Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge promises a hard hitting exploration of the social issues associated with growing up in poor and supposedly ethnically segregated northern industrial towns.
And so far it’s a disappointment.
The drama centres around a new academy school, Ackley Bridge College, created out of the merger of two previously isolated schools—one predominantly Asian, the other white.
The school forces the characters together. Setting the scene the head teacher practices delivering her first assembly to the new “mixed” intake of students.
She tells the empty hall that “Ackley Bridge is one of the most divided communities in Britain. Whites and Asians live side by side but in totally different worlds.”
This representation of industrial towns in the north of England echoes the approach taken by many reports over the years.
It is a view notoriously promoted by Jack Straw when he was MP for Blackburn. And it is deeply contentious and problematic.
Hopefully Ackley Bridge will attempt to uncover the way institutional racism has created division in working class neighbourhoods, and also the myriad ways in which people’s lives are deeply integrated.
Unfortunately however, like the head teacher’s speech, the series has not started well.
The first episode bombards us with stereotypes. We are presented with a dramatic account of schools which sensationalises rather than shines a light on the issues.
The staff typically show little skill or expertise when interacting with students.
In fact very little teaching, preparation, marking or structured activity seems to happen at all.
Teachers are presented, perhaps unintentionally, negatively.
On the first day of term one teacher rocks up late in her flip flops straight off the plane from her summer holidays. Kids run riot while teachers make no effort to establish order. The PE teacher punches a student.
As a teacher, it’s not a representation of school life that I recognise.
The interactions between students and the way they articulate concerns with each other is as caricatured as the depiction of the staff.
In my experience teenage children are more versatile, complex and sophisticated—particularly when exploring issues to do with their identity—than the representation of them so far in this drama.
Hopefully as the series develops the characters will become a little less one-dimensional and a little more “real”—and the social edge a little sharper.
Ackley Bridge—Wednesdays at 8pm on Channel 4 and online at channel4.com
The unsavoury Clinton is damned by her own words
A new book looks at how Hillary Clinton lost the election—in her own words.
How I Lost takes Clinton’s speeches, leaked conversations and emails and uses them to create an interesting narrative which culminates in Clinton’s humiliating defeat.
It includes lines such as the infamous, “Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavoury, and it has always been that way—so you need both a public and a private position.”
But the book doesn’t just rely on sources from the recent past.
It goes back to document Clinton’s influence on her husband Bill’s presidency.
Although these passages don’t relate to the 2016 presidential election, they make entertaining, albeit terrifying, reading.
In conversation with the Goldman Sachs CEO in 2013, Clinton recalls telling a Chinese state official that the US “discovered Japan”.
The book gives an overview of Clinton’s hawkish, racist character.
But because of its wide-lens view, it fails to give a focused account of the 2016 defeat.
Allegations about the Clintons’ dodgy deals and speculation about deaths of people linked to them have dogged the couple throughout their political careers.
The book is light on analysis, relying mainly on speech transcripts and newspaper reports.
If readers are looking for a more detailed analysis of Clinton’s defeat they will have to look elsewhere.
Edited by Joe Lauria, OR Books. Go to orbooks.com/catalog/how-i-lost
The crows plucked your sinews
Written and directed by Hassan Mahamdallie, performed by Aisha Mohammed.
This critically acclaimed play about colonialism, racism and identity is touring Britain in June and July.
It explores the legacy of Somali freedom fighter Sayyid Abdullah Hassan, through the eyes of Somalis harrassed by Britain’s “anti-terror” policing today.
The most popular art exhibition ever!
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA.
This exhibition features pottery themed around the Brexit referendum, as featured on Channel 4.