Monday, March 05, 2012

A Very Slight Exaggeration

When I watch a television documentary, I generally hope that the researchers have done their research and got their facts right. I'm prepared to take quite a lot of information on trust.

So if I'm watching a programme about, say, Yellowstone National Park, and we see a grizzly bear, and they tell me it's a grizzly bear, then I am prepared to believe that this is indeed what it is, and not some new and strange form of giraffe.

However, I now realise that most of the documentaries I watch - and there are many - are about things I don't know much about. That's why I'm watching.

Suddenly, I realise that they might be telling me a whole heap of nonsense.

The programme that has brought it home to me is called Making Bradford British.

Now then. Bradford is a city in West Yorkshire, known for having a large population of Asian origin. The idea behind the programme is that, in Bradford, the Asian and the white population are known for not mixing very much. So they had the idea of getting some people from different parts of Bradford - some white, some Asian, some with other ethnic minorities - to take one of those British citizenship tests and then get some of them to all live in a house together for a while to see what they learned about each other. (And, by the way, I think that what they learned is that a person's ethnicity is completely irrelevant - you can find an annoying git in any section of the population.)

The parts of Bradford which did the citizenship tests included the Northern suburb of Ilkley and the Western suburb of Haworth.

Aha! If you're from anywhere in Yorkshire you are now going - - "WHOA! WHAT?? WAIT A MINUTE - -- - !!"

Because although Ilkley may have a Bradford postcode, it's nowhere near Bradford. It's twelve miles to the North, out in the countryside. It is a small spa town, very self-contained, almost all white, rather posh - - - and nothing to DO with Bradford.

Haworth is to the West of Bradford. It's the village (not, I repeat NOT, the suburb) where the Bronte sisters Emily, Charlotte and Anne lived. It is a West Yorkshire village with its own identity and if you told its residents that they were living in a suburb of Bradford they'd be amazed (and not, I have to say, very pleased).

At one point in the programme all the residents of the house went on a trip out to Temple Newsam House, described as being "fifteen miles to the East of Bradford". Yes, apparently Temple Newsam House is in an Eastern suburb of Bradford. Which is known to the rest of us as "Leeds".

Ohhh yes. Leeds. Eight hundred thousand inhabitants, 30th biggest city in the European Union, and, now I think about it, with five hundred thousand inhabitants more than Bradford!

Mind you, I can see why they went there - Temple Newsam is a jolly nice place for a day out and I have been there on countless occasions. "Shall we go to Temple Newsam for the afternoon? You know, that place fifteen miles to the East of Bradford?" That's exactly what we didn't say to each other.

Well, you could be reading this in Bradford South, or "Sheffield" as you might have previously known it. Or in Bradford South East, formerly known as "Paris". Or in Far South Western Bradford, sometimes nicknamed "Florida". Whatever.

I shall watch documentaries with slightly more scepticism in future.



Blogger Helsie said...

Very interesting... and also very misleading for those of us from overseas. We're used to big sprawling cities whose area is huge compared to many English towns and cities with dense, central populations. Our outer suburbs are a little like your villages- the one I live in is almost completely self contained- supermarket, doctors, churches, schools, sports fields, public swimming pool, vets- but still part of the large (in area )city of Brisbane.
But even we've heard of Bradford and its largely Indian population ( is this what you term as Asian?)so unless the survey targeted people of this ethnic type what was the point? Sounds like a strange subject unless they were hoping to stir up some contraversy.

11:03 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

Ohhhh a new comment layout. How exciting....about as much as Bradford that is.

Anyway as someone who is currently in Far South Western Bradford (thanks for the mention), I have to admit that there aren't many Asians here apart from in Wang Tong, which, you may be shocked to learn, is NOT a Mexican restaurant.

However we DO have lots of those. Mexicans I mean. And none of them would want to be classed as residing (even legally) in FSWB.

3:17 am  
Anonymous Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Ahahahahaha!! Luckily for me, I was brought up with a healthy dose of skepticism, and tend to watch these lightweight 'documentaries' with suspicion anyway. David Attenborough I trust. Someone who thinks it'd be a great idea to do a mini social experiment with half dozen people and a camera crew, I don't trust. Any fool knows that in these circumstances, merely the act of observation changes things.

And even I know that Haworth and Ilkley are not Bradford, any more than my little village is not (and doesn't 'behave' like) the city only four miles down the road.

Trouble is, many people will be suckered in - and will be repeating the 'wisdom' for years!!

8:12 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Helsie - thank you for commenting from your home in OSW Bradford (for no doubt Brisbane would be Othersideoftheworld Bradford in the doc I watched!) I used the term "Asian" to mean "Indian and Pakistani". I think that the film-makers WERE assuming that villages were outer suburbs - and Britain's so small that's just not the case.
Silverback - I am looking forward to your return to your British home in Eastern Bradford, formerly known as Leeds.
Jay, you're totally right - this doc had had a lot of publicity so I decided to watch it but as you say I don't think you can draw ANY meaningful conclusions from a few people and a camera crew! Hope it's sunny in your part of the world - South East Bradford.

8:21 am  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

WHOA! WHAT?? WAIT A MINUTE! I haven't seen this so-called "documentary" but I have heard others criticising it. Everybody knows that culturally Yorkshire's most important city is Hull but in terms of population the capital is of course Sheffield. Consequently I'd be in favour of Leeds being renamed Little Sheffield and Bradford becoming Sheffield-Super-Mare or possibly Shefflamabad depending on your point of view. Hull would of course remain Hull attracting visitors from across the civilised world with the exception of London where ignorant documentary makers dwell - intent on boosting their own careers through controversial and banal TV pap.

11:51 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Here in this country we use the term South Asian to refer to the people on the Indian subcontinent (what you called India and Pakistan, but it would also include Bangladesh, which used to be East Pakistan) and Southeast Asian to refer to everyone else in that part of the world (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Malaysian, Burmese, etc., etc.)

2:32 am  
Blogger Daphne2 said...

I couldn't even watch the documentary Daphne because the trailer annoyed me! I work in a multi-cultural office for Leeds City Council and no-one seems to have watched it - it looks to be a strang manufactured "reality" show and as you say full of gross inaccuracies.

8:22 am  

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