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11 July: Elizabeth Sharkey – Why Britain Rocked!


“This book will lovingly hold your hand as it takes you through the sociological history of our islands and their music, accompanied by an absolutely banging playlist and an extensive online archive that accompanies every chapter”. Eliza Carthy

“It’s certainly a new spin on the age-old origins of British rock and roll and with such an erudite book as this one, it will be interesting to see where Elizabeth Sharkey goes next. For now ‘Why Britain Rocked’ should be on every music fans literary radar. Prepare to be enlightened.” Louderthanwar

‘An unexpected treasure trove of exploration, academic rigour and a welcome, bold attempt at re-framing the history of British pop music’ – Classic Rock

Why Britain Rocked: How Rock Became Roll and Took Over the World travels deep into Britain’s history to trace the events that led to its twentieth century musical explosion. Completely rewriting the history of British pop music, Why Britain Rocked argues that The Beatles’ arrival that so surprised the world really shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.

From the Celts and the Quakers, to Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson, Why Britain Rocked breaks out of British pop history’s twentieth century confines. Instead, Sharkey starts the story in Celtic Britain and follows the migration of the peoples who carried their music from the British Isles to the southern states, laying the foundations of America’s folk music and ultimately, rock n’ roll.

Back on British shores, Sharkey reveals how Henry VIII ensured Britain’s art colleges became feeder schools for Top of the Pops; she identifies the Celtic inheritance of superstars from Lonnie Donegan and The Beatles, to David Bowie, John Lydon, Kate Bush, Johnny Marr, Noel Gallagher and Ed Sheeran; and completes the story with the enduring power of British balladry and the Marxists, who liberated the voices of England’s working class, inspiring a revolution of British singer songwriters.

About The Author

Elizabeth Sharkey is a music historian and voice over artist who grew up on a farm in Lincolnshire, first discovering music at the age of five when she secretly played her father’s jazz records. But it was on first hearing The Beatles’ ‘Something’ around the same age that she was hooked. This book is a love story, not just for British pop, but for her father, for it was through his love of music that she began her own.

Why Britain Rocked: How Rock Became Roll and Took Over the World is published by Academica Press.

About Dr Richard Mills

Dr Richard Mills is an Associate Professor in English and Popular Culture at St Mary’s University, London. He has been programme director for the Film and Popular Culture, Cultural Studies and Irish Studies degrees. He has published extensively on popular music, Irish literature and culture, film, fashion and British television. Mills is co-editor of Mad Dogs and Englishness (Bloomsbury, 2017), the author of The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia (Bloomsbury, 2019). He is also the author the recently published The Beatles and Black Music: Post-colonial Theory, Musicology and Remix Culture (Bloomsbury, 2023) and The Beatles and Humour (Bloomsbury, 2023). Richard is a regular contributor to BBC 4’s Last Word, Sky News, RTE, Portobello Radio and BBC Live. He is also on the editorial board of The Journal of Beatles Studies.

The talk will be followed by the opportunity to pose your questions in a Q&A with the author.



£10 in advance, £12 on the door, Friends of Calstock Arts. £10


Doors/Bar 7pm

Performance 8pm

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