Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Case for Celebrating Dylan's Home Town

A few weeks ago I mentioned a gentleman from Manchester with whom I had visited during my Dylan-themed show at the Ochre Ghost Gallery, the week of Dylan Fest. Since that time we've begun a correspondence and it turns out he is no ordinary Dylan fan. He's a professional who has written extensively about the topic of music-based tourism.

Last week I received a 17 page document co-authored by David Leaver and Ruth A. Schmidt of Manchester Metropolitan University titled, "Before they were famous: music-based tourism and a musician's hometown roots." The paper opens, "Music-based tourism is well developed and growing, especially in countries featuring both mature tourism and music industries, such as the USA and the UK." One sources estimates that destination travel related to music involves as many as 55 million annual visits worldwide. The destination points rely on evidence of cultural activities, incidents and tangible artifacts that can be photographed.

The paper cites Liverpool as one community that increased its incoming tourism dollars by 40% when they deliberately embraced this concept, that people want to visit and see the places the Beatles actually once were. Graceland in Memphis attracts 600,000 visitors a year now. Buddy Holly's birthplace, Lubbock, Texas, is another lodestone for the rock 'n roll faithful.

As the Beatles once sang,
"There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed..."

Hibbing, MN, in recent years began to capitalize on this notion of place with regard to Dylan, creating a week long celebration called Dylan Days. And it's about time, because a lot of people want a time and place for seeing the school auditorium where Dylan first played, and the surrounding neighborhood he grew up in.

Last week I talked with someone who said the first day that he got his motorcycle license, the very first thing he did was ride to Hibbing to see where Dylan grew up. At the time, there was nothing to see. Today we have Zimmy's and more. There are things one can photograph and save for a scrapbook of memories, and touch and feel.

Some people think all this nostalgia quest is just a bunch of aging Baby Boomers trying to keep the flame alive. "Come gather round people wherever you roam...." But the Leaver/Schmidt study notes that 34 per cent of the people who visited Graceland in 2008 were under 30. Not only is the music being passed down to new generations, but the significance of the places and people is being noted.

In David Leaver's recent email to me on this topic he wrote, "I learnt a long time ago that it’s not the message sent out but the message received that’s important so we will all have different takes on it."

Included in this email was the link to a 22 minute film he created based on the 1966 Dylan concert in Manchester's Free Trade Hall. The film is essentially three men reminiscing about that critical juncture in Dylan's career when he careened into a new path, going electric, which many fans thought was a betrayal of his own ethos.

"My interest in the Free Trade Hall 1966 stemmed from my interest in the notion of place and its link to music and emotion (my first degree was in Geography.) The film is dedicated to my friend Ruth Schmidt with whom I wrote three Dylan related papers on that topic. Ruth loved Dylan and her adopted city of Manchester. She passed away on May 17 2011 – the 45th anniversary of the concert and every time I go past the FTH I think of her."

When you have time, check out this film about Dylan at Manchester's Free Trade Hall 1966.

Message to Duluth: Remember, these visitors are emotion-driven customers who spend without thinking. Duluth and Hibbing deserve the same recognition as Memphis and Nashville, don'tcha think?

Have a great day!

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