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Ian Nairn


Junior Team Regular

May 25, 2018, 5:40 PM

Posts: 31
Location: Kidderminster/Sheffield
Team(s): Kidderminster Harriers, Hallam FC, Sheffield FC, Sheffield United

Post #1 of 7 (3046 views)
Ian Nairn Can't Post or Reply Privately

Hi all,

I'm a final year undergraduate student at the University of Sheffield. This is purely a general interest post as I'm currently writing an essay on architectural commentator/critic Ian Nairn and his impact.

Has anyone on here ever come across Ian Nairn? Maybe you saw his BBC works a couple of decades ago? Or maybe 'Outrage' interested you?

I'm really keen to hear what people think. His football towns programmes are really interesting (available on Youtube if you fancy a gander). Did they inspire people to get out there and become groundhoppers or general travellers? Is an interest in the urban (or rural) environment and football what makes a groundhopper?

I really enjoy his way of conveying his thoughts and bringing a profile of place to the viewer. Are there any youtubers, filmmakers or other critics out there I could look at to compare him to? Jonathan Meades is an obvious one that I have also been looking at. Or just generally watching for enjoyment are there any other recommendations people have?

(This post was edited by harrierjames on May 25, 2018, 5:41 PM)

First Team Regular

May 26, 2018, 1:24 PM

Posts: 1413
Location: west riding of yorkshire

Post #2 of 7 (2827 views)
Re: [harrierjames] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Gosh, that's a real blast from the past.
Certainly remember his shows fondly, though not from a sporting perspective.
Will try and catch up on you tube. Always thought of them as regional rather than national TV.
Seem to recall a very dry humour which of course I like.

Junior Team Sub

May 27, 2018, 10:41 PM

Posts: 28
Team(s): Maryhill

Post #3 of 7 (2570 views)
Re: [harrierjames] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I'd never heard of him before I saw a documentary about him on BBC4 a while back - I'm maybe a bit too young to have seen his stuff when it was originally broadcast - and subsequently watched a few things on Youtube he'd done.
They were the kind of television that just wouldn't be made today; an idiosyncratic voice largely railing against modernism but with some odd blind spots - effectively he could be rendered apoplectic over stuff he didn't like though only he seemed to know what that was exactly.
I feel the same way sometimes when and iconic old ground is replaced by a cookie-cutter new-build, but more often than not I grudgingly accept it's probably for the best.
If Nairn had been a groundhopper, I suspect he would have been saddened by some recent "progress". Going by the documentary, I also suspect he'd still have an encyclopaedic knowledge of where the nearest decent boozer was to every ground...

Feversham Lens
First Team Star

May 30, 2018, 7:56 AM

Posts: 2985
Location: York
Team(s): Not any more

Post #4 of 7 (2415 views)
Re: [harrierjames] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Glad to hear from another Ian Nairn enthusiast. Bit of a shooting star: appeared, dramatically, from nowhere, shone very brightly for a short time then vanished, almost without trace (in his case, after several years of decline, he simply drank himself to death). Always wished (and often pretended) he'd been born in Newcastle. He was actually from suburban Surrey, and loathed the place.

Couple of Nairn-related books on my shelves: Nairn's Towns (a 2013 Owen Hatherley update of Nairn's 1967 original) and Ian Nairn, Words in Place, a 2013 evaluation - in places, a little gushing - of the man and his work by Gillian Darley and David McKie.

Enjoyed most of the TV stuff Nairn produced that's available on YouTube. I did the bulk of my growing up between Halifax and Huddersfield, and was interested in his take on the two 'football' towns (though it would have been more accurate to describe Halifax as a rugby town). At least Nairn arrived at the right result. Victory for Halifax.

Nairn's London (1966) is available via Amazon. "This book is a record of what moved me between Uxbridge and Dagenham." Acknowledged as a classic of its kind.

For sporting (and other) images, visit

Ground/venue totals: Football 908; Rugby Union 265; Rugby League 215; Cricket 125; Speedway 53; Stock Cars 25; Grasstrack 15; Ice Hockey 15; Cycle Speedway 4; Greyhounds 2.

(This post was edited by Feversham Lens on May 30, 2018, 7:59 AM)

Reserve Team Regular

May 30, 2018, 5:22 PM

Posts: 640
Location: Birmingham

Post #5 of 7 (2244 views)
Re: [harrierjames] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

In the late 1980s a journalist called Matthew Engel wrote a series of Nairn-like articles about struggling football towns for The Guardian. Unfortunately his articles don't appear to be linked to his profile on their website so I'm not sure how you'd track them down.

Mike S
Reserve Team Regular

May 30, 2018, 8:09 PM

Posts: 564

Post #6 of 7 (2190 views)
Re: [Feversham Lens] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I think he was actually born in Bedford and brought up in Surrey
He wrote two of the Pevsner books, well actually one and a half and the surrey one is far from being one of the best. In Sussex which has recently been reissued, he introduced a degree of background to the towns, which is the standard practice now and appeared to steer the series in a different direction. The joy of Pevsner is that despite being so dry, the detail is brilliant. However in a series of probably 40 to 50 books, there is nothing remotely funny, not even unintentionally. it would be amazing to know how the two got on.
I have the whole set of Pevsners and normally one in the car. The latest, which are all by different authors have completed Scotland and are slowly working through Ireland and I am certainly forward to Belfast and Down if ever published
I always Nairn a critic, in the way of a restaurant critic, more of what was wrong than enjoyable bit in fairness he was reviewing 60's architecture which was a real low point in the UK

Junior Team Regular

Jul 12, 2018, 12:55 AM

Posts: 31
Location: Kidderminster/Sheffield
Team(s): Kidderminster Harriers, Hallam FC, Sheffield FC, Sheffield United

Post #7 of 7 (1451 views)
Re: [harrierjames] Ian Nairn [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Well thanks for the responses! Was a little caught up with the essay and having now received my mark, thought I'd pop back and see what has been said.

Hope you all enjoyed the chance to think back to Nairn or (re) discover him.

Yep - I think his approach and voice would be very interesting on the 'progress' and development of stadia across the country.

Indeed, he was a Surrey lad that felt Northern at heart - I believe he entered Newcastle as his place of birth on some official documentation?

Feversham: I consulted both of those books for my work! Fascinating that you grew up so close to his points of reference for that episode of football towns, too.

Mike: Funny you should happen to mention Nikolaus Pevsner. The chap described my hometown, Kidderminster, as "devoid of visual pleasure"! Never have truer words been spoken - if only he could see how unpleasant it has become now!


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