‘No-nonsense-two-up-two-down-by-gum-you-daft-ha’poth-Northerness’: Jane Horrocks, Gracie Fields and performing generic Northernness

Hannah Andrews

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    When Jane Horrocks starred as Gracie Fields in the BBC Four single drama Gracie! (2009), most reviewers agreed that this casting was almost too perfect. They were thinking of the geographical connection between the two women – Horrocks grew up in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, only a few miles from Fields’s famed home town of Rochdale. Like Gracie, Horrocks’s star image has been built around the ambivalent performance and exploitation of a Lancashire identity. From Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012), to a middle-class mother turned political candidate in The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (2006) or deputy supermarket manager in Trollied (2011–) Horrocks’ strong regional accent has rendered her a recognizable presence on British television for two decades. Her persona is of down-to-earth, no-nonsense, seemingly authentic Northernness. This article analyses Horrocks’ performance of Gracie in relation to the rest of her career. It compares common themes of Lancashire identity associated with these stars of different eras, with particular attention to the changing sociocultural milieu in which working-class Northern characters are found in their work – the mill/factory in the 1930s and the supermarket in the twenty-first century. It also considers the critical reception of Gracie! and the critical tendency to conflate actor with character. It explores how the embodied performance of known biographical personalities works in tension with the performance of generic ‘Northernness’.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Popular Television
    Early online date1 Oct 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


    • British televisionNorthern identitytelevision stardomJane HorrocksGracie Fieldsclass representation


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