I have just finished watching a two part documentary on Channel-4 of a social experiment. Involved were 8 people representing different races, religions and communities around Bradford (one of the most racially segregated cities). The programme hoped to find out what makes us all British, and gain a better understanding of how we can lead a more integrated existence.
The first part of the experiment involved the participants living in a shared house, trying to negotiate common rules so they can co-exist harmoniously. This was hoped be a small-scale model of how whole towns should operate.
The second episode involved the participants pairing up, and visiting each other’s houses to see how they live, and trying to establish what makes them British.
Overall I found the documentary very eye-opening – In places I was shocked by the honest yet offensive opinions of those involved, who at times came across as very intolerant.
However, what I thought was special about this particular programme and experiment, was how much the people involved seemed to gain from it: their outlook at the end had very much been shaped by their experiences with each other. One particular participant, commented that the Muslim family who he stayed with, seemed to have more traditionally ‘British’ values than he did – putting family first, leading a healthy lifestyle, respecting elders etc (things that he had lost track of). For this reason he said that spending time with the family gave him admiration for a religion that originally he was wary of.
I do believe the programme succeeded in gaining a better understanding of how multi-racial communities can live in harmony; those involved became really willing to adapt themselves for the benefit of each other; whether it was to do with adapting their own tolerance, adapting the way they spoke, or adapting their habits to be more liberal.
One very religious man agreed to pray with the participants rather than at his mosque (something that he had protested against earlier) when it was inconvenient for the group. Although arguably he should not have been asked to sacrifice his religious behaviour, he gained a lot of respect from the others who then were more understanding of his beliefs, and then respected when and where he wanted to pray. This suggests that harmony involves an element of compromise in order for the acceptance of culture, or at least the willingness to compromise, as a sign of respect to one another.
I would thoroughly recommend giving the programme a watch. It has inspired me for future projects as documentary making is something that really interests me. Having found the subject very interesting, I would love to explore issues similar to this in future work.
To watch the two part documentary go to: