Assignment 5: location research

The briefing notes on Assignment 5, the personal project, emphasise the importance of methodology“that is, how you plan to get from your initial idea to the final portfolio of images.” (course notes: 102).

To recap, my proposal is to produce pairs of images of northern English towns and cities that voting heavily in favour of leaving the European Union. My concept is to juxtapose the (projected) world views / contexts of the Remain and Leave voters in themed pairs of images.

Although I haven’t started shooting yet (hopefully later this week), I have been doing lots of planning, research and preparation. This is the first in a short series of posts summarising various strands of this preparation. This one is particularly concerned with the choice of shooting locations.

Selecting locations

One of the first things I needed to do was identify a shortlist of locations. My criteria:

  • Northern England
    • Even though it isn’t an officially designated region, hopefully it is fairly reasonable to define this as being between the Midlands and Scotland
    • The reason for this is that I have lived in various parts of the north of England all my life, and feel a particular connection with it – I self-identify to one degree or another as ‘a northerner’
  • Voted Leave by a significant margin
    • At least 65%
  • Economically below the national average
    • In terms of measures such as average income
    • May have experienced identifiable industrial decline
  • A generally ‘working class’ political environment
    • i.e. traditionally votes Labour
  • Recipient of significant EU social funding
    • Defining this precisely will be tricky – ‘significant’ is subjective
    • And the voting regions and EU funding regions do not align
  • Ideally somewhere I have prior knowledge of
    • As I am seeking to make this from an admittedly personal point of view
  • Ideally a reasonable geographic spread

Region and vote

The first and second parts (northern England, Leave vote >=65%) are straightforward to find. I used a spreadsheet from the Electoral Commission website.

First of all, I filtered by Region, flagging ‘North East’, ‘North West’ and ‘Yorkshire & The Humber’.

Then I selected only those with a Leave vote of 65% or greater. This got the list down to:

  • Barnsley = 68.31
  • Blackpool = 67.46
  • Burnley = 66.61
  • Doncaster = 68.96
  • Hartlepool = 69.57
  • Hyndburn = 66.19
  • Kingston upon Hull = 67.62
  • Middlesbrough = 65.48
  • Redcar = 66.19
  • Rotherham = 67.89
  • Wakefield = 66.36

(Source: Electoral Commission 2016)

Average earnings

Regarding the towns being economically sub-average, I took data from the Office of National Statistics for 2015 to confirm that the national average weekly pay was £528.

The data for the above list of towns was as follows:

  • Barnsley = 494
  • Blackpool = 622
  • Burnley = 410
  • Doncaster = 479
  • Hartlepool = 514
  • Hyndburn = 430
  • Kingston upon Hull = 469
  • Middlesbrough = 500
  • Redcar = 506
  • Rotherham = 479
  • Wakefield = 474

(Source: ONS 2015)

This removes Blackpool off the list.

Political climate

Following is how the remaining 10 places voted in the 2015 General Election (note, multiple constituencies in some places):

  • Barnsley = LAB x2
  • Burnley = LAB
  • Doncaster = LAB x2
  • Hartlepool = LAB
  • Hyndburn = LAB
  • Kingston upon Hull = LAB x3
  • Middlesbrough = LAB x2
  • Redcar & Cleveland = LAB
  • Rotherham = LAB
  • Wakefield = LAB

So they all passed the ‘Labour heartlands’ test.

(Source: BBC)

EU funding

This is the trickiest one to align with the towns so I will need to start looking at it at the regional level.

“Within England, notional allocations for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) for the 2014-2020 programming period were made on the basis of Local Enterprise Partnership areas. Transposing these allocations to regional boundaries, the total estimated amount of ERDF and ESF for the 2014-2020 programming period for each region in England is as follows”

East Midlands €598m
East of England €387m
London €762m
> North East < €739m
> North West < €1,132m
South East €286m
South West €1,495m
West Midlands €909m
> Yorkshire & Humber < €794m
Total for England €6,937m

(Source: UK Parliament 2015)

So, extracting out the figures for the three northern English regions that I am interested in:

  • North East = 10.7% of England total
    • Includes Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar
  • North West = 16.3%
    • Includes Burnley, Hyndburn
  • Yorkshire & Humber = 11.5%
    • Includes Barnsley, Doncaster, Kingston upon Hull, Rotherham, Wakefield
  • So in total, 38.5% of EU funding coming into England is in these three regions
    • This is over the one-third you might expect from three regions selected from a list of nine, so it does indicate a disproportionate level of funding in the north of the country
  • I will dig deeper into the nature of the funding (e.g. particular projects) if I can

Personal knowledge

  • Barnsley = lived there for five years
  • Burnley = lived there for two years
  • Doncaster = no connection
  • Hartlepool = no connection
  • Hyndburn = lived there for 20 years
  • Kingston upon Hull = no connection
  • Middlesbrough = lived there for three years; wife’s family from there
  • Redcar = never lived there, but got family there
  • Rotherham = no connection
  • Wakefield = lived a few miles away for about five years

Geographical spread

I’m ideally looking for three, maybe four, places to shoot. In terms of geographic spread, it would be either:

  • North, central, south of the overall region
  • North, west, east and south of overall region

If I shoot in three locations, mapping the geography point together with the personal knowledge one I would plump for:

  • North: Middlesbrough OR Redcar (see ‘Other factors’ below)
  • Central: Hyndburn
  • South: Barnsley

If I go for four locations, it would be:

  • North: Middlesbrough OR Redcar
  • West: Hyndburn
  • East: Kingston upon Hull
  • South: Barnsley

Other factors

For the most northerly town to shoot, I have a choice of two:

  • Middlesbrough: I know reasonably well and so is the more obvious choice given my criteria above
  • Redcar: I know less well but has the more recent and visible signs of industrial decline in the form of the steelworks closing down in 2015

I could shoot both as they are close together?

The difference between the three- and the four-location lists above is Kingston upon Hull. There’s a specific attraction to shooting Hull, even though I’ve never been there! It’s that it is the 2017 European City of Culture – the irony of this is a magnetic pull to me…

In terms whether to shoot in three or four locations, it might depend on how many images I need in total. This in turn depends on my interpretation of the brief! The brief asks for 15 images. I’m planning to use composite images (think diptychs, but with no gap between the left and right portions). Does this count as one image or two? Am I shooting 15 images (actually I’d need to round it down to 14 or up to 16), or 15 pairs?

One idea I’ve had is to split the difference (kind of) and do 10 composite pairs. You can interpret this as either being 10 images or 20 images, and the mid-point is 15 :-)

Conclusion (so far)

My current plan is to shoot in:

  • Redcar as first choice, to see if I can get good, relevant shots related to the steelworks closing
    • Middlesbrough as a fallback
  • Hyndburn
    • (specifically – Accrington)
  • Barnsley
  • And possibly Hull – but will do that last I think

Sources (accessed 14/11/2016) (accessed 14/11/2016) (accessed 14/11/2016) (accessed 14/11/2016) (accessed 14/11/2016)


2 thoughts on “Assignment 5: location research

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