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Nowt Queer as Folk: telling the story of my Northern family

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: Cambridge School of Art
Course: BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation
Category: Art and design

27 January 2020

Having moved away from my hometown for university (like many), I have been prompted to think a lot about the cultural differences and shifts that can occur as you travel from one part of the UK to another.

It's left me a little homesick in places – and compelled me to produce a piece of work that is both a portrait and a love letter to my home.

At its core, my Final Major Project is intended to be a project about people, and the differences and similarities that I have observed and encountered whilst away from home – going beyond the obvious, of accents and how you might refer to a bread bun (also known as a roll, bap, or perhaps a breadcake – the jury is still out).

This film is currently entitled Nowt Queer as Folk – named after a common Northern phrase that my dad uses, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk’, which means that nothing is as strange as people can be.

In my film, I hope to give the viewer an insight into my Northern family, as I personally haven’t found much UK media – particularly animated media – that contains real Northern characters, aside from the likes of Creature Comforts.

Illustration of four people sitting in a car
Illustration of a person sitting outside the front of their house
Illustration of a person driving along a road - seen from the back seat of a car

I have been quite interested in the genre of animated documentary, especially in the use of found and recorded footage, since stumbling across the work and recordings of David Weinberg. I then decided that I could use the narrative event of Christmas Day – one with a generally clear beginning, middle, and end, to tell an underlying narrative of my own family and identity – telling the story not only of Christmas Day, but painting an honest portrait of my own family and Northern identity through a comedic lens, and a setting that many can relate to.

With Christmas coming up, I made the decision to record the sounds and conversations of my own family’s Christmas Day and form them into a narrative. Whilst trying to storyboard and establish a tighter narrative with the audio I had collected, I thought about the pieces of media that I personally enjoy. This led me to the idea of an animated mockumentary – a short animation that has the feel of a documentary, but with the comedic and visual elements of a classic mockumentary, inspired by live-action work such as The Office and What We Do in the Shadows.

I hope to employ the different methods used in this type of comedy within my own work – to produce something that is like a mockumentary, as though my family were being followed by a camera crew over Christmas Day for an existing ‘sitcom’.

I aim for audiences to come away from my film feeling light-hearted, amused and entertained, but also comparing the differences and similarities that they experience with others in their lives. I hope the combination of recognisable mockumentary comedic elements with organic, regional accents will produce a warm, honest piece of work that will tell a tiny little story about my own experience of Northern identity.

By Claudia Melton, BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation


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