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Jo Pickering


  • Jo Pickering
  • Area

    School of Design


    Research Tutor

  • Jo Pickering is Research Tutor in Critical & Historical Studies at the RCA, leading a lecture programme for School of Design MA students and supervising them through the dissertation process. She collaborates with Christine Checinska and Shehnaz Suterwalla to present the evening symposia series Materials Lab: Materiality/Material Culture in Creative Practice. Pickering participates in the delivery of the College-wide Critical & Historical Studies  ‘Across CHS’  series and in February 2019 convened the symposium Carnival and Counter-Culture – Trouble and Fun at the Music Festival. In April 2018 she hosted the symposium Aesthetics of Blackness? Cloth, Culture and the African Diasporas, which was convened by Christine Checinska.

  • Biography

  • Jo Pickering graduated from Sheffield Hallam University’s Fine Art, Combined and Media Studies course in 1998, which was ground-breaking for its time. Working with video, photography and digital mediums as well as performance, she subsequently exhibited multi-media works internationally from Tokyo to Peckham, and was a finalist in The Photographers’ Gallery new talent competition in 2001. In 2004 her hour-long video piece for Rawhead Dance Theatre was projected alongside the performance at the Place and Cochrane Theatres, London. 

    At the turn of the millennium, Pickering undertook an MA in Art Theory at Chelsea College of Art Design, exploring both the critical context for fine art practice, and writing as artistic practice in itself. Following this theoretical turn she began lecturing in Cultural and Historical Studies at the University of the Arts London. While there she led units in Material Culture, Fashion Media and Designing and Making; was made a fellow of the Higher Education Academy; gained a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Art and Design; and was made senior lecturer while Course Director for the Fashion Access programme. In 2017 Pickering was appointed as Research Tutor in Critical& Historical Studies at the RCA. She is currently conducting an analysis of bodybuilding and local gym cultures as a PhD candidate at Sussex University. Pickering’s interdisciplinary research sits at the intersection of class, the body and performance.

    Pickering is an expert on early- to mid-twentieth century popular music and vernacular dance, especially Jazz, Charleston and Swing. She is a founding member of The Bee’s Knees, established in 2004 and described by The Telegraph as 'The capital’s premiere twenties dance squadron'. She has performed and taught all over the world in this capacity. She has appeared as a specialist Disc Jockey at many events since 2001, playing at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Glastonbury Festival and the BRIT Awards. This on-going performance practice feeds back into Pickering’s academic research outputs.

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  • External collaborations

  • On-going collaboration with filmmaker and animator Mark Brown. 

    Works completed and seeking distribution/development: Proper Clobber (2019). 

    Works in Progress: Final Line-Up of the Big-Bods (a bodybuilding documentary to extend the reach of Pickering’s research at the University of Sussex).

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Publications

    Pickering, J. (2020) “Proper Clobber: football, fighting and collective joy in the Leeds dresser scene”.  Intellect Journals. Forthcoming.

    Pickering, J. (2020) “The Benefit Bump: representations of ‘reality’, and pregnant working class girls”. Feminist Media Studies. Taylor and Francis. Forthcoming.

    Pickering, J. (2015) “Classy Looks and Classificatory Gazes: The fashioning of class in reality TV”, Film, Fashion and Consumption, 3:3 pp. 195–209


    Pickering, J. (09/07/2019) “Proper Clobber: football, fighting and collective joy in the Leeds dresser scene”. At Fashion, Costume and Visual Cultures, Roubaix, France.

    Pickering (07/2013) EUPOP (European Association of Popular Culture) Panel chair, International Institute of Popular Culture (IIPC) University of Turku, Finland.

    Pickering (07/2013) “Class and Cabaret: The London burlesque scene of the twenty-first century and how it is obsessed with the twentieth”.  EUPOP 2013, International Institute of Popular Culture (IIPC) University of Turku, Finland. Funded by London College of Fashion research department.

    Pickering, J. (7/2012) “Representation of Pregnancy and the Working class in the UK” EUPOP 2012, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London.


    The following are a selection of performances between 2008–19 that sought to revive vaudeville style. Many of these venues and events were performed at regularly.

    (September 2019) The Bee’s Knees at The Noche Blanca festival, The Gut, Malta

    (June 2019) The Bee’s Knees Swing Dance Revue on the Summer House Stage, Theatre and Circus area, Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

    (August 2018) The Bee’s Knees at Wilderness Festival.

    (April 2018), The Bee’s Knees at the Performance Marketing Awards, Grovesnor House Hotel.

    (April 2013) The Bee’s Knees in Secret Cinema’s Casablanca, The Troxy.

    (July 20120 The Bee’s Knees perform at historic Wilton’s Music Hall’s fundraising event.

    (May 2012) The Bee’s Knees ‘Jail Break’ at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

    (February 2012) The Bee’s Knees at St Mark’s Square, The Venice Carnival.

    (March 2011) Voodoo DeLuxe, Milan.

    (July 2010) The Bee’s Knees at Duckie, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London.

    (August 2009) The Tassel Club, Dublin.

    (May 2009) The Bee’s Knees cast as part of The Aviator Club show, Brighton Fringe Festival.

    (December 2008) – Jan 2009 The Bee’s Knees, quick change act, dance and video performance for the theatre company 1927’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, at the Battersea Arts Centre

    (September 2008) The Bee’s Knees at Lost Vagueness, The Electric Picnic, Ireland.

    (July 2008) the ‘More Knees Please’ at the Press and Publishing Awards, Grovesnor House Hotel, London.

    (May 2008 Les Zombier, South of France.


    Production (forthcoming):

    Brown, M (2020) Proper Clobber. (Distribution to be secured)


    Olins, S. (2017) Lost in Vagueness. Dartmouth Films.

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Selected work


Current and recent research

Pickering’s research specialism sits at the intersection of the body, class and performance. She is currently examining the rise of bodybuilding in the UK alongside the decline in manufacturing jobs in the twentieth century. The lived spatiality of the body, and the particular worlds that shape selves, is brought into focus in this context. Her research, consisting of interviews with competition-level bodybuilders, as well as analysis of ‘physical culture’ magazines, will be realised not only in written form, but as a documentary film and series of photographic portraits. As such, Pickering’s research is thoroughly interdisciplinary and enthusiastically bridges the arts and humanities and social sciences.

Other areas falling within the focus of Pickering’s previous and ongoing enquiry include performance, as extended to vaudeville theatre; ‘retro’ culture; festival and carnival; the cabaret and burlesque revival of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries; as well as classed media representations.

Since 2004, Pickering’s performance practice has attempted to revive the music hall or vaudeville style of the early twentieth century. She rode the wave of the London cabaret and variety renaissance from this time, and her research draws on this on-stage and backstage ethnography.