Review of PSB’s symposium Edinburgh University, 24-25 March 2016


Pet Shop Boys Symposium held by School of Design

Pet Shop Boys Symposium badges, designed by Bond Agency

Pet Shop Boys Symposium badges, designed by Bond Agency
Bond Agency is made up of students from ECA’s Graphic Design programme
Photograph by Glyn Davis

Not being boring: delegates chatting at the Pet Shop Boys Symposium

Not being boring: delegates chatting at the Pet Shop Boys Symposium
Photograph by Niels Bjerre

On the 24th and 25th March 2016, a symposium on the music and career of the Pet Shop Boys took place in the School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

The event, co-organised by Dr Glyn Davis and Dr Jonny Murray, featured an array of talks, a screening of promo videos at local cinema Filmhouse, and a closing night DJ set at the Wee Red Bar, ECA’s student union venue. The symposium garnered significant press attention, with coverage in The Guardian, The Times, and on BBC Radio Scotland.

Delegates and speakers at the symposium travelled to Edinburgh from locations including Singapore, Germany, Paraguay, and the Netherlands. The opening keynote by Professor Stan Hawkins (University of Oslo) explored the relationship between queerness and the musical aesthetics of the Pet Shop Boys. A second keynote talk by Lucy O’Brien (UCA) examined collaborations between the band and female pop divas (Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, Kylie Minogue). The second day’s schedule included a Q&A with Professor Scott King (University of the Arts London), who has designed record sleeves for the Pet Shop Boys.

The symposium brought together academics and fans, who collaboratively explored multiple facets of the band’s output: theatre, soundtracks, films and videos, tour performances, and music. The design work for the symposium – which included posters, postcards and badges – was handled by the Bond Agency, a group of ECA Graphic Design students. Speakers presented talks on topics including the influence of Latin Freestyle on the music of the Pet Shop Boys, appearances by the band in magazines for teenage girls (such as Jackie), and the recurrence of Soviet symbolism in the duo’s music and videos.

Rounding out the symposium, DJ Remark presented ‘Pet Shop Boys: Enconium‘, a three-hour mix of music by the Pet Shop Boys. The set subsequently reached #8 on Mixcloud’s New Wave chart.