The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

Nostalgia, Symbolic Knowledge and Generational Conflict

The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

Lucy Gibson [+-]
Edge Hill University
Lucy Gibson is a Lecturer in Applied Health and Social Care at Edge Hill University. Her Doctoral research explored popular music and the life course and investigated themes of cultural commitment, lifestyles and identities amongst fans of northern and rare soul, rock, and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Lucy has published and presented academic work on popular music and ageing, the extension of youth cultural practices in adulthood, using email interviews to investigate music and memory, and the ageing body. Her research interests broadly focus on ageing, youth culture, community engagement, wellbeing and online research methods.


Much of what is written about northern soul treats it as a historical subject and phenomenon of the past. This chapter explores how fans have retained a long-term commitment to northern soul by continuing active involvement in the various scenes that exist in the UK. It also considers some of the ways the past and present interrelate and manifest in fans’ lives. Exploring commitment illustrates the meaning and socio-cultural experiences of sustained fandom. This chapter argues that nostalgia, memory and familiarity clearly play a role in northern soul as the acquisition of symbolic knowledge demonstrates an understanding of etiquette, cultural activities, and ultimately cements a fan’s position as a genuine ‘soulie’. This is not to suggest that older fans are ‘clinging onto’ their youth, rather, they look back on their past involvement often with fondness and, in turn, this informs their present involvement. Symbolic knowledge also highlights the male-dominated nature of northern soul. Cultural distinctions alongside concerns with credibility and rarity lead to a sense of solidarity and belonging for fans, which is amplified and extended through long-term involvement. This chapter concludes by exploring generational tension amongst original members of the scene and younger newcomers as issues of ownership and status result in contention between traditionalists and those that feel the scene should progress.

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Gibson, Lucy. Nostalgia, Symbolic Knowledge and Generational Conflict. The Northern Soul Scene. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 248-267 Feb 2019. ISBN 9781781795583. Date accessed: 04 Jun 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.31279. Feb 2019

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