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“When I get up it just goes to shit”: unearthing the everyday vertical landscapes of Detectorists

Harris, A; (2020) “When I get up it just goes to shit”: unearthing the everyday vertical landscapes of Detectorists. In: Norcup, J and Keighren, I, (eds.) Landscapes of Detectorists. Uniformbooks: Axminster, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

The first series of Detectorists opens with a static landscape shot of “two stooped figures...some distance apart” approaching each other slowly across a flat, ploughed field whilst sweeping the earth with metal detectors. In this establishing shot, the programme sets out its core focus: two middle-aged men, Lance and Andy, and their search for archaeological, financial, and personal treasure in the English rural landscape. This is a world framed by the relationship between detectorists and the ground immediately beneath their feet. The third series, in contrast, begins not with fields, oak trees, and bucolic meadows buffeted gently in the breeze, but with an overhead tracking shot that moves across the gleaming skyscrapers and densely packed urban landscape of the City of London. This scene of iconic towers, viewed from above, is seemingly a world away from detectorists in the Essex countryside with their “coils to the soil” This chapter argues, however, that there is a close and restless relationship between these two contrasting perspectives in Detectorists. Although detecting for metal involves patiently scanning the Earth’s surface, the programme and its protagonists demonstrate how these actions are bound up with—and in turn unsettle—relations and connections both above and below the ground; this is an activity that involves more than simply walking across fields in a horizontal direction. The opening sequence of the third series is, in fact, more earthbound and ordinary than perhaps first appears. Not only is the City of London a landscape richly layered with history stretching back to the Roman era, but the most prominent skyscrapers featured in the initial aerial shot—the Walkie-Talkie, Cheesegrater, and Gherkin—have names that would not be out-of-place in Lance and Andy’s everyday life. The entangling of different vertical perspectives in Detectorists was, in some senses, there from the programme’s inception. Reflecting on its origins, Mackenzie Crook recalls that Detectorists “was born a long way from the stubbly, golden fields and ancient landmarks of Suffolk”, finding its genesis during his time filming the sci-fi drama Almost Human: I’d been writing these snippets of conversation between these two characters, talking absolute rubbish, out in a field...It was odd to be writing those scenes living on the 25th floor of a glass skyscraper in downtown Vancouver. But it seemed to work—maybe because I was longing to get out there. Detectorists can, in this way, be understood as a reaction to shiny, corporate, high-rise landscapes—albeit one framed from experiences of condos in the sky. The closest the programme gets to vertical stacking, beyond the opening shot of the third series, is the massed vegetable crates in the depot where Lance works as a forklift driver and the piled-up boxes of DMDC fleeces that Lance has delivered in his aborted bid to become club president. This chapter investigates the intricate relationship in Detectorists between height and surface, above and below—a relationship that offers a way of exploring three-dimensional imaginations and experiences of contemporary Britain. both the value of aerial perspectives in understanding the ground below and their capacity for misinterpretation. I then probe layered histories beneath the surface and assess difficulties. The chapter begins by considering faced by the programme’s protagonists in evaluating an opaque and unreliable earth below. The final section of the chapter returns to the default, ground-level orientation that, like the opening to the first series, defines the detectorists’ practice, investigating how at the emotional and physical heart of Detectorists is an inherent groundedness.

Type: Book chapter
Title: “When I get up it just goes to shit”: unearthing the everyday vertical landscapes of Detectorists
ISBN-13: 978 1 910010 24 2
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.uniformbooks.co.uk/landscapesofdetecto...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10109745
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