Saturday, March 08, 2008

Yorkshire Bitter

Last Orders, last night's documentary by American film maker Henry Singer about a working men's club in Bradford, was a genuinely haunting piece of TV. For a start it was content to keep the camera on its subject long enough for them to get a complete sentence out. One of the old men charged with trying to keep this enterprise alive as everything seemed to be conspiring against it actually said "I wish I could be happy again", which is more than your usual soundbite. The young men didn't want to come anymore, the heavy industry had vanished, the supermarkets were offering cheaper beer, nobody was interested in the clubland turns or the Strictly Come Dancing evening and now the smoking ban had hit them like a 2 by 4 in the solar plexus. Every week the committee met to find that they had run at another loss and so they needed to draw on the club's savings to pay the bar staff and the number of jowly, stubbly men chewing down the pints of Tetley's in the cheerless bar area was reduced further by the death of one of their number during the filming.
Rumbling away in the background was their not very well disguised tendency to blame everything on the immigrants, whether they were Pakistanis who have been there since the early 60s or the East Europeans who have arrived recently. One of the offspring of a regular sat in front of a Union Jack on which somebody had inscribed an upside down swastika and said he would vote BNP - but first he needed to register. He didn't look as though he'd get round to it.


  1. Anonymous10:11 pm

    It was desperately sad, wasn't it? Part of me pitied them, but I also felt that they weren't exactly doing themselves any favours, either.

    I personally believe that Wetherspoon's pubs are now the WMCs of the 21st century

  2. I was nervous at first when I realised the Director was American. I fell into the trap of expecting him not to be able to understand the culture and history of working men's clubs. As it turned out, this was one of the best things about the documentary. I expect and hope it wins awards. It deserves to.

  3. This is no laughing matter. Unless, of course, you read The Daily Mash:

  4. I didn't see the programme, so I can't really comment - but I do work with someone who goes there (for dancing classses). She reckoned they turned the lights down to make it more dingy, and didn't recognise the picture they portrayed. She does believe the smoking ban will kill it off though.

    I live a mile up the road from Manningham (as in Manningham race riots of 2000) and Bradford seems very different from the way they portray it on telly.