class 23 subcultures, Lovers Rock

Ch. 3 from the seminal work by Dick Hebdige on youth subcultures in the UK, Subculture, The Meaning of Style (1979) presents some historical-cultural context for the story told in Lovers Rock.   On p. 38, note the discussion of the ‘sound-system’:  “perhaps more than any other institution within working-class West Indian life…the site at which blackness could be most thoroughly explored, most clearly and uncompromisingly expressed.”

“Lovers Rock is undoubtedly one of the most transfixing films of the year.”


  1. Dick Hebdige.   Chapter 3, Exodus: A double crossing (pp. 30-45).  Subculture, The Meaning of Style.  Methuen & Company, 1979.  
  2. On Amazon view Lovers Rock (2020), a feature length film by Steve McQueen that is part of the Small Axe anthology series first produced by the BBC. 

NOTE:  If you don’t have Amazon Prime, it appears that students can get a 6-month free subscription.   If that doesn’t work, contact instructor to work something out.   

Optional background information on Small Axe series:  Ellen Jones.  Small Axe: the black British culture behind Steve McQueen’s stunning new series.  The Guardian UK, Nov. 14, 2020. 

Written responses to reading questions are optional — however please read through them as they will help guide classroom discussion.  If you do them, post on your rolling Google doc with assignment name, date;  send link to instructor.  

  1.   General response to Hebdige, Chapter 3.  What are some take-aways?

  2.   General responses to Lovers Rock;  here’s some possible prompts:

  • What’s the story it tells?  Questions?

  • What do you appreciate?  What stands out?

  • What does it say about youth subcultures?

  • In what ways, if any, does it relate to your lived experiences?  Of being part of subcultures, or not?

Teenage black British girls 1980s UK Notting Hill London 1981. Dancing in the street at the carnival England 1981.