An educational resource at the heart of criminological teaching, debate, and research

At Home with the Noonans

User Rating: 3 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Starting Sunday 22nd April, a brilliant new documentary series directed by top investigative journalist Donal McIntyre,

Sky 553/HD 555 and Virgin Media 237         Reviews invited [see below]

 "Following the success of Donal MacIntyre’s award-winning feature film on crime boss Domenyk Noonan in A Very British Gangster, the documentary-maker’s ten year filmed observation of the Manchester family continues with "At Home with the Noonans", a brand new series exclusive to Crime & Investigation Network.

To find out more about At Home with the Noonans go to Crime & Investigation Network

Set in the aftermath of gang leader Desmond Noonan’s violent murder, this hard-hitting documentary series adopts an up-close and personal look at one of the most notorious families in the UK, the Noonans, as brother Domenyk steps up to assume control in his own unique way.

Domenyk Noonan, who changed his name by Deed Poll while in prison to Domenyk Lattlay Fottfoy (an acronym for Look After Those That Look After You and F**k Off Those That F**k Off You), has over 30 convictions for bank robbery, prison escape and police assault, but has also faced charges on kidnapping, torture and conspiracy to import drugs. His two greatest joys are annoying the Greater Manchester Police and looking after his beloved teenage son, Bugsy, who has only spent three Christmases with his Dad because of the crime boss's long stints in jail.

From the Strangeways riots of 1990 to street disturbances which nearly brought the country to its knees last August, Domenyk Noonan has been cast as a central figure in many of the key events that have shaped Manchester over the decades. But that has come at a terrible cost and moulded his story into one of loss, murder and tragedy. From the inside out, MacIntyre reveals the disorganised nature of organised crime and unearths how loyalty, friendship and bIood seep through the generations to create unbreakable bonds. 

The eye-opening series follows key members of the family and associates as crime slowly envelops the young Bugsy Noonan. Filmed over ten years, it provides a unique look at a family in a community ravaged by crime, meeting a variety of characters along the way including call girls, hit men, doormen, rioters, priests, cage fighters, Irish republicans, actors and rappers."

Well, that's the press release and, having seen Episode 1, I can assure CrimeTalk readers that this ad is only going in because this series looks like an absolute must-see. It's true that some of it could have been taken straight from Shameless but this is not fiction nor is it funny or deliberately taboo-flaunting particlularly. Nor is it The Wire, which was compelling, action-adventure drama organized rationally around a series of criminological arguments or ideas. At Home with the Noonans is classic documentary observation a la Robert Park and the Chicago School with all their emphasis on accuracy, warts-and-all, argot, contradictory attitudes, honesty amongst thieves, much chaos, fine everyday detail, lengthy observation, and an acute sense of different cultural worlds or appreciation, in the sense of respect, for another culture.

So there are times when it all seems very normal, humdrum and mundane. Phrases like 'the banality of evil' and the 'empty world of modernity' could be called to mind, but the key thing is the difference between the glamorized gangsters of the movies and the ordinary concerns of these guys. It could be you or me. Except it isn't. They are a very specific family, with strong IRA connections, a lucrative racket or two, local political power and a very business-like attitude to serious violence. You might want to read the Nino series by Amedeo Cottino here on CrimeTalk to get the feel of the Italian version. The real deal really isn't like Hollywood.

Once the series is underway, I would welcome reviews and comments on it. They will be conveyed to Donal McIntyre and the production team. Donal may well read them on here anyway. Don't be shy! It is a rare opportunity for you to feed your views back to the film-makers, before they go on to further work in this area. And we don't care whether you are a professor, a student, police, probation, FBI, criminal, CIA or whatever. This is genuine crime-talk and you're all viewers to the TV guys!

Added on 30 April: Here is a review by a young journalist working for the Huffington Post to give you a kind of op. ed. on the series:

As my comment below indicates, in my view and from the standpoint of my experience, this documentary series achieves a non-glamorised, balanced, understanding of the role of gangsters in society, or, if you like, of how systematic criminality is often tightly integrated within communities and indeed within local systems of authority. It achieved this partly because it takes the stance of respect rather moral judgement and partly because it took time. My own experience of supervising over 150 postgraduate research dissertations, including a raft of acclaimed doctorates at Cambridge, is that respect and time are the two key portals through which good observation-based research has to pass before it can truly 'appreciate' the various dimensions of the social phenomenon being studied. This series, from what I have seen so far, then represents an enormous achievment in documentary journalism and naturalistic sociology.

That is why the work of the Chicago School of Sociology in the 1920's and 1930's is so well-known. It did the time and paid its respects to the subjects whose lives it documented so closely. The Head and driving force of that School was Robert Park, a successful journalist - which shows conclusively that good sociology and good journalism are not at all antithetical. A relevant story: I once asked my old friend, Hal Finestone, a sociology professor whose doctorate was supervised by that great researcher Clifford Shaw, why he didn't do participant observation on the government of Chicago instead of 'cool cats' or young black drug users - his answer was that he did. The Mob was the effective government of Chicago at that time. Is contemporary Manchester very different? Good journalism, like good sociology, knows from having done the time that politicians are rarely the sole source of government and in far less control of events than they realize. Any vacuum in the effectiveness in the local state is soon filled by local powers.

Added on 10 May: a review by Professor David Wilson, Brimingham City University


Text Size