Projecting Ireland’s Media and Cultural History

Submitting Institution

St Mary's University, Twickenham

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The impact described here focuses on the complex issue of Ireland's representation in film, its exhibition and cultural remediation. It derives from a research project undertaken during two discrete periods (1993-2001) and (2011-2013), the most recent configuration of which at the Centre for Irish Studies (CIS) at St Mary's University College, aims to produce a new cultural history that includes its diasporic forms and transnational axes. The research findings have informed agendas for cultural institutions, adult education programmes and cultural events. The case study addresses the issue of filmic variation across regional, national and international contexts thus contributing to debates about transnational cinema.

Underpinning research

The main research insight is to establish the strong connection between film as a visual medium and its contribution to migrant identity formation, adaptation and cultural interpretation. This is demonstrated to operate in both first and subsequent generation Irish people, but in different ways, and consequently it informs a wider, longitudinal understanding of Ireland's cultural history. Further the research findings distinguish between forms of exilic and diasporic Irishness as evidenced in films, creative migrants and audiences. Coining a new critical term, the research posits the operation of what it defines as "scopic diaspora space" to explain the way film constructs a visualised, cognitive map of "here and there'. In its most recent phases, the research has explored a) how this scopic regime is cinematically shared partially by those who might define themselves as `native' or `indigenous' to problematize a self-perceived, secure, anchored identity, b) how "scopic diaspora space" is the site of cross-over recognitions by other migrant groups, c) how `Irish' film travels, produces pleasure and cultural affiliations beyond Britain and Ireland in other highly transnational cultures such as Brazil. In this latter regard, the issues of creative interpretation, cultural translation and sub-titling have come to the fore in the practice of production and organizing events.

Pettitt's work is situated within a group of researchers engaged in film at CIS. Pettitt was a lecturer/senior lecturer at St Mary's between1992-2001 and was subsequently returned to the HEI and was appointed to a Chair in Screen Media (March 2011). Zaluczkowska, a PhD student since October 2011 and supervised by Pettitt, is working on a creative writing doctorate focused on post-Troubles drama; Dr Keith Hopper, appointed Research Fellow (September 2012, 3 year fixed term) recently completed an Oxbridge doctorate on Neil Jordan's fiction and film; Charles Barr, appointed Professorial Research Fellow (September 2012, 3 year fixed term) has published on John Ford, film adaptations of Irish drama and film Irish/British identity. Research undertaken by Barr, Pettitt and Hopper has consisted of a series of periodic visits to film archive material and print sources held at the IFI Dublin, RTE Dublin, BBCNI, the BFI and C4 London, BBC Written Archives Centre (WAC), the BL and National Library Dublin, and the National Archives, Kew and the Ford Archive in the USA.

Focusing on Pettitt, numerous film festival viewings of contemporary and historic film material have been undertaken in Britain, Ireland, North America, Europe and Brazil/Argentina. Pettitt has participated in presentations, Q & As and discussions with academic peers, archivist professionals and the public (including at adult education classes, and community group screenings) that have informed the case study's overarching project to understand audience, transnational context and remediation. A secondary literature of review, written commentary, web audio-visual sources (University of Ulster's CAIN website, Trinity College Dublin, Irish Film Institute and the BFI/St Mary's CIS), journal and academic writing, has been used to critically frame and compare these specific viewing contexts to determine the shifting meanings that attach to or are recast for different viewings. Pettitt and Hopper have themselves also contributed to this review literature in publications such as The Irish Post and Times Literary Supplement.

References to the research

All of Pettitt's REF2 outputs have been published by university presses or in peer reviewed journals. Item 1 was submitted in RAE 2001 and its chapter 11 `TV drama the Troubles' was excerpted online for the CAIN web project, achieving mid-decade, viewing rates of 3,281 (Jan-Dec, 2006) and 1,088 (Jan-May, 2007). It can be found at: [accessed 5 November 2013]. Annual ALCS statements (2007 and 2008) indicated a sustained activity in registered photocopying of Screening Ireland, with higher rates in EU, Scandinavian territories and Canada in particular. Non-academic review and expert comment important to gauging the impact of the work includes: `a long over-due new reference work for students of Irish cinema the world over' (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin); `a major academic will provide an exceptional benchmark for students of the cinema for many years to come.' (Books Ireland); `[Pettitt's] articulate style and critical insights are a valuable addition to the growing field of Irish screen scholarship and an important exploration of the complexities and contingencies of identity in the digital age.' (The Irish Times); `The chapters on film are fascinating...[Pettitt] has an eye for details which resonate beyond Irish borders.' (Times Literary Supplement); 'A large gap has been filled by Lance Pettitt's Screening Ireland which is deft and incisive.' (Declan Kiberd, Sunday Tribune, Dublin).

The second period of research (2011-2013) has attracted dissemination support from a Culture Ireland (CI) grant (€2k in 2013, Brazil/Argentina) — linked to outputs 4 and 6 respectively, was a follow-on project linked with output 3 that had been awarded a CI grant (€2k) in 2010. These recent successes are based on a successful track record of research in the interim period (2001-2010) underpinned by three British Academy small grants to Pettitt in (2003 — £1,700; 2006 — £2,048; 2007 — £2,048) and as a co-researcher with QUB (Belfast)/UU (Ulster) in an AHRC network (2007-2009 — £19k) submitted under RAE2008.

1. [Monograph] Screening Ireland (2000) with 2nd revised edition (contracted Manchester UP, 2014) ISBN: 0-7190-5270X. Widely cited in subsequent work in the field. 1st edition print run of 2,250 sold out. Copy available from HEI. The first edition was based on research undertaken 1993-1999 and subject to three anonymous academic readers for MUP.

2. [Journal article] (2011) `Exilic Irish Cinema in England', Irish Studies Review, 19: 1 (February). Special Issue: Screening the Irish in Britain. pp. 41-52. ISSN: 0967-0882. REF2 submission. This article is based on an invited keynote lecture at Trinity College, Dublin (September 2009) and was peer-reviewed for publication.


3. [Essay in collection] (2011) `Holywood Hobohemian: The filmwork of John T. Davis', in Pettitt and Kopschitz Bastos, eds. Sao Paulo: USP/Humanitas Press, 2011 pp. 21-50. The Uncle Jack. ISBN: 978857732171-1. REF2 submission. This essay was based on an invited round-table paper given at the ABRPUI conference, Sao Paulo (June 2009).

4. [Essay in collection] (2013) `In the Crack Between Cultures: Art, cinema and migrant memory in The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (co-edited with Kopschitz Bastos as 3. above). Sao Paulo: USP/Humanitas, 2013. ISBN: 978-85-7732-225-1. REF2 submission. This essay was based on research at the IFI Dublin and given as a peer-review paper for IASIL at Queen's University Belfast (July 2013).

5. [Essay in collection] (2013) `Screen Fictions of William Trevor', in ed. Paul Delaney and Michael Parker William Trevor: Revaluations. Manchester University Press, pp. 76-92. ISBN: 978-0-7190-8790-5. REF2 submission. This essay was based on research conducted the BBC archives and an invited keynote given at the ABEI conference at the Federal University of Parana, Brazil. It was peer-reviewed by MUP for publication.

6. [Co-editor] (2013) The Woman Who Married Clark Gable by Thaddeus O'Sullivan (with Beatriz Kopschitz Bastos). Sao Paulo: USP/Humanitas. A critical, dual-language edition of O'Sullivan's 1985 screenplay and critical essays + subtitled DVD (Portuguese) published with USP Brazil/Humanitas, the university publisher and Ciu Ludens, Sao Paulo, an independent production company. REF2 submission. This series forms part of a research agreement between St Mary's and USP (2011- ongoing) and Pettitt is a nominated researcher for the WB Yeats Chair of Irish Studies at USP.

Details of the impact

The impact feeds into a developing network of links with cultural and community organizations in Britain and Ireland in particular, but increasingly further afield. One of the key modes of impact for CIS is exemplified in this case study, primarily working through public engagement via networks and associations to achieve a concentrated reach as defined by REF criteria. This successive public engagement has led to impact through providing materials and interpretational tools by which people can better understand cultural change and provoke societal questioning of received ideas about Irish/migrant identity and Irish history through screen media. The main findings of the research outlined above in 2) have been successfully disseminated to audiences at screening events and talks (listed below) and non-academic publications (The Irish Post article, DVD booklet, Stones in his Pocket for Tricycle Theatre programme notes) and discussions in community, national and international settings.

The research has had demonstrable impact on the programming agendas of cultural, educational and diplomatic organisations. Notable amongst these is the online BBCNI/BUFVC resource `Chronicle' and [access 10 Nov 2013] that repurposed BBC Northern Ireland film archive material, curated it and provided critical context for the digital platform. Pettitt served on its academic advisory board 2010-2011 and participated in a user-workshop prior to the website launch in 2012.

Pettitt delivered invited talks and more formal lectures at community/arts organisations, university venues with public attendance and film festivals to audiences totalling over 800 individuals (attendance at individual events where known shown in parentheses):

  • Belfast Film Festival — 2009 and QFT — March 2012 `Uncle Jack' (84);
  • Credited consultant — BBC4 television `Life through a local lens'. Tx. July 2011 (Aud. 335,000 — with rpts). ;
  • Irish Arts, Leeds — Nov 2011 Seven Arts Centre — `The Gathering' (105) and Nov 2012 (150);
  • Irish Cultural Centre — July 2012 `Billy Plays' for the ICC adult education evening class (28) and Feb 2013 `'Irish Writing London' day conference (68);
  • London Irish film festival — Nov 2011 `Opening Address' (250);
  • Manchester's World Irish Centre — May 2012 `William Trevor' (24);
  • Irish Literary Society, London — `Belfast Bohemian' Feb 2013 (47);
  • Birkbeck College's London Screen Archive public film series on Hurst — March 2012 (45) and on O'Sullivan's early Royal College of Art films for `Diaspora Film' screening — May 2013 (27).

The research underpinning the case study has brought filmmakers and films to the attention of curators and festival programmers in London/Dublin, other city regions of the UK (Leeds, Manchester, Belfast) and Irish department of foreign affairs-funded events in Brazil, Mozambique and Argentina. The economic impact can be seen principally in the commissioned production for retail of 1000 units of DVD and accompanying book (Output 6 above), but also in helping to sustain the vibrancy of cultural programmes and providing the basis for future projects, including a "Story of the London Irish" exhibit, research resource in Hammersmith and a forthcoming retrospective festival of Hurst's films at the IFI, Dublin in 2014. Two examples of impact products and events directly based on research underpinning this case study include an educational DVD (March 2014) and a travelling film festival in South America (August 2013) that are listed below:

  1. [DVD] Thaddeus O'Sullivan: Early Films, 1974-1985. Curated with introduction booklet by Lance Pettitt. 2-disk: 5 digitally re-mastered archive films. Dublin: Irish Film Institute.
  2. Mostra de cinema Irlandes — Five events travelling film festival of screenings, seminars and discussions with filmmaker and curator, three of which include public arts venues and engagement between 6-27 August 2013.

Acknowledging that these fall beyond the impact census period (July 2013) in terms of audience, we argue here that the significance of impact lies in the influence exerted by the research on a government department (Foreign Affairs in Brasilia and Buenos Aires) and a national heritage institution in Dublin to publish the DVD and commit resource to the festival schedule during the early part of 2013 within the census period.

Sources to corroborate the impact


  1. Chief Executive or Project Researcher at BUFVC
  2. Cultural Attache, Embassy of Ireland, London
  3. General Manager, Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith.
  4. Irish Ambassador to Brazil and Argentina.
  5. Curator IFI, Dublin


  1. BUFVC/BBC/JISC `Chronicle'
  2. The Uncle Jack — screening based on subtitled version of film published in August 2011 —éma-cinema/ [accessed 12 November 2013] This subtitled version was also screened in Brasilia in 2013.
  3. CAIN website, University of Ulster.
  4. CINEUSP — Mostra in August 2013. Plus hard copy/poster/programme.
  5. Southern Cross — newspaper item on Thaddeus' screening and film work in Argentina, 2013.