Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Televisual seriality, and the dramatisation of working-class community

04 May 2023, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Film still from one of Shane Meadows’s films

Join Dr Thirza Wakefield for her talk on Shane Meadows’s works for television from 2010 to 2023.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students






Clive Nwonka


IAS Common Ground
G11, Ground Floor, South Wing
UCL, Gower Street, London
United Kingdom

Working-class filmmaker Shane Meadows was born and raised in Uttoxeter in the West Midlands, relocating to Nottingham in the East Midlands in the early 1990s. Between 1994 and 2009, Meadows made over twenty short films and seven features. With This is England ’86 (2010) — a mini-series sequel to his feature film This is England (2006) — Meadows made his first foray into television. Some thirteen years later, he remains in television. This year will see the transmission of his first BBC-produced project: The Gallows Pole (2023).

Meadows’s transition into television invites a re-evaluation of his filmmaking as a whole. His appearing to favour the open-ended and episodic form of the mini-series over the closed form of the single ninety-minute film compels scholars to reassess, in particular, his classification as a social realist filmmaker, whose works and values are continuous with those of the British New Wave movement (1959–1963). The British social realist tradition is principally a cinematic one. This research talk will propose that to go on framing Meadows’s work as belonging to this tradition is to foreclose new insights into his practice and productions. 

This talk will contend that the medium of television is Meadows’s natural medium. This argument is predicated on the characterisation of Meadows as a filmmaker who has sought consistently to maximise the social aspects of the filmmaking process; whose constant subject is the working-class community; and whose methods are designed to facilitate the capture — in camera and on screen — of a continuity of feeling between actors. These are the imperatives of his filmmaking. 

Creating for television has enabled Meadows to inscribe the social into his working practice more successfully than before. This talk will argue that serialisation — with its defining qualities of continuation, repetition, and intertextuality — authenticates Meadows’s dramatisations of suburban working-class community, because community is itself characterised by continuation and repetition: it is durational, habitual, and dialogic. This talk will argue that Meadows has found in the mini-series and the longer-form serial narrative a form proportionate to the representation of community.

Lastly, it will be suggested that serialisation allows Meadows to vary and complicate his representation of working-class ways of being. The marginal artist who would represent a historically under-represented experience risks instituting a cultural stereotype. By their form and number, Meadows’s mini-series frustrate the generation of stereotype, and are instead expressive of the heterogeneity of the working-class experience.

About the Speaker

Thirza Wakefield

at University of Westminster

Dr Thirza Wakefield is a media and cultural studies scholar of class and region, with a background in English literature. She is currently employed as a visiting lecturer in television at the University of Westminster. Her current research focusses on repetition as a working-class mode of expression. Alongside this, she is researching classed spaces and non-belonging in the stage and screen works of Shelagh Delaney; the history and cultural significance of Nottingham’s The Television Workshop; and the contribution of postwar East Midlands cultural production to critical understandings of British social realist film. Thirza holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham. Her writing on film and poetry has appeared in Sight & Sound, Granta, and The White Review.