Tell us about your project

We’ve made two new short films, ‘The Unofficial Countryside’ and ‘The Wild Enclosed’, both of which have been made in response to the edgeland landscapes close to our studio in Manchester. Using a hybrid documentary approach, we aimed to capture the intrinsic characteristics of these places which thrive on the fringes of the city, between the urban and the rural.

What inspired you to make these films about the edgelands?

During lockdown, the edgelands of Manchester, and throughout the country, have provided an invaluable escape and refuge for many people. Familiar, ‘ordinary’, or overlooked spaces have provided a lifeline to nature, and offered opportunity for exploration and new discovery. Like many people, we found new and surprising areas on our doorstep, especially along the River Mersey. Both together and individually we’ve previously made work in places far from home, including Midwest USA, Iceland and Lebanon. But for this project, partly as a result of the pandemic restrictions, we felt inspired to engage with these unique local environments, and in so doing expand upon the themes of natural, social and cultural history that are central to our collaborative practice.

There is much that is unique about these edgeland landscapes too. Compared to many rural areas, where intensive farming has created unfavourable conditions for a variety of wildlife, environments on the edge of towns and cities are surprisingly rich in biodiversity and need to be protected from development. In a dangerously warming climate, they also play a crucial role in forming flood defences and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.  From a human perspective these spaces are also very diverse and are shaped by the activities and imprints of people passing through.

Can you tell us more about the films?

The Unofficial Countryside is titled after naturalist Richard Mabey’s seminal book on edgeland landscapes, and is filmed in a variety of urban 'wildscapes', that include unkempt woodland, ramshackle smallholdings, a Climate Camp, abandoned industrial sites, utility substations, scrapyards, open fields and informal riverside beaches. It’s very much a direct, unplanned, observational portrait of people and place, and hopefully captures the rich biodiversity of native and introduced species. The film includes a voiceover drawn from Marion Shoard’s key essay ‘Edgelands of Promise’.

The Wild Enclosed is a film made within a former mediaeval deer park, on the outer rim of Manchester's metropolitan region, extending this notion of edgelands to the very limits of the city. Featuring ancient oaks and an abandoned outbuilding (‘The Slaughterhouse’), we wanted this film to have a more historical focus, touching upon our complex, contested and changing relationship with the land. It features an 18th century folk ballad performed by us, ruminating on private enclosure and the loss of the ‘Commons’, plus some sonic tones from a hurdy-gurdy (which also makes an appearance on the soundtrack to The Unofficial Countryside).

The films will be shown together as an installation at Manchester Central, Nov 20, 2021 (2 – 6pm FREE).

Film trailers and further info:


About the artists

Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan's collaborative practice is cross-disciplinary, encompassing film, drawing, painting, photography, objects, publications and events. From invasive species and ancient oaks to ornithologist explorers and marginal communities, the artists utilise an improvised working method, seeking out the inter-connections between the natural world and multifaceted cultural histories.

Their work has been exhibited widely and internationally, including: Innsbruck International Biennale (Austria); ICA (London); Kunstmuseum (Bonn); Academia de Cine (Madrid); Musée du Quai Branly (Paris); Whitstable Biennale (UK); Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin); Darwin State Museum, (Moscow); National Maritime Museum (London); Documenta (Madrid). Film festivals include Clermont-Ferrand (France); São Paulo (Brazil); FIDMarseille (France); Winterthur (Switzerland); Kassel Dokfest (Germany); Sheffield Doc/Fest (UK); lndieLisboa (Portugal); BFI London Film Festival (UK). Artist residences and commissions include Headlands Center for the Arts (USA); The National Trust; Arts & Heritage; Forma; Book Works; ICA; The University of Manchester; Art Gene; The Swedenborg Society; Cornerhouse; Manchester Museum; Chrysalis Arts.

The artists are based in Manchester, UK.

Further info: