11 SEPTEMBER 2014
Re-imaging regional television drama: women as agents of cultural change
Symposium, Edge Hill University with the University of Liverpool
In recent years, female writers, producers and directors have emerged as central innovators of television fictions. Dramas and dramadocs by Kay Mellor, Sally Wainwright and Heidi Thomas belong to some of the most-watched programmes on British screens, and they also celebrate significant success across the pond and elsewhere. At the same time, new production houses, such as Red Productions, contribute significantly to the vibrancy of British (and international) television. In America, Ann Biderman has taken the realist aesthetics of NYPD Blue to new extremesin Southland and more recently Ray Donovan. And in Germany, Claudia Matschulla has developed scripts focused on spaces that are embodied, lived spaces rather than offering the touristic views of so many other German television dramas. Many of these female writers/producers/directors have ventured into new territories in terms of representation such as the non-ageist depiction of a romance between two widows in Last Tango in Halifax, substance abuse in response to domestic violence in The Syndicate, or the friendship between a widower and a young woman suffering from Downs Syndrome in Moving On. Additionally, they connect these new representations to specific conceptualisations of space and place, invariably making the most of their regional locations. Unlike the first wave of regional drama in the 1960s and 70s, these women do not use regional space as ‘liminal ground on which to criticize its own values, to challenge the “acceptable” way of life with other attitudes’ (Newcombe 1979: 158). Rather, they imagine these spaces as mundane, lived space, and thereby imagine an embodied experience of regional identity that has its own rich patterns of speech and everyday life. This crucially impacts on the conceptualisation of the regions as touristic spaces (Blandford 2005), redefining them not only as places with their own histories, cultures and identities where life is lived in and through local identities but as new centres of creative and cultural production that are situating these identities centre stage in national life.
Vicky Ball, University of Sunderland
Julia Hallam, University of Liverpool
Ruth McElroy, University of South Wales
Specialist Panel about the Place of Women Creatives in Scotland with
Emma Lennox (freelance writer)
Dhivya Chetty (Development Producer for Hopscotch, freelance)
Lez Cooke, Royal Holloway, University of London
Jill Marshall, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Jacqui Miller, Hope University, Liverpool
Veronica Ali, independent writer
The symposium seeks to address what makes these creative women and their dramas so popular and successful. Questions that we are interested to address include:
– How do dramas and dramadocs written, produced or directed by women re-imagine regional spaces and identities?
– How do they engage ideas of gender and gendered representations?
– In what ways are these productions developing new ground in terms of gender, genre and regional identities?
– What are the working practices for/of these female creatives?
– Are contemporary industrial conditions facilitating the development of new regional voices?
– How have in the past women writers, producers and directors used television drama as a means to express issues of representation and change?
The organisers are seeking to develop an edited collection from the symposium and have been approached by publishers already.
This symposium will be hosted by Edge Hill University and the University of Liverpool.
Conference organisers: Elke Weissmann and Julia Hallam