72: Murray Smith


Manage episode 254576540 series 2312064
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My guest this week is Murray Smith, Professor of Film in the School of Arts at the University of Kent where he has been based since 1992. We talk about the concept of ‘trading places’ in academia and about how love is part of how he ended up at Kent and whether we’d be the same people now if we’d made different choices at 18.
Murray grew up in Potters Bar and he talks about what he did in response to his environment being quite culturally barren. His parents were born in the 1920s and they had children relatively late, and we discuss the concepts of ‘Protestant frugality’ and ‘rebellion through conformity’.
We learn that Murray has fragmented memories of his earliest years and we talk about the difficulty of distinguishing memories from old photos. Murray discusses how 14-16 are quite formative ages and we learn that music was and still is the most important form of culture (more than film) for him. His parents were into ballroom dancing and Herb Alpert and I correctly guess what was no. 1 in the UK Singles Chart when Murray was born.
Murray remembers watching ‘Virginia Plain’ being performed on ‘Top of the Pops’ as well as glam rock from the early 70s and we learn about the influence of punk and move on to discuss novelty music including the Osmonds. We find out how Murray got into movies as an undergraduate in Liverpool (where he studied English) and how music then came back in a big way towards the end of his graduate student days.
We learn how he’s more of an aesthetician than a strictly film studies scholar these days and we discuss Canterbury scene heritages and Murray recounts the time when he proposed Robert Wyatt for an honorary degree (and which turned out to be quite a convoluted process).
Murray once had an ambition to be a filmmaker and was active in drama at university, and we talk about whether you reach a certain age and think you have only a certain number of cards to play. Then, in the final part of the interview, we discuss political activism, the relationship between positive and negative memories, whether you can be satisfied with your achievements, and the fear of doors closing.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Murray Smith and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.