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Deindustrialising Cities: Welcome


Industrial decline has had severe impacts for cities across the globe, resulting in massive job losses, urban decay, and high rates of crime, poverty and unemployment. Deindustrialisation can erode senses of civic pride, place attachment and individual and community well-being. As researchers, we are interested in how different cities have dealt with the economic, social and cultural changes brought about by deindustrialisation. In particular, we are curious about the role that popular music history and heritage might play in the revitalisation of these cities.

In 2018, the research team – Sarah, Raph and Zel – received a small grant from Griffith to support research into popular music heritage initiatives in deindustrialising cities. We selected Wollongong as our first case study, since there had already been efforts to document and celebrate its rich music history. In 2019, we received more funding from Griffith to expand the scope of our research, allowing us to visit Birmingham, England and Detroit, USA. Like Wollongong, Birmingham and Detroit drew our interest because they’re deindustrialising cities with rich music histories and heritage initiatives that serve to reflect on those histories. We were interested in what parallels could be drawn between these places, but also what aspects made them unique.

Our project considers popular music heritage through the lens of 'cultural justice'. Cultural justice is concerned with how inequalities and injustices can be countered through cultural expressions (e.g. music, art, films) and cultural institutions (e.g. music venues, art galleries, museums). Cultural justice can be sought through celebrating, reaffirming or challenging cultural narratives. We found that many popular music heritage initiatives in these deindustrialising cities take an approach that advocates for cultural justice – through, for example, highlighting 'hidden' histories, everyday stories and the experiences of marginalised groups.

Steelworks, Port Kembla, Wollongong
Regency Wharf, Birmingham
Canal in Digbeth, Birmingham
Downtown Detroit
Steelworks Hotel, Wollongong
Decaying factory, Detroit
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We are creating zines focused on each of our case study cities: Wollongong, Birmingham, and Detroit. These are intended to share some of the findings of our research in a more engaging way than traditional scholarly publications. Our first zine – the Wollongong edition – can be downloaded below, with more editions to come in the future.

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31 March 2020

Sounds of Our Town: The Wollongong Edition features: a transcript of a radio interview the research team did with Lindsay McDougall; a transcript of a public event we held in Wollongong with heritage experts and practitioners; and written pieces by two of our community-based research partners, Jez Collins (founder of Birmingham Music Archive) and Carleton Gholz (founder of Detroit Sound Conservancy). 

Edited by Sarah Baker, Zelmarie Cantillon and Raphaël Nowak. Includes contributions from Jez Collins and Carleton Gholz. Compiled by Bob Buttigieg.

ISBN: 978-0-6488168-1-2

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12 June 2020

Sounds of Our Town: The Detroit Edition features an article which outlines the role of popular music heritage for achieving cultural justice in deindustrialising cities. This article draws on our recently published work in the International Journal of Heritage Studies and provides an explanation of ‘cultural justice’ and deindustrialisation, some background on Detroit, and examples of different popular music heritage activities in the city. The zine also features a photo essay about deindustrialisation and racial injustice, and a map pinpointing key sites of popular music heritage.

Edited by Sarah Baker, Zelmarie Cantillon and Bob Buttigieg. Compiled by Bob Buttigieg.

ISBN: 978-0-6488168-2-9

Birmingham edition

11 November 2020

Sounds of Our Town: The Birmingham Edition features contributions from three of our collaborators in popular music heritage studies – Paul Long, Jez Collins and Sarah Raine. These contributions reflect on the role of music in the city's history, efforts to preserve and celebrate this heritage, and how popular music relates to cultural justice efforts. The zine also features fieldwork photos from Zel's time in Birmingham. 

Edited by Bob Buttigieg, Zelmarie Cantillon and Sarah Baker. Compiled by Bob Buttigieg.

ISBN: 978-0-6488168-4-3

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In addition to creating zines, the research team has been working on scholarly publications that reflect on the findings from our research.

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Zelmarie Cantillon, Sarah Baker and Raphaël Nowak

This article considers the potential role that popular music heritage might play in revitalising cities grappling with industrial decline. Specifically, we outline how a ‘cultural justice approach’ can be used to assess the benefits and drawbacks of such heritage initiatives. Reflecting on examples from our three case study cities – Wollongong, Australia; Detroit, USA; and Birmingham, UK – we analyse how popular music heritage can produce cultural justice outcomes in three key ways: practices of collection, preservation and archiving; curation, storytelling and heritage interpretation; and mobilising communities for collective action.

This article has been published Open Access with International Journal of Heritage Studies. It can be accessed, downloaded and shared for free (see license details here). 

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If you're interested in learning more about popular music heritage, we've compiled a list of recommended resources. These are separated into scholarly sources and heritage projects from our case study cities. If you need access to any publications written by the research team (Sarah Baker, Zelmarie Cantillon or Raphaël Nowak), feel free to email us or use the contact form.


Popular music heritage and cultural justice

  • Cantillon, Z, Baker, S & Nowak, R 2020, 'A cultural justice approach to popular music heritage in deindustrialising cities', International Journal of Heritage Studies, doi:10.1080/13527258.2020.1768579

  • Long, P, Baker, S, Istvandity, L & Collins, J 2017, ‘A labour of love: the affective archives of popular music culture’, Archives and Records, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 61–79.

  • Long, P, Baker, S, Cantillon, Z, Collins, J & Nowak, R 2019, ‘Popular music, community archives and public history online: cultural justice and the DIY approach to heritage’, in J Bastian & A Flinn (eds), Community archives, community spaces, Facet, London, pp. 97–112. 

Cultural justice

  • Banerjee, D & Steinberg, SL 2015, ‘Exploring spatial and cultural discourses in environmental justice movements’, Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 39, pp. 41–50.

  • Banks, M 2017, Creative justice: cultural industries, work and inequality, Rowman & Littlefield, New York. 

  • Denning, M 2004, Culture in the age of three worlds, Verso, London. 

  • Ross, A 1998, Real love: in pursuit of cultural justice, Routledge, London. 

  • Cantillon, Z 2020, 'Cultural justice: creativity in a time of crisis', Open Forum, 1 May,

DIY heritage

  • Baker, S 2017, Community custodians of popular music’s past: a DIY approach to heritage, Routledge, London.

  • Baker, S & Collins, J 2017, ‘Popular music heritage, community archives and the challenge of sustainability’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 476–491.

  • Cantillon, Z, Baker, S & Buttigieg, B 2017, ‘Queering the community music archive’, Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 32, no. 91–92, pp. 41–57.  

  • Cantillon, Z & Baker, S 2018, ‘DIY heritage institutions as third places: caring, community and wellbeing among volunteers at the Australian Jazz Museum’, Leisure Sciences, doi:10.1080/01490400.2018.1518173.

  • Cantillon, Z & Baker, S 2020, ‘Serious leisure and the DIY approach to heritage: considering the costs of career volunteering in community archives and museums’, Leisure Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 266–279.

Social justice and heritage

  • Baird, MF 2014, ‘Heritage, human rights, and social justice’, Heritage & Society, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 139–155.

  • Duff, WM, Flinn, A, Suurtamm, KA & Wallace, DA 2013, ‘Social justice impact of archives: a preliminary investigation’, Archival Science, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 317–348.  

  • Jimerson, R 2007, ‘Archives for all: professional responsibility and social justice’, American Archivist, vol. 70, no. 2, pp. 252–281. 

  • Punzalan, RL & Caswell, M 2016, ‘Critical directions for archival approaches to social justice’, Library Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 1, pp. 25–42. 

  • Waterton, E & Smith, L 2010, 'The recognition and misrecognition of community heritage', International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 16, no. 1–2, pp. 4–15.

Archival activism

  • Collins, J 2018, ‘Citizen archiving and virtual sites of musical memory in online communities’, in S Baker, C Strong, L  Istavndity & Z Cantillon (eds), The Routledge companion to popular music history and heritage, Routledge, London, pp. 247–257.   

  • Cook, T 2013, ‘Evidence, memory, identity, and community: four shifting archival paradigms’, Archival Science, vol. 13, no. 2–3, pp. 95–120. 

  • Flinn, A 2011, ‘Archival activism: independent and community-led archives, radical public history and the heritage professions’, InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 1–20. 

  • Wakimoto, DK, Bruce, C & Partridge, H 2013, ‘Archivist as activist: lessons from three queer community archives in California’, Archival Science, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 293–316. 

Deindustrialising Cities: Latest News
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We acknowledge the support of Griffith University and the Dean Research of the Arts, Education and Law Faculty for funding our research on popular music in deindustrialising cities. We also wish to acknowledge the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research for providing additional funding for the Sounds of Our Town panel in Wollongong and to the Wollongong Art Gallery, especially John Monteleone, for hosting and supporting the event. We also wish to acknowledge research assistance provided by Bob Buttigieg, who helped to bring the Wollongong zine together. 

Thank you to our research participants who shared their invaluable knowledge and experiences with us during this project. In particular, we thank our community-based research collaborators – Jez Collins and Carleton Gholz – for sharing their expertise and networks. 

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