Meadows grew up in the Westlands Road area of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. His father was a long distance lorry driver and his mother worked in a fish and chip shop. He attended Picknalls First School, Oldfields Hall Middle School and Thomas Alleyne’s High School. At weekends, he sold fruit and veg on a market stall in Uttoxeter market. His love of cinema was fostered by regular trips to the Elite Cinema.
Meadows left school shortly before reaching his GCSEs, and soon turned to petty crime. He moved to Nottingham when he was 20; while living there, he made roughly 30 short films with the friends he met there. He could not show these films to anyone because there were no film festivals in his area. His friends started one in the local cinema which became popular within the city.
Meadows enrolled on a Performing Arts course at Burton College, where he first met friend and future collaborator Paddy Considine. Amongst other things, they formed the band She Talks To Angels (inspired by a Black Crowes song of the same name), with Meadows as vocalist and Considine as drummer.
The vast majority of Meadows’ films have been set in the Midlands area. They recall the kitchen sink realism of filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. Much of the content of his films is semi-autobiographical and based on his experiences in Uttoxeter: Twenty Four Seven was inspired by his youth, both at a boxing club, and also playing in a local football club. A Room for Romeo Brass was also inspired by his youth after his best friend, neighbour and future writing partner — had a bad accident and was bound to his bed for two years, Meadows instead hung around with some of the town’s more undesirable characters. Dead Man’s Shoes is based on the more unpleasant side of his youth in Uttoxeter. It was inspired by a close friend who had been bullied, developed a drug problem and then committed suicide. He said “I couldn’t believe that, going back ten years later, he had been totally forgotten in the town — it was as if he had never existed. I was filled with anger against the people who had bullied and pushed the drugs on him, and with despair at what drugs had done to that small community”.
His second feature-length film, Twenty Four Seven, won several awards at film festivals, including the Douglas Hickox award at the British Independent Film Awards and Best Screenplay at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Dead Man’s Shoes, his sixth film, and third starring Paddy Considine, was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film. His seventh film This is England, won the British Independent Film Awards 2006 for best British independent film, and also won a BAFTA for Best British Film. Five of Meadows’ films were shown at the 2007 Flourish Festival, held annually in Uttoxeter, to mark the release of This is England (a film set in 1983).
The film has since had a series of sequels adapted into television serials, the first being This is England 86 (set in 1986 aired on Channel 4 in September 2010). A second series, This is England 88 (set in 1988) was aired in December 2011. A third and final series, This Is England ’90 (set in 1990), was originally due to be broadcast in December 2012, but in July 2012, Shane Meadows announced that the production had been put on hold in order for him to complete his documentary about Stone Roses, and the actors were still waiting for confirmation as to when filming would start.
His shortest film, The Stairwell, was shot on a mobile phone and is just 40 seconds long. It consists solely of a man and woman, played by Meadows regulars Andrew Shim and Vicky McClure, violently bumping into each other on a stairwell.
He is widely regarded as a big fan of Notts County F.C., with several references included in his films by way of imagery and background shots… always interesting, he’s the face, and future of British Independent Film.