These Northern Types exhibition at Left Bank Leeds is an exploration of Northern identity, with input from artists, writers, poets, academics and philosophers. This team, with a wide range of skills, has looked into topics as diverse as class, making, stereotypes, dialect, diseases of despair, immigration and borders. The year long project has been conceived by director of Split Design, Oli Bentley who has been on a mission to understand what makes northern folk who we are, and how our relationship to where we live affects our identity.
“This ambitious project is a wide-ranging examination of Northern identity and culture, one that seeks to push past stereotypes by acknowledging and exploring and going beyond them rather than pretending they don’t exist. But its most significant success lies in the important presentation of ‘Northern-ness’ as an identity that is not and should not be considered inherent or inborn. Instead it celebrates it as a shared and ever-growing set of linguistic characteristics, struggles and ways of inhabiting place in dialogue with the wider world, that can absorb and nurture those from elsewhere wishing to find community.
I think what has driven me to pursue this project has been the challenge of coming to terms with this giant, vague, multifaceted, community-owned thing we call “northern-ness” and trying to make some sense of what that actually means beyond the flat caps and whippets.” Oli Bentley, Split Design.
The project highlights current conversations around belonging and migration. One of the exhibition pieces that encourages debate is ‘Let Em Have It’, which reflects on modern day symbolism of the English flag (which 25% of the UK population currently see as a symbol of racism due to its co-option by hate groups like the EDL). By reworking the flag and the phrase in question, Bentley and team offer an alternative (yet recognisable) emblem: one opening the potential, perhaps, for pride without nationalism. This piece will be on display during the panel discussion on 11 January.
The three works ‘Make Do an’ Mend’, ‘Where The’s Muck The’s Brass’ and ‘The People Powered Press’ all explore the North’s history of making and manufacturing alongside its current creative industry, utilising typography to do so. A timely exploration, especially given the current political agendas around the proposal to boost economic growth in the North.
There’s also the age old cultural binary between England’s North and South, which remains as much a conversation starter as it ever was. Yorkshire has had struggles around inclusion and exclusion as far back as the ‘Dark Ages’; when the region became an early settlement of Vikings in the UK, sitting in opposition to the Saxon-inhabited South. It’s a subject that the team are currently working on through their project called ‘T’other Half’ (available from summer 2018) which will explore parallels with regions in other countries (the South of France or North Wales, for instance) that similarly sit in the opposite half of the country to the perceived geographical centres of wealth, power and intellectualism. Almost certainly a subject that will be addressed in the Panel Discussion on 11 January.
Text by writer and editor, Jay Drinkall.
Wednesdays and Thursdays 10am–4pm, December 2017 – January 2018
(excluding Christmas closures 25 December 2017 – 5 January 2018)
OPENING NIGHT (all welcome)
Thursday 27 January 2017, 6-9pm
Introductory talk by Oli Bentley at 7pm
Tickets: Opening night
Sunday 7 January 2018, 2-3pm.
From 7pm 11 January 2018
Tickets: Panel Discussion
This exhibition and events are free to attend but if you would like to attend any of the events please book online via Eventbrite.