The North of England season

The BBC wants to let everyone know that they’re not Londoncentric at all.

They’re moving a chunk of the staff to Salford’s Media City and, to acclimatise them with the ways of Northern living, they’re making a season of Northerncentric shows. This means programmes celebrating pies, kitchen sink dramas and rugby league. I wonder if Matchstick Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs will be heard piping over some footage?

The new season of programmes is the first the BBC has devoted to celebrating the “culture, history, life and architecture of northern cities”, according to the corporation. Titled The Great Northern, the BBC Four season will include a two-part series, The Golden Age of Civic Architecture, presented by the architectural historian Jonathan Foyle; and The Road to Wigan Pie Shop, a culinary tour of the north presented by the cultural historian Andrew Hussey.

Eddie Waring and the Story of Rugby League will give a portrait of the sport through the experiences of the late BBC commentator and presenter of It’s a Knockout.

Also being considered is an examination of how the “kitchen sink” dramas of the late ’50s and ’60s and ITV’s Coronation Street brought a northern working-class voice into the cultural mainstream.

“These programmes are a great celebration of how the traditions and history of our northern cities have helped shaped the region and the country,” said Mark Thompson, BBC Director General.

The BBC Four controller, Richard Klein, added: “This season will be an eclectic and witty collection of films that explore some forgotten histories, some interesting byways and some major cultural influences of one of Britain’s most colourful, historic and important regions.

“It isn’t a set of films that seeks to position north against south, or tries to determine what is and what isn’t north. Nor is it a season that seeks to define northern-ness by its otherness from the south. In the best tradition of BBC Four, it will be an intelligent and witty collection of programmes that aim to shine a light on the best of British culture.”

In fairness, BBC Four usually get stuff pretty spot-on, but this view that Northernfolk are all pies and muddy knees living in poverty is something that simply isn’t true anymore.

The North is widely assumed to be a bit more backward in comparison to The South, when in reality, The North is filled with idiot rich just like The South. A report into wealth by Barclays Bank showed that Kensington and Chelsea, the wealthiest places in Britain are Sheffield Hallam, Harrogate, York, Alderley Edge, Wilmslow, Chester… etc etc.

Of course, it goes without saying that I’m a Northerner… but it really would be pleasing to see The North on TV shown as a vibrant, forward thinking place. Innovation is as prevalent up here as it is ‘down there’, just as poverty being just as widespread in the South (it’s on the increase in fact).

While culturally and financially, the North-South divide is closing, the old media habits die-hard and with the season, there’s a good chance we’ll see the North in the same old light it’s always shown in. The BBC will no doubt try to avoid cobbled streets, flat caps and whippets, these things still lurk like a ghost in the background. I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.

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