The three commissioned seasons of Ackley Bridge have seen viewing figures rise steadily due to the gripping and realistic nature of the show’s story lines.
Ackley Bridge is a UK drama on Channel 4 that explores certain ongoing issues and divides such as racism, teenage mental health and exam pressures (to name a few), through the school backdrop.
The show has just finished its third and most successful season. Viewers found storylines that continued from Season 2, as well as new ones that aimed to tackle issues that had not been tackled before. We carried on seeing the Paracha family patriarch, played by Sunetra Sarker, look after her lesbian daughter, played by Amy-Leigh Hickman, who had recently announced to her family that she was gay. Accompanying them in the Ackley Bridge community are the Booth family. This family included a drug and alcohol consuming mother Simone Booth, who was portrayed on screen by Samantha Power. She constantly left her daughters, pupils at Ackley Bridge, to fend for themselves.
Throughout the third season the creators have not shied away from some tough topics, including violent crime, homophobia and religious dogma.
Since July 2019, the number of criminal offences in England and Wales hit an all-time high after 43,000 offences were committed. In Ackley Bridge, Mr Qureshi, played by Arsher Ali was shown confronting criminals for exposing some students, who then stabbed and killed him only meters away from his home. This problem of knife crime is not just an issue on the streets, it is fast becoming an issue in schools up and down the country.
Mixed Academy Trusts, or MATs as they are commonly known in the political sphere, are a new set of academies that are beginning to cause concern across the education sector and within various party education teams, especially Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This is because they often find themselves running out of funds as they progress through the academic year. Ideally, these academies want to be funded by a sole financier rather than the local education authority. In Ackley Bridge, the financier was Sadiq Nawaz, portrayed by the excellent Adil Ray OBE, who is known for other comical cultural television shows including Citizen Khan. He ends up losing everything he invested in, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the investment he made in Ackley Bridge. In series 2 and 3, it is decided that he should give up controlling the school and hand it over to The Valley Trust which itself, has a reputation in the Yorkshire area.
2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall riots in the USA. LGBT rights are still being suppressed in many parts of the world, including Russia and China. In Ackley Bridge, it would be unheard of for someone from the Pakistani community to be a part of the LGBT community, let alone someone prominent like Nasreen, Kaneez Paracha’s daughter. She began a lesbian relationship with Sam Murgatroyd in series 2. The Murgatroyd family do not have a great reputation though. The relationship between Sam and Nasreen was always a rocky one because when Nasreen’s dad found out, he tried to arrange a sham wedding between Nasreen and someone she had never met. This confronted viewers with the continued problem of forced and arranged marriages.
Many schools across London, the Midlands and the North of England have a high percentage of BAME staff, which is seen as a great step forward in the teaching sector. In Ackley Bridge there were a few teachers which came under this banner, the most prominent one being Mr Hyatt, portrayed by Tony Jayawardena. He discovers, that another one of the Paracha children, Razia, has dyspraxia. Due to cuts within the education system, children suffering from similar learning conditions may not get the support, diagnosis and understanding they need, and this could affect their chances of entering university.
Through these various story lines, Ackley Bridge has managed to tackle some of the biggest issues facing its target audience. And let’s face it, what better way to get the message across than through the medium of a good TV drama.