Channel 4’s controversial new reality show Make Bradford British has polarised opinions.
National newspapers wheeled out their staff with Bradford links to review the show for them – in the case of the Daily Telegraph, that was showbusiness editor Anita Singh, who said: “Thanks a bunch, Channel 4. Bradford has its problems. I know, because it’s my home city. But it also has great people, fabulous architecture, beautiful countryside, world class museums and galleries – none of which are ever shown on screen, because Bradford is the lazy TV executive’s go-to destination for racial disharmony.”
Bradford-bred Lanre Bakare, writing on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free section of its website, said: “I found nothing new or particularly controversial, just tired and formulaic reality TV.
“The Big Brother meets Wife Swap format is designed to create conflict and ignite sparks to create ‘must-watch television’. Mix that with some people with views that are sure to clash and it's an easy win for producers.
“Somewhere along the way, the idea of saving Bradford from itself seemed to get lost.”
The two-part show brings together eight different people from various walks of life in Bradford, and the first episode on Thursday night saw them holed up together in a house, Big Brother-style, while they thrashed out their differences. Part two, next Thursday, sees them living in each other’s houses and communities.
Make Bradford British was a trending topic on the social networking site Twitter during the broadcast and thousands of users passed comment on it – a mixture of everyday people and some celebrity names.
Some – like Gareth Malone, who steered the Military Wives choir to number one at Christmas – seemed, whether seriously or in jest, to take it as an everyday reality game show. He tweeted from his account @garethmalone: “I think Rashid is my favourite. I hope he wins. #makebradfordbritish”.
Bradfordian Kate Wellham (@KateWellham) was angered at the portrayal of Bradford as a tinderbox of racial tension and tweeted: “If it only takes one little spark, how come Bradford was peaceful through the EDL rally & UK riots?” She went on to write a blog-post at www.louder thanwar.com which she titled “Make Bradford Angry” and wrote: “From the very beginning, it made my blood turn to lava. Here was a production company, visiting Bradford, saying, pretty explicitly, ‘you need our help, we will descend from That London to show you how to get along with each other’.”
Keith Wildman had similar thoughts over at sabotagetimes.com: “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.”
Perhaps the most telling tweet came from Anita Brown (@Rainbow_ant) the next day, though, who wrote: “As usual, Bradford people are happily going about their business today getting along fine with each other.”