Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike is a rock ’n’ roll cultural historian and fandom expert who’s the Music Journalism course leader at BIMM London. She’s also a self-confessed “Californian girl, who’s obsessed with all things Manchester,” and has just published a book linking one of that city’s most revered bands with a fascinating look at the fans who surround Joy Division.
Her book, Joy Devotion: The Importance of Ian Curtis and Fan Culture, has been picking up five-star reviews and glowing praise from the music community. In it, she visits key places and people in the Joy Division story and shares the essays and stories of the fans whose lives the band affected.
The respected music website, Louder Than War called it a “warm read, non-judgemental and open-ended… reflecting the myriad ways in which through connecting to music we can become more connected to ourselves and the world around us.”
For Jennifer, the book — which had a preface from Joy Division (and New Order) drummer, Stephen Morris — was a labour of love and pilgrimage as much as it was an exploratory look at bands and fans, as she explains:
“It explores why Joy Division, especially Ian Curtis, have such a hold on our imagination, more than 30 years since he passed away- and what does our fascination say about our own grappling with authenticity, mortality and identity?”
Interest in the book from the city she loves so much, led to a signing session at Manchester’s famed Piccadilly Records, where she appeared in conversation with legendary rock photographer Kevin Cummins, who shot iconic photos of Joy Division and provided a forward for the book.
It’s important for any aspiring musician to think carefully about their fanbase. In her book, Dr Bickerdike’s leads by example: putting the fan first, helping readers understand the community and love that surrounds artists and their work.
She visited BIMM Manchester last month to talk to students about the book and what she had learned from it and her plans for her next publication:
“I had a fabulous time at BIMM Manchester… it was great connecting with the students. When my next book — Why Vinyl Matters — is published next year I would love to do a BIMM college tour!”
We’re looking forward to Jennifer sharing her stories to at all our colleges too!
Joy Devotion: The Importance of Ian Curtis and Fan Culture is out now here.