For those unfamiliar with The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 show chronicled the painfully funny and puerile escapades of four adolescent males as they struggled with the coming of age. It ran for three series, produced two hit films and earned its place in telly history as pure gold.
The trials and tribulations of Jay, Will, Simon and Neil have helped to inspire a new British-Asian sitcom set in Bradford and currently in pre-production for Channel 4. The comedy producer Stu Richards of Rockerdale Studios confirmed he is casting for five South Asians from Bradford who are “funny and fresh” for the roles of 18-year-old college students. He is also looking for local people to join the production crew, including make-up artists and prop designers, and is hopeful that Bradford College can supply some of the talent.
Mr Richards told the local paper: “It’s not literally a remake of The Inbetweeners, they’re all slightly older for a start. But it is about the camaraderie between four lifelong friends who are useless in their different ways. So there’ll be a cool handsome one, a hapless one, a conspiratorial one etc. They’re all young lads who are trying to deal with the world and the struggles of becoming a man.”
It’s a timeless theme and I cannot think of anywhere better to bring it up to date for modern Britain. “For me, Bradford is unique,” added Mr Richards. “There’s so much talent and skill in the city and this is a real opportunity to tap into those resources.” I’m told Channel 4 will announce more details soon, including the identity of the Bradfordian writer.
With the Bradford Literature Festival in full swing, the cultural renaissance is gathering pace as the district welcomes distinguished guests from all over the world. These include Tasneem Chopra, the Australia-based international diversity consultant. She told the BBC how she only knew about Bradford through its literature festival. Ms Chopra said: “When I see events like this, I see people who look like a microcosm of the world. I see little children who can look up and see ‘that could be me’. You can only be what you can see.”
That’s so true. We need to make sure that young people from our district are exposed to successful role models during their formative yearsl. This is why initiatives like Bradford Manufacturing Weeks and the Bradford Education Covenant are so important in raising aspirations and showing children there really should be no limit to their ambitions, whatever their background.
This was underlined by Anita Rani, the TV presenter born in Bradford to Indian parents, who returned to her home city to host Channel 4’s diversity festival which took place earlier in June. Speaking to an audience of industry executives, she challenged the dominance of “posh white men” working in TV: “I feel I have to justify why I should present things more than anyone else because I’m an Asian woman, and on top of that I’m blimmin’ northern.” We need more people like Anita blazing trails for others to follow.
Opportunities are growing in the cultural industries. Arts Council England has just announced National Lottery funding worth £1.5m for a group of Bradford organisations to create a Producing Hub in the district. This will help develop the local performing arts sector and talent and increase the capacity to produce work.
Evie Manning, director of arts organisation Common Wealth, said: “Bradford is a city that over the years, despite limited formal arts infrastructure, has created so much brilliant work in a very grassroots way. The Producing Hub will encourage artists at all stages in their careers to experiment, express themselves and help build a narrative of Bradford that is proud of what makes us unique – as a city that has always been radical and is a home to people with lots of experience and lots of stories to tell.”
To keep up to date with some of those stories this summer, look out for the Sparkling Bradford campaign. This is backed by Visit Bradford, Broadway shopping centre, Bradford Council, Bradford BID and Bradford Economic Partnership. All the organisations with a stake in the future of our district have joined forces to deliver a life-enhancing package of things to do, many of which are free of charge. Pure gold.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club