Anger in Bradford over portrayal of city on TV drama

Jerome Taylor
Monday 26 November 2007 01:00 GMT

Two new BBC dramas that highlight racial tensions in Bradford have come under fire from community leaders, who say the media persistently portrays their city in a negative light.

BBC 2 has commissioned a series of dramas and documentaries for its winter season under the title "White" , which the corporation says will explore why some white working-class people "feel under siege". But people in Bradford, which has already featured in dramas depicting racial tension, are incensed that their city will again be a backdrop in two of the dramas.

Ian Greenwood, leader of Bradford Council's Labour group, said: "I'm sick to death of the negative coverage Bradford gets. I wouldn't mind if the coverage was balanced but I never see the media reporting Bradford in a positive light. It seems that every time a TV crew want to depict racial violence in Britain they flock en masse to Bradford."

Many Muslims in Bradford were angered by the recent Channel 4 drama Britz, which told the story of a British-Asian brother and his fight to stop his sister becoming a suicide bomber. Most of the footage was shot in Leeds but the makers of Britz placed the Asian family in Bradford.

Bary Malik, president of the city's Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said he could not understand why film-makers did not choose other cities. "There's nothing wrong with films that debate these issues but I can't help but feel disappointed that Bradford has been chosen again," he said.

"There are so many multicultural cities across the UK with large Asian communities, from Liverpool to London and Leeds, but still the film-makers keep coming to Bradford."

The BBC's first film, White Girl, written by the Brick Lane screenwriter Abi Morgan, tells the story of 11-year-old Leah who begins wearing hijab and attending her local mosque following her family's relocation to an entirely Muslim community in Bradford. Leah's story appears closely to resemble the true story of Ashleene Gallagher, a Bradford teenager who began visiting her local mosque and inadvertently became a rallying call for far-right groups in the area.

The second film, Last Orders, calls itself the story of an "embattled" working men's club in Wibsey, a predominantly white suburb.

In 2001, Bradford was the scene of the worst race riots Britain had seen for 20 years but the city has since worked hard to improve inter-community relations and shed its negative image.

A BBC spokesperson: "The White season is looking at why some white working-class people feel marginalised in their community. It is a debate that is raging in the media, among politicians, community leaders and our audiences and therefore it is timely to shine the light on some of the communities and issues involved."

Film set for racial drama

* Britz A fictional drama also directed by Peter Kosminsky, it tells the story of a Muslim brother and sister yanked in opposite directions by their feelings over the way Muslims are treated in Britain. While the brother joins MI5 to fight extremism, the sister becomes a suicide bomber. Shot in Leeds, but the story was set in Bradford

* Bradford Riots Drama based on the 2001 riots from the point of view of a group of angry Asian youths and the effects of the riots on their families. More than 100 Asian youths were convicted for involvement and the majority handed themselves in to the police.

* The Last White Kids Channel 4 documentary that followed the story of the teenager Ashleene Gallagher who began attending her local mosque in Manningham, Bradford, and won the approval of the imam there with her ability to memorise passages from the Koran.

* Edge of the City Channel 4 documentary on Bradford's social services in which one of the stories controversially followed authorities and parents trying to stop groups of predominantly Asian men grooming girls as young as 11 for sex. The BNP based an election broadcast on the film.

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