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Mapping Cinematic Norths

International Interpretations in Film and Television


Edited By Julia Dobson and Jonathan Rayner

Mapping Cinematic Norths presents an international range of research and enquiry into the significance, representation and manipulation of depictions of the ‘North’ in cinema and television. Northern landscapes, soundscapes, characters and narratives are defined and recognized as distinctive image-spaces within film and television. However, the ‘North’ is portrayed, exploited and interpreted in divergent ways by filmmakers and film audiences worldwide, and this volume sheds new light on these varying perspectives.

Bringing together the work of established and emerging academics as well as practising filmmakers, this collection offers new critical insights into the coalescence of North-ness on screen, exploring examples from Britain, Scandinavia, continental Europe, Australia and the United States. With contextual consideration and close readings, these essays investigate concepts of the North on film from generic, national, aesthetic, theoretical, institutional and archival perspectives, charting and challenging the representations and preconceptions of the idea of North-ness across cultural and cinematic heritages.

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Council Estates, Culture and Shameless Spaces


Council estates are nothing to be scared of, unless you are frightened of inequality.1

Set on the outskirts of modern-day Manchester, the television drama series, Shameless, aired on Channel 4 from 2004 to 2013. Its Northern council estate setting, ironically named the ‘Chatsworth’, was pushed front and centre from the opening credits of the first episode via the visual dominance of tough terrain, specifically, what Steven Baker describes as ‘a montage of tower blocks and council housing recall[ing] the milieu associated with “social exclusion”, “welfare dependency”, petty criminality and violence.’2 While Baker’s claim hints at a keen understanding of the complex links between place, space and social standing, my aim in this chapter is to mine these connections and look more intently at the Chatsworth as an architecturally and socially determined site of exclusion and segregation. The Northern space that the Chatsworth estate occupies is also important. As noted by Sally Munt, the North has a specific affiliation with class (or indeed, the lack of it): ‘in British culture since the Industrial Revolution poverty is read spatially, and “Northern” is a pseudonym for “working-class poor” and a host of associated meanings.’3 The faceless tower blocks of the Chatsworth estate can be understood, I will argue, as high-rise signifiers of social failure; the rows of dark wood and red brick houses, uninviting Northern edgelands, bereft of civic purpose and industry. ← 45 | 46 →

Seen as a threatening and ugly mix of battered buildings, concrete, pebble-dash...

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