val Murray and Lynn Pilling (Tea) have been using a space on the second floor of Federation House on Balloon Street in Manchester as a playful, evolving installation. Currently the building is being used as artists’ studios and exhibition spaces in a period of transition between its past uses as a Coop drapery…

December 10, 2013 It Shouldn’t Happen To A Santa

I have, for some time now, been mildly obsessed by Christmas. By this I don’t mean that I walk around for twelve months of the year humming Christmas carols, or wearing reindeer socks (though I must admit to owning a pair or two). It’s more to do with the fact that for an event that…

August 27, 2013 Aspiration Nation? Young people’s working futures

George Osborne might have coined the catchphrase ‘aspiration nation’ in a budget speech earlier this year, but the question of young people’s ‘aspirations’, or more broadly, their hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions and expectations for the future have long been at the centre of social science research projects in the field of youth studies in particular.…

February 28, 2013 Billingsgate Fish Market

Billingsgate fish market is London’s oldest wholesale market. It officially opens at four o’clock in the morning when a bell signals the start of trade and it closes at half past nine. But the day’s work starts well before trade begins and continues through the morning on and off the market floor. The architecture of Billingsgate…

August 8, 2012 Green Ethics and Cheap Work

It’s been a while. Instead of writing for nowaytomakealiving, I’ve been doing fieldwork for a research project called ‘Green Collar work’, investigating the values and motivations for those working in eco-businesses, with a particular interest in environmental consultants and those selling eco-products. It’s been fascinating. I’ve met a shaman, a former banker and a guitarist,…

June 30, 2012 Industrial Heritage and the Value of Working-Class Memory

In 2011, I was helping one of my sociology students get started on an essay.  She wanted to write, she said, “something on coalmining communities”. I suggested she narrow the topic, since coal mining was, until relatively recently, a widespread industry in the UK. She responded by suggesting that she could look at “somewhere up…

September 25, 2011 How to Use ‘Mad Men’ to Think About Advertising

Towards the end of the first series of the Emmy-award winning US drama, Mad Men, set in the fictional world of the New York advertising agency, Stirling Cooper, in the early 1960s, there is a scene which offers a seductive vision of the work of advertising practitioners and their role in weaving commercial fables. The…

May 9, 2011 Dreams at Work

On the 13th February, 2011, I photographed my workplace at night, as part of a project on dreams. Sound artist Will Montgomery was with me, recording the university breathing. Click on the presentation to hear how the boiler room hums and the airconditioning units buzz. A silent, dreamless night is an illusion. Dreams The photographs…

April 15, 2011 Picturing The Silent Musician

For some time I’ve been working on a project about musicians and the work they do. This started as an investigation into the relationship between work, consumption and leisure in the lives of creative workers. Here, the precarity of being a worker in the informal economy, dependent on an active, paying audience and (probably) a…

December 14, 2010 Catching Tuna at Carloforte

‘There’s blood in the water for months,’ explains the tour guide at the Museo Civico di Carolforte. She’s been telling us about the mattanza, the traditional killing of blue-fin tuna (tonno rosso) in May and June each year as the fish swim past the Isola di San Pietro off the west coast of Sardinia on…