Three-D Issue 18: MeCCSA 2013: Spaces and Places of Culture

Máire Messenger Davies
University of Ulster

The MeCCSA Conference in 2013 will be hosted by the University of Ulster’s School of Media, Film and Journalism at the historic Magee Campus in Derry/Londonderry, from Wednesday 9th January to Friday 11th January, 2013.

Taking advantage of the location of Derry/Londonderry as the 2013 UK City of Culture, (see the University of Ulster plans a programme built around themes relevant to the city itself: cultural geography – ‘space, place, walls, bridges’ – and the conflicted history represented there. Given Northern Ireland’s current screen successes – the popularity of Game of Thrones, shot here, and the 2012 Oscar for Terry George’s short film The Shore, there will be a focus on film and television studies, with screenings and contributions from film makers; delegates are encouraged to submit their own creative material for exhibition during the conference and film policy will be a conference theme. The programme also includes a special tribute lecture to the late Stuart Hood and his contribution to radical TV drama.

Derry: space and place

Derry walls overlooking Bogside

Derry/Londonderry, as its dual name and nickname, Stroke City, implies, has been a divided space, geographically, politically and culturally. Its selection as UK City of Culture highlights this conflicted identity since the city’s traditions are both Irish and British (which currently encompasses Scottish, but 2013 may bring a new perspective on that …) We expect Irish and other aspects of national and regional identity, to be themes throughout the conference programme, to which we hope scholars from the Republic of Ireland will contribute. The City of Culture concept – which will be discussed in our opening plenary – also represents general economic and social regeneration. As the local team puts it: ‘City of Culture is now the catalyst for the transformation and regeneration of Derry, with plans to invest more than £200 million in its infrastructure including the recent construction of the iconic Peace Bridge (see picture) and the redevelopment of the historic Ebrington Military Site, adding a whole new dimension to the city’s product offering.’

Derry walls overlooking Bogside

Reporting spaces and places

Derry/Londonderry has attracted a great deal of international press attention during its recent history, so it is fitting that contemporary journalism, its ethics, problems and pressures, will be a further key topic in the conference. Our keynote journalism panel, headed by Prof Roy Greenslade, of the Guardian, and City University, will address ethical issues such as those raised by the Leveson Inquiry, including the specific ethical pressures of reporting in conflict situations. Radio has made a major contribution to such reporting – and in the 30th anniversary year of the Community Radio Association, the MeCCSA conference will include spaces to address the role of an often mistakenly under-valued medium in media policy discourse.

Virtual spaces

Increasingly spaces are being mediated in a variety of ways through developments in digital technology, heritage site mapping and gaming – an area of research a number of colleagues at Ulster are exploring. One of our keynote panels will address this through the work of Prof. Adriana de Souza e Silva, of North Carolina State University, co-author (with Jordan Frith) of Mobile interfaces in public spaces: Control, privacy, and urban sociability (Routledge, 2012); see We hope that contributors to the conference will develop these issues, in both creative and academic presentations.

Place of scholarship

As every year, there will be a special session on issues of concern to those working, teaching and researching, in our HE field. This year, as we approach the deadline for the Research Excellence Framework (REF), we will have a keynote address from the Chair of Main Panel D, Professor Bruce Brown.

As always, there will be an open call for papers on topics of interest to all MeCCSA participants so the shape of the conference still remains to be decided by the contributions of the many scholars and postgraduate students who we hope will want to make the trip to Derry.

Cultural activities

Custom House Table Setting

The Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, see, along with the City of Culture team, are offering support to the conference in a variety of ways, including negotiating special deals with hotels, helping with transport, setting up venues for events and entertainment, and publicity. The bureau has provided a suggested itinerary for visitors who might like to spend longer in the city. We’ve also tried to make time within the conference programme for sampling the city’s striking landmarks during daylight (alas, days are short in January). Alongside the conference programme will be cultural events – screenings, tours, music, exhibitions, and of course the traditional pub quiz. This will take place after the Conference dinner on the middle night, Thursday 10th January. Both dinner and quiz will be in the beautifully restored Custom House restaurant close to the Derry quayside (see accompanying pictures). With the help of the Bureau, a number of hotels have offered special conference rates for five nights, not just three, for visitors who’d like to spend longer in the city; several hotels in the city are holding reserved accommodation for us. The city is small, and virtually all the venues and hotels are within walking distance of each other and of the Magee Campus. Help with transport arrangements is being offered by the City of Culture organisers.


Keynote speaker Phil Redmond, Photo: Andy Miah

Agreed participants and speakers so far include:

  • Dr. Beatriz Garcia
    Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital, University of Liverpool, and expert on Cities of Culture programmes
  • Prof. Roy Greenslade
    Professor of Journalism at City University, writer and blogger for The Guardian.
  • Prof. Bruce Brown
    Professor of Design, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of Brighton, and Chair of Main Panel D for the 2014 REF
  • Prof. Adriana de Souza
    University of North Carolina, authority on digital technology and virtual spaces
  • Prof John Hill
    Royal Holloway College, University of London, author of books on Irish and British cinema, and most recently of a study of Ken Loach
  • Phil Redmond
    Producer of classic television, Brookside, Hollyoaks and Grange Hill, Honorary Professor at Liverpool John Moores University and a veteran of Liverpool’s European City of Culture year in 2008.


Phil is assisting the City of Culture team; the Director of the team, Shona McCarthy, (an alumna of our School), will also welcome delegates, as will the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Richard Barnett.

Further speakers’ invitations and planned events are in the pipeline and when these are confirmed they will be announced via the MeCCSA website and mailing lists.

For further information contact:
Prof. Martin McLoone at,
and keep an eye on the conference website, as it develops, at


For more about Derry/Londonderry: and 

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