• 3.20 Arts

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Broadly across media and cultural studies and cultural politics. More specifically: alternative cultures/ counterculture, popular music, jazz, disability in culture and media, subcultures and post-subcultures, festival and the carnivalesque, social movements and protest, gardens and gardening, autonomy/anarchism, community music, participatory arts. Also experienced in supervising creative practice-as-research and media production PhDs.

Personal profile


George McKay joined UEA as Professor of Media Studies in 2014. Previously he was Professor of Cultural Studies at MediaCityUK University of Salford (2005-14), and at UCLan (2000-05). He has a First Class BA (Hons) from Hull College of Higher Education (1984) and a PhD from the University of Glasgow (1992).

He was Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Leadership Fellow for its Connected Communities Programme (2012-19). As well as co-leading the programme, with a £30m budget, over 350 funded projects and 1000 community partners, his Connected Communities projects at UEA included The Impact of Festivals in collaboration with research partner EFG London Jazz Festival, Participatory Arts and DIY Culture, the Reggae Research Network, and Creative Spaces and Public Culture.

He was co-investigator (2015-17) on the EU Heritage+ project, Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Festivals (CHIME). In 2020 he was involved in an EIRA-funded project with the Suffolk-based international music and culture centre Snape Maltings entitled Innovative Practice in Living Archives, Digital Creativity and Music-Making. 

He was a subject panel member for REF2021, for Unit of Assessment 34, Communication, Cultural and Media Studies/Library and Information Management. 


Prof McKay’s website is georgemckay.org; it contains comprehensive information about his research—including lots of open access links—books, events, reviews, even a little about his music (semi-pro jazz double bassist). His work can also be found openly accessible on his academia.edu and researchgate pages. You can also, if so minded, follow him on Twitter @george_mckay

Postgraduate Research Opportunities

Prof McKay is an experienced PhD supervisor, having worked (as supervisor, external, internal examiner) with around 60 students, of which 17 are PhD completions. He has been postgraduate external examiner at many institutions: for PhDs, at Nottingham, Leeds, Groningen, RNCM, Cardiff, Bristol, Plymouth, UCLan, Nanyang Technical University Singapore, Durham, KCL, Monash, UWE, Napier, RMIT Melbourne, Sussex; for MAs, Bradford, Manchester, UWE, UCLan, London College of Music & Media, UEL; advisor for students at Kunstuniversität Graz, and Guelph.

He is interested in supervising PhD students broadly across media and cultural studies and cultural politics. More specifically: alternative cultures/ counterculture, popular music, jazz, disability in culture and media, subcultures and post-subcultures, festival and the carnivalesque, social movements and protest, gardens and gardening, autonomy/anarchism, community music, participatory arts. He has also supervised to completion several creative practice-as-research and media production PhDs.


Major European projects he has been part of are:

Public engagement and collaboration

Prof McKay is committed to public engagement: he has been Professor in Residence at the award-winning Kendal Calling pop festival (2011), and at EFG London Jazz Festival (2014). He was the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement award in the UEA's annual Engagement Awards in 2020.

As a researcher he has worked with a range of cultural and media organisations, including Community Media Association, Cheltenham Festivals, Community Music East, Europe Jazz Network, More Music, British Council, Lancaster Jazz Festival, Serious Music, London Jazz Festival, and MSN.

In recent years across the region, he has been involved in events with East Anglian Festivals Network, Restoration Trust, Yarmouth Springs Eternal Festival at Prime Yarc.

He has appeared on all major BBC radio stations, BBC TV and ITV, various community radio stations, discussing his work or as an academic ‘expert’. He has written for the GuardianIndependentNew Statesman, and was for many years an intermittent reviewer for the Times Higher

Conference organisation

To date, he has been involved in the organisation of well over 40 UK and international academic conferences, symposia and research events, including notably as lead organiser of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK & I) 2012 and Media, Communication & Cultural Studies Association 2011 conferences. Conference topics have ranged from the regular Rhythm Changes international jazz gatherings, street music, reggae, punk, work with and on festivals, and community arts.

Key Research Interests

‘Cultural studies with a soundtrack’ is how Prof McKay's website strapline describes his research interests. Among his books are (click on title to read all reviews): 

  • Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties (Verso, 1996)—A Book of the Year, Red Pepper;  'a must buy/blag for anyone who’s ever wafted the joss-stick of defiance under the nose of repression. The counter-culture is building its own library', Peace News; 'an essential read for anyone interested in the counter-culture in Britain, and an inspiration to anyone involved with the current [2011] protest movement', New Lexicons; 'a wonderful history of the forgotten counterculture', The Guardian (2020).
  • DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain (ed., Verso, 1998)—A Book of the Year, New Stateman; 'McKay's introduction is a triumph of accessible, complex scholarship', Time and Society; 'The most uplifting and empowering book you'll read in a long time', Irvine Welsh; 'still the best account of the new political forms of the 1990s', H-Socialisms (2015).
  • Glastonbury: A Very English Fair (Gollancz, 2000)—'An energetic tumble through the history of 20th century English festival culture', Times Literary Supplement; 'The definitive history, [with] great photos', Books magazine;  'simply ... makes you want to be there', The Scotsman.
  • Community Music: A Handbook (co-ed. with Pete Moser, Russell House, 2004)—'As close to a definitive book ... as we are likely to see', Sounding Board; 'A comprehensive guide', Care and Health;  'Inspirational', Billy Bragg.
  • Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (Duke UP, 2005)—'a hugely impressive, detailed and fascinating cultural history', American Historical Review; 'As a British cultural historian McKay is the real deal', Altar magazine; 'well-written, witty and highly original', International History Review; 'Highly recommended', Jazz Now.
  • Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe (co-ed. with Egidija Ramanauskaitė et al, Peter Lang, 2009)—'the entire volume is taking seriously the socialist period, thus going against short-sighted assumptions of Eastern Europe being a "primitive other" that would readily and easily adopt western social and cultural forms', Theologische Revue; 'provides a passionate insight into ... sometimes demonised subcultures', Bulletin Quotidien Europe. 
  • Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden (Frances Lincoln, 2011)—A Book of the Year, The Independent on Sunday; A Gardening Book of the Year, The Guardian; 'a book that readers will find difficult to stop reading and that will forever change their perception of urban public green spaces', New Formations; 'Can a garden-related book change your life? This one has changed mine', Chicago Now/Chicago Garden; 'a highly original history ... compelling', Daily Telegraph; 'a truly important book', Times Higher Education. 
  • Shakin' All Over: Popular Music and Disability (University of Michigan Press, 2013)—'compelling and vital ... will undoubtedly influence future developments in the scholarship on music and disability', Ethnomusicology Review; 'When I first opened it I had no idea how much I would learn', Review of Disability Studies; 'Ground-breaking', Popular Music; 'astonishing ... a brash, brilliant and fist-pumping book', Popular Music and Society.
  • The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture (ed., Bloomsbury, 2015)—'provides valuable insight into the countercultural beast that... is the music festival', Under the Radar; 'truly compelling work', Pop Matters; 'a five-star treasure trove of ideas', Record Collector.
  • Music From Out There, in Here: 25 Years of London Jazz Festival (with Emma Webster, AHRC/UEA, 2017)—'This illuminating history ... captures the sense of a great adventure unfolding ... between the festival and its host city', All About Jazz; 'an eminently readable book [that] ... mixes insights, controversies and photographs', Jazz Journal. 
  • The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock (eds., with Gina Arnold, Oxford UP, forthcoming 2023).

He was founding co-editor in 2002 of the journal Social Movement Studies (Routledge), and associate editor (1993-2002) of the BAAS Paperback Series (Edinburgh UP). He was special issue editor of the journal Popular Music (2009) on the theme of popular music and disability, and of International Journal of Heritage Studies (2019) on cultural heritage and music festivals. Most recently he co-edited the Connected Communities: Creating a New Knowledge Landscape series for Policy Press, been a member of the editorial board of Jazz Research Journal, and consulting editor of Social Movement Studies.

Grants, awards, projects 

Across his career, Prof McKay has been involved in around 40 funded UK and international projects, totalling over £6.2m in income generation. Since joining UEA in November 2014, he has generated over £1m in external research income.

Areas of Expertise

Popular music studies from jazz to punk; festivals and the (post-)carnivalesque; alternative culture and counterculture; autonomy/anarchism; community music, media and participatory arts; cultures of peace and sustainability; music and climate change; social movements and cultural politics; disability studies; disability culture and health humanities; gardens and gardening; media and cultural studies; creative practice/production-as-research; collaborative research.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Glasgow

Award Date: 1 Jan 1992

Bachelor of Arts, Hull College of Higher Education

Award Date: 1 Jul 1984

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or