"to unite people, you’ve sometimes gotta put your foot on your own desire"

I’ve just watched Make Bradford British on Channel 4, the first of a new two-part series following 8 residents of Bradford as they co-reside together for a week in an effort to improve multiculturalism in the area, and delve to the bottom of what makes someone ‘British’.

I had reservations about the program, judging it to be just another slightly overblown look at how society’s going down the pan, etc etc. That wasn’t the case.

Collectively the individuals raised some pretty deep issues, speaking about various (and often opposing) points of view with honesty and integrity. Personally, I saw how fear of losing your own sense of identity can cause groups of people to breed suspicion and resentment of other cultures - without trying to co-operate in the first place. Yet it showed plainly how difficult it can be in order to break the first few barriers between people of differring cultures - and all too often, how these barriers remain in tact long term, as is the case in certain parts of Bradford.

Lip-bitingly tense, thought-provoking and intelligent. It forced me to question my own actions and opinions, because although I consider myself to be ‘liberal’, ‘multi-cultural’ and ‘culturally aware’ how far have I ever really stretched these preconceptions?

Sooooo having fuelled my brain power, I then watched another Channel 4 Documentary called Proud and Prejudiced which follows two men from the town of Luton, each acting as the role of community celebrity within their opposing factions - Tommy Robinson (leader of the English Defence League), and Sayful Islam (an Islamic extremist with followers who change their name every time their current organisation is made illegal). My over-riding impression was of school-boy one-up-manship, by petty men with dangerous ideas that enjoy creating notoriety. They may have very different agendas, but their methods and actions seemed worryingly similar. The even more concerning thing about stories like this is that very strong, powerful ideas can be bubble-wrapped in a righteous personality contest that sweeps up the angry, the extreme, and the ignorant members of our society in a swirl of confusion and hatred. And just like Tommy Robinson’s slick escape from police on a double decker bus, so too can irresponsible ideas escape the safety of reason and debate. At least these two extremists are well-documented - it’s the silent unrest they may inspire that is more unsettling.

I’m holding out for the next installment of Make Bradford British, and the hope that positive attitudes can bring.