mon 17/06/2024

Make Bradford British, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Make Bradford British, Channel 4

Make Bradford British, Channel 4

Is this experiment in multiracial integration just a TV gimmick?

Retired Bradford policeman Jens: Dunpakibashin'?

It's a quintessential Channel 4 idea. Take one hot-button issue (racial integration, or lack of it), go to Bradford ("one of Britain's most segregated cities," according to the voiceover), and shove a racially mixed bunch of locals into a thinly-disguised Big Brother house to see how they'll get along. To stir the pot a bit more, the eight chosen "contestants" all failed the government's UK Citizenship test.

Not that that singles them out, particularly. The programme-makers staged test-sittings all around Bradford, from the Asian-dominated city centre or Manningham to predominantly white areas such as Haworth and Idle, and the lowest - that's lowest - recorded failure rate was Haworth's 85 per cent (it was total 100 per cent fail in the city centre).

So if hardly anybody can pass the Britishness test on paper, could our participants do any better in person? Would they indeed prove to be "a blueprint for multicultural Britain"?  They certainly appeared to have been selected with a Simon Cowell-like eye for maximum interpersonal combustibility, and it gave one no confidence whatsoever to be told that this entire experiment was being run under the guidance of "diversity and community experts" Taiba Yasseen and Laurie Trott. It sounded like a blueprint for sociological jargon and posturing, and a cynical person might wonder whether diplomas in diversity and community expertise are to be found in boxes labelled "please take one".

Anyway, back at the British Bradford house, there was Audrey, black landlady of a city centre pub who wasn't afraid to admit that she doesn't like the way she's often treated by "Pakis". Jens is a 71-year-old retired policeman who cheerfully addressed Desmond as "you black bastard", but of course only in a humorous way. Desmond, who had suffered prejudice on the mostly-white Holmewood estate, tried gamely to raise a laugh, but he wasn't happy. 

Jens also upset young Asian woman Sabbiyah (pictured above) by recalling his golden years pounding the beat in Bradford with his Asian partner, whom he would jovially invite to come "Paki-bashing" with him. How they laughed! (allegedly). Sabbiyah, however, was horrified, because "Paki-bashing" reminded her of the struggles her parents faced when trying to adjust to British life. Jens seemed to think that using expressions like these proved that he wasn't really a racist, and he wished that people "would get a sense of humour." One like his own, perhaps.

From the liberal elite, we had 66-year-old Maura (pictured below), a former magistrate who has lived for 40 years in well-heeled Ilkley. Maura told us she has read a lot of books about other cultures. She's also a drama queen, and prone to high-minded speechifying. "One of the most important values Britain has to give the world is tolerance," she orated, "and I think we should be intolerant of intolerance."

When the housemates sat down to their inaugural dinner, after a certain amount of haggling over how much of the collective budget should be spent on alcohol which the Muslim contingent obviously wouldn't be drinking, Maura raised a toast to "differences, yet togetherness." She even had a little set-piece prepared about racism, as if it were something she was carrying around on Oscar night ("I really cannot think why any intelligent rational person can be a racist!" etc).

But the producers had built in a cunning if unsubtle paradox, whereby the candidate seemingly least willing to compromise his beliefs or way of life in the interests of integration eventually proved to be an agent of tolerance. This was Rashid, a 37-year-old former rugby league player who insisted on travelling to the mosque five times a day to pray with fellow believers ("I'm not going to a miss a prayer for nobody"). This meant that he was effectively unable to participate in any of the organised group activities. Eventually he was prevailed upon to go on a bus trip to a stately home and pray on the hoof, as it were, rolling out his prayer mat on the grass while Jens helped him to locate the direction of Mecca.

Rashid (pictured right) repaid the favour by soothing ruffled feathers after Jens's blundering comments had caused simmering discord. "We're all humans, we all make mistakes, we've all got weaknesses," he told Jens kindly. Jens looked flabbergasted.

Amazingly, even the sociologists managed to dig out a grain of sense. As Ms Yasseen pointed out, in matters of racial integration, we get a lot of lectures from politicians and "intellectuals" (who usually don't have to live with the consequences), "but we've never really heard what do the people think?... In communities you've got to start with people." Spot on, ma'am. Part two next week, in which our participants swap roles.

The contestants appeared to have been selected with a Simon Cowell-like eye for maximum interpersonal combustibility

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We had to turn this programme off, as it was yet another media attempt at trying to up ratings by causing controversy. My husband hails from Bradford and we are fully well aware of the community problems there. This is a third rate big brother attempt at so called changing society. My personal opinion is that it is an insult to human intelligence! I can only assume that very poor editing was used.

I just failed the test. I am 75, and apart from military service, I've lived here all my life. I feel therefore as though I am with the people who live here, not with the people who have designed what they think is an appropriate test. How would anybody associate knowledge of what percentage of people own their own home with 'suitability for citizenship'? The programme may be full of faults. It wasn't even terribly good viewing. But it has, I think, made me consider seeing the person I'm dealing with at any given time simply as 'another human being like myself. Amen'

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