“This Is England”?


Is any day in Bampton an idyllic display of early 20th century British aristocracy? Are scruffy heroin addicts sprinting the streets of Edinburgh, causing havoc and living life aimlessly as in Trainspotting (1996)? And is London really as dark and menacing a place as Luther would have you believe? The answer would be no—that is, granted you would not gullibly perceive the stories that successful films and TV-series set in the UK offer us as completely truthful.


However, precisely these kinds of lively images spark our imagination, fantasies and notions of the United Kingdom and its inhabitants. Moreover, these kinds of narratives entice people to travel to filming locations of films and television series, where they can reimagine and relive their beloved stories on site. This practice, known as film tourism, is far from an obscure activity; in 2014 alone, screen tourists visiting popular filming locations in the UK, such as Alnwick Castle, home of Hogwarts in Harry Potter-films and Broadchurch’s West Bay, brought over £100 million to the British economy.


Local policies have picked up the potential of film tourism; initiatives such as VisitBritain have been promoting film tourism since 1990 and tax incentives have been introduced to lure film directors to the UK. All instigated by before mentioned imagery, the UK film industry is booming. But what happens when these images become so pervasive in our conceptualization of the UK that they start to become “true”? That we really come to see London as the cold, heartless backdrop of Luther’s investigations? In this vein, this sub-project looks at film tourism in the UK and the contestations that might arise between the imagining and reality of places and identities, and the consequences for involved locations, visitors, communities and citizens.