‘Huge’ potential for Halifax-filmed drama Ackley Bridge

Ep1. PAUL NICHOLLS stars as Steve Bell.
Ep1. PAUL NICHOLLS stars as Steve Bell.

After weeks of anticipation, Halifax-filmed Ackley Bridge burst on to screens this week.

Channel 4’s new drama began last Wednesday and opened on the first day of Ackley Bridge College - a school merged from one 100 per cent Asian school and one 100 per cent white school.

It’s created by Ayub Khan Din (East is East), who says he found the opportunity to showcase so many Asian actors as “really exciting”.

Speaking about how the idea for the series came about, he said: “It kind of came to me second hand, because it was The Forge (production company) who approached Channel 4.

“Channel 4 were really excited about the success of the Educating series – Educating Yorkshire and Educating Essex – and really wanted to build on that by creating a new drama.

“I’d just adapted To Sir, With Love for the stage, and my kids were going through the education process, and so I was really interested in education. And when it as suggested that it be about amalgamating a multicultural school, it excited me, about the possibilities the story could take. And I also found really exciting the idea of having so many Asian actors on screen.”

He added that watching documentary Educating Yorkshire, which followed the everyday lives of staff and pupils at Thornhill Community Academy, Dewsbury, convinced him to be a part of the show, which he says still has stacks of potential.

“We’re only touching the surface at the moment,” he said. “There’s so much more to get stuck into, story-wise, with this project. There are so many other areas to explore. I think it’ll really open the envelope. It’s such a complex area. You’re dealing with the kids’ relationships to each other, their relationships with the teachers, the teachers’ relationships, the parents, the impacts on the community. There’s so much potential.”

Ayub admitted that he faced some challenges when writing the series, including “being honest” about the community he is from and “...not avoiding the darker issues that are attached to that community”.

On top of that, he said that he wanted to make sure characters from that community had a real voice. Ackley Bridge airs on Wednesday nights at 8pm.