The Great British Bake Off Is Back! And It Wouldn't Be the Same Without Migration
Can a TV programme answer the question of what it means to be British?
It’s putting it mildly to say that there’s an anti-immigration rhetoric rippling across Britain right now.
With the background of Brexit still bubbling away (will it ever end?), the impact of immigration on life in in the UK has been dominating the political sphere for, well, too long.
A Guardian investigation has revealed this week that Britain’s immigration rules have more than doubled in length since 2010 — with more than 1,300 changes made in 2012 alone, to coincide with the introduction of the hostile environment policy.
This year has also witnessed the Windrush scandal, with the latest figures showing that 164 Windrush generation people may have been wrongly removed or detained because their right to be in the UK wasn’t recognised.
Meanwhile, the first EU nationals wanting to stay in the UK after Brexit have started submitting their applications for “settled status.”
And in the midst of all this, The Great British Bake Off has finally returned to our screens with a new line-up of amateur bakers.
The show has become something of an unlikely national hero, with its odd strand of British humour, gentle euphemisms, eccentricity, stiff-upper lips, and Union Jack bunting.
The first episode of the new season aired on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m., and this year, perhaps more than ever, the new bakers and their culinary inspirations shine a light on the positive impact of migration.
Kim-Joy, for example, was born in Belgium, is now living in Leeds, and her baking reflects her English-Malaysian-Chinese heritage, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Rahul, who was born in India and moved to the UK age 23 for university, is bringing his self-proclaimed “East-meets-West” style of baking to the show.
@QueerEye and @BritishBakeOff are the best shows on television, and i would say that i’ll fight anyone who disagrees, but queer eye has taught me to celebrate diversity in thought and the great british bake off has taught me to treat everyone with kindness— Fiona (@fionamporter) August 22, 2018
Antony is a banker who also grew up in India, and describes himself as a “Bollywood baker.” Karen was inspired to get into baking when she lived in France; Ruby grew up in an Indian family and lives in London; and Manon will be bringing her French heritage to her bakes, along with flavours discovered on her world travels.
The selection of bakers for the programme has historically put a particular emphasis on diversity, whether it’s race, ethnicity, age, or class. And this year, it’s been nominated for a Diversity in Media award, which recognises programming that depicts “equality and diversity in a positive light.”
As the award highlights, media is everywhere in our lives — from our phones and social networks, to our TV screens, and adverts.
“What we read and hear shapes our world view, influences our opinions, and forms part of our identities,” says the website.
“Yet too many voices seem to be missing from these conversations,” it adds. “Older women are elbowed off our television screens in favour of younger faces. Working class voices are rarely heard, neither are the views of people without academic qualifications. Those who do stick their heads above the parapet are often bullied and abused for their differences, instead of celebrated for their achievements.
“If who we are is not represented in the media we see, hear, and read every day, huge swathes of our people become disenfranchised, disengaged, and disillusioned,” it continues. “And in these increasingly uncertain times, we believe that the media has a responsibility to be balanced, fair, and — just as important — inclusive.”
It’s an important message, particularly now as our nation seems to be diving ever deeper into division and difference.
But as we bury our heads in the sand and retreat to the safety of the Bake Off tent, hopefully we can learn a lesson of celebration and inclusivity and share with the world a new understanding of what it means to be British.