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Age Spots and Spotlights: Celebrity, Ageing and Performance

One-day symposium on Friday 9 December 2011

This post was provided by Kim Akass, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire.

According to Dr Janet McCabe (Birkbeck) and Dr Deborah Jermyn (Roehampton), co-organisers of Friday’s Age Spots and Spotlights one-day research symposium: ‘We live in a culture where youth is revered and envied, while ageing remains feared, even repugnant.’ One thing is clear, living your life in the glare of the media may bring its rewards, but once the glow of youth begins to fade, living those autumn years under the media’s microscope isn’t always so pretty.

Chaired by Dr James Bennett (Royal Holloway) the first panel of the day, ‘Celebrity, Ageing and Performance’, comprised Birkbeck academics on a variety of topics. First up was Dr Tim Markham, whose paper, based on interviews with BBC war correspondents, looked at the careers of Martin Bell, Jon Simpson and Kate Adie, and their younger colleagues’ opinions of their aged and gendered (in)appropriate behaviour. Concluding that age both undermines and supports war journalism, Markham’s paper argued that, in the end, Simpson, Adie and Bell function as repositories of our own projections. Prof. Mary Wood looked at the life and career of Franco Zeffirelli and pondered whether, in the twilight years of his long career, he could be considered an auteur or merely a celebrity.

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