Book Review: These Northern Types, edited by Oli Bentley
Ambitious in the best sense of the word, These Northern Types is nothing less than a frequently discursive disquisition on the nature of Northernness as unapologetically contrary as the North itself.
Presented as a series of chapbooks housed in an elegant slipcase, immediately evocative of Factory product at its most sumptuous, the essays it organises variously educate and agitate, identifying potential identities across a region whose bounds are uncertain.
In keeping with this boundary uncertainty, each chapter steps outside its binding, disrupting the real world, whether it be through the manufacture of Situationist rock, ink prepared from curry sauce (not the most lightfast, apparently) or a Brass Eye-like exercise in London-led spurious regional branding.
Indeed, variously, here are forges and forgeries, here are shipwrights and chip shops, here are the coastal towns that they forgot to close down. Here are voices that chafed against their native land, only to recognise themselves when exiled from it.
Ineluctably, insidiously, here is class.
Some might say that Northernness is defined in opposition to a South that sees itself as the rightful seat of power both cultural and political, an establishment content in its unnatural order. It’s more useful, I think, to follow the course of Anthony H. Wilson and shrug off the smug hegemony of London, to propose new orders without an eye on elsewhere.
It’s less that The Haçienda must be built, nor – for all the seductive power of nostalgia – is it enough that it once was. Rather, it must continue to be built anew, as the North continues to be built anew, no longer hewn from industrial materials, but in the face of the precarious inequity of the new economy, where to be born Northern is to inherit higher rates of poverty and to die younger.
We cannot cling to the old dreams any more. These Northern Types does not shy away from them but, in breaking out of its slipcase, suggests that new ones are possible.
These Northern Types is published by Split and available to buy now
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