wed 23/08/2017

Ackley Bridge, Channel 4 review – can the town's new academy bring racial and social harmony? | reviews, news & interviews

Ackley Bridge, Channel 4 review – can the town's new academy bring racial and social harmony?

Ackley Bridge, Channel 4 review – can the town's new academy bring racial and social harmony?

Staff and pupils face a steep learning curve

Steve Bell the PE teacher (Paul Nicholls) with the anarchic Jordon Wilson (Samuel Bottomley)

Welcome to Ackley Bridge Academy, home of a new Channel 4 drama and a new amalgam of two segregated schools in a Yorkshire mill town setting out to prove itself “a new school with a new attitude”. This, at least, is the vision of new headteacher Mandy Carter (Jo Joyner, pictured below), as she sets about creating a workable blend of her white and Asian clientele.

Apparently the town is known as one of the region’s most divided communities, so can the new academy become “a great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all it's got” (to quote the mercifully forgotten Blue Mink)? Naturally a bit of mild racial friction is part of the dramatic brew, but the overall tone of Ackley Bridge is one of even-handed soapishness, with all problems and relationships boiling down to the usual nuts and bolts of human interaction (this is, after all, in the ‘stenders-ish 8pm slot).

Ackley BridgeThus, anything that sounds like it might push our over-inflamed social sensitivities a few millimetres too far is swiftly brought to heel. For instance, the school has been afflicted with the presence of a white pupil called Jordon Wilson, who perpetrates such outrages as donning a hijab, thus outraging Steve Bell the PE teacher (“Take that off! You’re not a Muslim!”). It looked as if Jordon might provoke a full-scale riot when he took over the school PA system. “They think they can keep us quiet with a lick of paint and some crap about learning to live together,” he ranted, his voice reverberating around the corridors and classrooms, before declaring that “it don’t matter if you’re white or Asian, there’s no jobs for us – we’re all going nowhere.”

Yes, they’re all in it together, and if anything it looks as if the teachers have more problems than the kids. For instance, it so happens that Mr Bell is married to Mandy Carter, and over the school holidays Mandy went on an educational trip to Pakistan, courtesy of the school’s sponsor Sadiq Nawaz (Adil Ray, from Citizen Khan). Not quite sure what a “sponsor” does – presumably he pours in pots of money – but Mr Bell has an uneasy suspicion the word may have at least two meanings vis-à-vis Sadiq and Ms Carter. When Jordon made a tactless allusion to this, Mr Bell smacked him in the face in a thoroughly un-teacherly manner.

Then there’s Emma Keane (Liz White) the English teacher, who returned in a fluster from a backpacking holiday to launch her all-new “class contract”. It means her pupils can make up their own rules, such as no homework on Fridays. Groovy Emma had no problem getting “down with” this one, and also promised that if her pupils didn’t like their set texts she’d chuck them in the bin. Way to go!Ackley BridgeHowever, chaos has descended in the shape of her daughter Chloe (Fern Deacon), who has travelled from Peckham to Yorkshire in an Uber after a row with her father (with whom she lives, following her parents’ separation). Looks like dad – or at least his new partner – doesn’t want her back. Even worse, Chloe tweeted a holiday photo of her mum going topless, which caused huge hilarity at school and almost got Emma fired before the end of the inaugural episode.

Meanwhile we can expect big trouble from Missy Booth (Poppy Lee Friar), the school’s leggy, shouty blonde. She’s best friends with Nas (Amy-Leigh Hickman), but Nas’s hijab-wearing girlfriends (pictured above) look down their noses at the in-your-face Missy. “They think I’m a slag!” she rages, and in all fairness they have a point. There are mitigating circumstances though, notably Missy’s mother, a slobbering, staggering junkie who lurches around spongeing money off people. Nobody said it would be easy.

Emma's 'class contract' means her pupils can make up their own rules, such as no homework on Fridays

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters