Make Bradford British Review: East, West, But Where’s The Rest?

MAKE BRADFORD BRITISH: Thursday 1st March, C4, 9pm

Make Bradford British is a two-part series created by Channel Four that takes eight citizens from Bradford, one of the most diverse but least integrated cities in the UK, and moves them into a house together, aiming to answer the question: “can different races, different religions, and different cultures really live together?â€? and to establish a meaning of what it is to “be Britishâ€?.

Participants are chosen out of the 90% of Bradford citizens tested by the programme’s project managers – Taiba Yasseen and Laurie Trott – who failed the Government’s Life in the UK Citizenship Test.

This is an interesting investigation, and is revealing of how arbitrary and crude citizen tests inevitably are. Hilarity ensues as all races unite in ignorance of EU law, drinking ages and historical facts – one girl terrifyingly confuses “monogamyâ€? with “Hogmanayâ€?.

Once chosen, our eight ethnically-diverse participants must live together in the same house, so as either to realise an integrated community, or reveal the consequences of racial tensions, already piqued in the context of volatile Bradford. “This could go horribly wrongâ€?, is the slightly hopeful analysis of the project managers.

Although highly watchable due to the Big Brother-style social experiment set-up, it is a rather vague and crass observational device to congregate a “multi-culturalâ€? group of people in a house and wait for sparks to fly. Indeed, rather than race-related rows, we find arguments between those who do and do not like “pizzaâ€? and “sharingâ€? – although quite cheering, this is possibly not what the producers intended.

Rashid, a devout Muslim, is pilloried by almost everyone in the house (including another Muslim) for wishing to pray five times a day at the mosque. Yet this alarming intolerance seems to be forced by the collective-versus-individual struggle in the house, and is therefore a skewed representation of society. Later, Jens (retired policeman, white) insists that his use of the phrase “Paki-bashingâ€? is jocular – a hideous racist incident frustratingly overlooked by the programme-makers, and exactly the attitude they should be attempting to explore.

The constant search for what it means to be “Britishâ€? seems trivial. The use of this word in the series title has a xenophobic hint, and attempting to shoe-horn a group of different personalities, all of whom see themselves first as Bradford residents, into a manufactured “Britishâ€? model misses the point.

As Audrey (land lady, mixed-race) points out, it is simply that her passport says she is a British citizen. Perhaps it is rather a false quest to find a so-called “national identityâ€?. Even if this concept does exist, it won’t be found in daytrips to stately homes, dressing up in historical costume, and sailing around in a barge, as the housemates must in the first episode. Hopefully the next episode can provide some answers to the questions it incessantly poses.

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