I just found out about this remarkable BBC series: White. The tagline: “Is white working class Britain becoming invisible?”
Here’s a few articles about the series:
A cultural movement is happening within liberal opinion.
It no longer greets immigrants with open arms. They are welcome – but
with tighter conditions, aimed at encouraging, even mandating,
integration. The old, cross-party order that strove to see immigration
“not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity,
accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual
tolerance” – in the words of the late Roy Jenkins, a Labour home
secretary in the mid-1960s – has been diluted. All these orotund
concepts – assimilation, cultural diversity and mutual tolerance – are
now in contest. The growing opposition, especially among Labour’s key
working and lower middle class supporters, to the huge surge that saw
some 1m people given legal residence in the UK in the past decade,
according to endlessly contested government figures, is too great to
This political shift has now spilled into Britain’s most important
cultural institution, the BBC. There have been straws in a rising wind:
a BBC conference on impartiality organised for senior executives in
October 2006 included an auto-criticism of its own liberal elitism; the
following month Peter Horrocks, head of BBC News, gave a speech in
Oxford calling for a more “radical impartiality” than a balancing of
centre-left and centre-right views, an impartiality which would include
more interviews with leaders of the British National Party; and last
May an edition of Panorama on racial tensions in Blackburn showed that
whites, too, could be victims of racial discrimination.
Now comes a larger revision: a “White” season of programmes,
stretching across the next two weeks on BBC2, which includes Last
Orders, a lyrical evocation of a dying working men’s club; Rivers of
Blood, a sympathetic analysis of Enoch Powell’s speech of 40 years ago,
prophesying violent ethnic conflict; All White in Barking, an account
of the high-immigration east London suburb, whose central character,
Dave, a BNP activist, is evenly portrayed; and The Poles are Coming, a
vision of Peterborough as a city that has become semi-Polish, or
“swamped” as some of its older citizens see it. Any one of these
programmes would probably not have been aired three years ago. They
would certainly not have been combined in a season the existence of
which is at least a partial “sorry not to have paid you more attention”
And a number of key themes emerge from the programmes.
One of the strongest is their belief that they are ignored by the media
and political classes.
That shone through the documentary about the working men’s clubs in
Wibsey, Bradford, where members saw themselves as “the forgotten
people”, abandoned by the Labour Party and left behind by a modern
The American producer of the film, Henry Singer, spent several months in the town and admits that it was a journey of discovery.
As he says: “I was not aware of the depths of the sense of
alienation people in towns like Wibsey feel, and I was not prepared for
how strongly people there feel about race and immigration. They
certainly made me realise that the preconception that a lot of people,
including the media, have about these issues are incredibly simplistic.”
The intense one-off drama White Girl, written by Abi
Morgan (Sex Traffic) and starring Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House),
tells the story of a hard-up family who relocate to Bradford. They find
themselves in a racial minority, vulnerable and alone in a community
they don’t understand, whose customs and religious faith they do not
share. The most startling thing about this minority family’s
predicament, however, is that they are white.
This series was aired in 2008. I would have thought an event like
this would be earth-shaking, but this is the first I’ve heard of it.
It doesn’t look like you can buy or rent the series anywhere over here. Too bad, because I would give a lot to see this.