Ahead of the DigitasLBi UK NewFront 2015 – and 10 years since Nathan Barley first aired on Channel 4 – the agency caught up with actor Nicholas Burns, the man behind ‘self-facilitating media node’ Nathan Barley, to find out how his character became the archetype for a generation of new media hipsters.
When it first aired in 2005, Nathan Barley satirised the small but rapidly growing digital scene that was springing up in London’s East End. No one expected the show to have much of an impact, let alone last, but it has since mutated into something of a modern classic, spawning a global generation of Barleys along the way.
The rise of internet giants like AOL, Google and Yahoo – along with the swathes of weird and wonderful startups that followed – created a world that was distinctly Barleyesque, complete with microscooters, urban culture dispatches and digital art terrorists. In fact, Nathan Barley ended up being so prophetic that it has been described as less of a satire and more a documentary about the future.
Of course there is much more to the East End, Tech City or Silicon Roundabout than vapid Barley types messing around on tiny bicycles. But Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker’s comedy did serve to transform the public’s view of the emerging new media scene of the mid-noughties and helped give shape to the way the digital creative community would be perceived for years to come.
Taking place on Friday 16 October, the DigitasLBi UK NewFront will explore this and other experimental new approaches to content creation, inviting some of the UK’s most exciting thinkers to share their tales of metamorphosis in business, branding, culture, creativity and life.