Localebrity: Examining Audience Responses to Celebrity in a Small Nation


This research examines the importance of celebrity in south Wales. It comes at a time when the local television production base is expanding with the opening of the BBC’s Roath Lock Drama Studios in Cardiff Bay. The project considers the association of celebrities with specific locations across south Wales and tests the validity of the term 'localebrity’ (McElroy and Williams 2011), used to describe a hybrid of the reality television celebrity and the local personality or 'character’.

Duration: 2013 – 2016
Funding: USW Research Investment Scheme
Research team: Dr Rebecca Williams, Alex Brady

Research context: Since celebrity continues to function as a marker of status, the association and endorsement of people and place can act as an indicator of value. Furthermore, whilst much work has been carried out on various media forms in the small nation, the figure of the local celebrity remains relatively under-explored. Understanding celebrity is crucial to our knowledge of contemporary media and culture. Studying celebrity also allows us to consider the functions of the media, as well as the more specific direct impact that the development of creative industries in Cardiff has had on audience encounters with mediated figures.

Research questions: Recent work conducted by Rebecca Williams and Ruth McElroy has begun to examine the impact of celebrity in small nations. This work proposed the “concept of the “localebrity,” a hybrid of the reality television celebrity and the local personality or “character” that better enables us to examine the cultural and theoretical specificity of local/national celebrity” (McElroy and Williams 2011:11). Building on this initial work, the current project turns to the audience themselves to examine their responses to famous local people and to consider the uses and (dis)pleasures they may gain from this.

Research methods: The research involves focus groups with television audiences across south Wales. It also analyses audience responses to television programmes in social media and other platforms.


Outcomes from the project include conference papers:

‘Conceptualising ‘localebrity’: Stardom and celebrity in the small nation’, Topographies of Popular Culture, University of Tampere, Finland, October 2013.

‘Location, location, location: Exploring celebrity, locality, and identity in the small nation’, Narratives and Social Memory: Theoretical and Methodological Approaches, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, June 2012.

Work from the project has also been drawn on in the following articles:

Williams, R. (2015) Localebrities, adopted residents, and local characters: audience and celebrity in a small nation Celebrity Studies, Taylor & Francis Online.

Williams, R. (2013) ‘Tonight’s the Night with …Captain Jack!: John Barrowman as celebrity/subcultural celebrity/localebrity’, in Rebecca Williams (ed.) Torchwood Declassified: Investigating Mainstream Cult Television, London: I.B. Tauris, pp. 154-171.