I didn’t really want to write this. I didn’t really want to watch the programme. The reality wife swap big brother TV dirge got boring sometime midway through the last decade. I have no interest in watching reality TV. I have no interest in reading about reality TV. I especially didn’t want to give a programme with such a provocative title about the place I, like generations of my family before me call home, the oxygen of publicity.
No doubt the production company will be trying to convince themselves, and us, that this is some kind of important social experiment. That it will open a debate. In reality it’s a back of a fag packet title. In between lines in the Groucho. The narrative an afterthought. Make Bradford British? It’s Partridge Amongst the Pigeons.
“Well, it’s just a title. The opening could be, gloomy mills, mosques and cobbled streets.”
Seemingly that’s good enough to get the green light from Channel 4. A channel whose output has become akin to asking the fella who vacuums out festival toilets to put his machine on blow in your living room.
Pleasantries out of the way, what of the programme itself? Well, it’s Big Brother. Eight people, chosen because they’ll be good on telly and failed a citizenship test hosted by diversity experts (no, I’ve no idea either) are shoved into a house and given a food budget. They squabble about booze. Sort it out. One appears initially to be suffering from OCD about praying. The oldest fella makes some supposedly racist remarks. It turns out they’re pleasant enough, mostly forgettable, and can get on. Problem solved. End of programme. Off they skip holding hands under a rainbow.
The real question is what has this got to do with Bradford?
Mr Voice Over Man tells us “Bradford is one of the most segregated communities in the country. That it needs fixing. And who are we to argue? Despite offering no evidence whatsoever for these claims. Mr Voice Over Man has spoken. Why let facts get in the way of hyperbole.
A pub landlady one of the eight, tells us all it needs is a spark. Which is odd given the EDL and the media failed to get the riot they were after, despite their best efforts to provoke it.
Yet again we’re presented with a negative image of Bradford, by those who don’t live here. Riots, segregation, racism. And usually it’s from a London-based media who chose to ignore what’s on their own doorstep to pick on an easy target.
Channel 4. A channel whose output has become akin to asking the fella who vacuums out festival toilets to put his machine on blow in your living room
To ‘Make Bradford British’ is to ignore what Bradford is. And what it was. Bradford has always had an immigrant population. It came with the territory of being one of the richest cities in Europe. German wool merchants made it their home, building the Yorkshire stone mills and warehouses of Little Germany. Others from all over the world followed to work here. Travel round the city and you’ll see Ukrainian clubs, Polish Clubs, Dominican Clubs, Irish Clubs, Mosques, Synagogues and churches founded by Germans. It's always been a 'diverse' mix of cultures.
Bradford did very well out of it. It grew to be a city of firsts. The first Pullman train service ran from Bradford in 1874. It was the first city to build a local electric generating station in 1889. The first school bath in 1899. The first school meals in 1907. The first to run trolley buses in 1911. It was home to the most millionaires in the country and at one point, the most Rolls Royces per head than anywhere in the world.
And now it has its problems.
Losing a large percentage of its woollen industry to cheaper foreign shores and man made fibres. Sixty years of inexplicably poor council decisions. The loss of some of the countries finest Victorian architecture in the 60s at the hands of corrupt and later disgraced vandal John Pouslon. A current council who seem hell bent on finishing the job by demolishing the landmark 30s art deco city centre Odeon.
The city’s seen a wholesale importation of poverty. Loss of jobs. Quangos set up that favour the, once inconsequential to Bradford, city of Leeds. Football and rugby teams who competed at the top of their games just a decade ago both struggling to keep their heads above the water. A city centre bereft of shops, with a giant hole in the middle where Westfield once promised a shopping paradise, supposedly stalled due to the recession but was planned to open before that even started.
The City also has a hell of a lot going for it. The Victorian architecture that escaped the axe is stunning. There's the World Heritage site of Saltaire with it's Hockney galleries. Bronte Country. The media museum. The finest countryside you'll find. And it's home to some of the greatest people around.
It's a complex place with a rich history and idiosyncratic present. But round the Evian and poncily named coffee strewn meeting table of a TV production company hundreds of miles away, Bradford is simply shorthand for Muslim. And that's what this programme was really about. It wasn't Make Bradford British, it was 'Make Muslims British'. It's pure laziness. They care not a jot about Bradford or the image they're leaking into the nation's living rooms.
This complete abject indifference, and lack of interest in Bradford couldn't have been highlighted better than when the programme makers decided to take the Housemates to Temple Newsam at the far side of Leeds, rather than the many places within a few miles or even walking distance of Bradford city centre.
This latest sneering jibe at Bradford should really be water off a ducks back. Yorkshire folk don't do self pity city. So why should we care what Channel 4 think about Bradford? We shouldn't.
Should you watch the second episode? If the first forgettable episode is anything to go by then no.
And most importantly, is Bradford British? No, it's not. Bradford is Yorkshire. Why on earth would we want it to be British?