Home > Landscapes of “Detectorists”

Call for Papers RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Cardiff, 28–31 August 2018

'Detectorists' © BBC 2014.

Landscapes of “Detectorists”

Convened by Dr Innes M. Keighren, Royal Holloway, University of London and Dr Joanne Norcup, Geography Workshop and University of Glasgow.

The BAFTA-winning situation comedy-drama “Detectorists” has, across three series and a Christmas special (2014–17), garnered critical praise for its affectionate portrayal of metal detecting and amateur archaeology in rural England. In its attention to the embodied practice of detecting and to the social worlds of detectorists, the programme has been described by critics variously as “about hardly anything and almost everything” (Lloyd 2015) and “the most accurate portrait of men being men that you’ll find in current popular culture” (Fewery 2015). For one Twitter user (Sumsion 2014), the show is simply “a warm, beguiling, slow-burn meditation on male friendship and prosaic details of Englishness, plus some metal”. Explaining his motivation for creating “Detectorists”, Mackenzie Crook, writer and director of the programme, has said “I wanted to do an exploration of men and their obsessions, and I wanted to do a celebration of people and their hobbies, and a celebration of the English countryside” (Crook 2015).

While the comedy in “Detectorists” centres largely on the friendship of Andy Stone (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance Stater (Toby Jones) as they pursue their niche hobby in the diverse company of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC), the dramatic foil is provided by the relationships Andy and Lance have with their significant others—Andy’s geography-graduate, school-teacher wife, Becky (Rachael Stirling) and Lance’s exploitative ex-wife, Maggie (Lucy Benjamin)—and their antagonists, ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ (Simon Farnaby and Paul Casar), members of the DMDC’s arch rivals, the Antiquisearchers/Dirt Sharks. Nuanced characterisation and relatable situations have endeared “Detectorists” to viewers in the United Kingdom and beyond. Fans of the programme praise its “humanity and the honest observations of the real world” (Meaden 2015).

Where “Detectorists” is distinct from most situation comedies is that much of the action takes place outdoors, in the fields and meadows where the programme’s protagonists pursue their hobby. Both aesthetically and thematically, landscape dominates “Detectorists”. Filmed on location in Framlingham, Suffolk—standing in for Essex, and the fictional town of Danebury—the visual palate of the programme enfolds a non-human supporting cast of insects, birds, plants, and trees, and variously echoes the landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough and George Shaw, and the cinematic vision of Peter Hall’s “Akenfield” (1974). Landscape is, also, the focus of the protagonists’ preoccupations; it is variously walked, surveyed, sensed, gazed upon, read, and dug. Landscape is where the programme’s characters seek solitude, find companionship, and navigate the sometimes dramatic intrusions from ‘the rude world’. Landscape reveals the past while concealing the prospect of future discovery.

We welcome papers that consider “Detectorists” in relation to the conference’s focus on landscape.

Topics might include:

• Aesthetics and landscape;

• Amateur and vernacular knowledge-making and practise;

• Gender and friendship;

• Geographies of comedy-drama;

• Geographies of detecting;

• Hobby geographies;

• Landscape and Englishness;

• Landscape and heritage;

• Landscape and identity;

• Rural geographies;

• Sonic geographies;

• Technology and the sensing of landscape;

• Vertical geographies.

Please submit abstracts (250 words max) to Innes M. Keighren (innes.keighren@rhul.ac.uk) and Joanne Norcup (joanne.norcup@glasgow.ac.uk), along with a title and author details, by 31 January 2018.

References

Crook M 2015 Screenwriting advice from Mackenzie Crook, Reece Shearsmith & Jed Mercurio | TV Craft Sessions Accessed 2 November 2017

Fewery J 2015 Detectorists teaches us everything we need to know about male friendship The Telegraph Accessed 27 October 2017

Lloyd R 2015 British ‘Detectorists’ on Acorn TV uncovers a comedy treasure Los Angeles Times Accessed 27 October 2017

Meaden R 2015 The quiet brilliance of Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists Den of Geek Accessed 1 November 2017

Sumsion M 2014 (https://twitter.com/SumsionMichael/status/518852506194305025) Accessed 27 October 2017

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