Tyger Drew-Honey, Miquita Oliver, Ann Widdecombe, Alistair McGowan, Colin Jackson and Zoe Lucker
Rather like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here crossed with Tony Robinsons’ The Worst Jobs in History, this four-episode living history series took six celebrities back to the 1840s. It wasn’t chaise longues and afternoon tea for them, no – they were to experience the harsh lives of the early Victorian working class.
Starting with a dust yard (at the Black Country Living Museum, which you sometimes see in the background in Peaky Blinders) and collecting ‘pure’ and night soil (poo, in other words), it was grim and grimy all the way. The second episode saw them at a coaching inn, where the women did domestic chores while the men worked as ostlers and as a pot-boy. The third episode took them to the potteries, where they experienced the unfair way in which the workers were paid, which led to the positively surreal sight of former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe form a union and go on strike. And after losing their jobs at the potteries, the fourth episode saw them suffer the inhumanely punitive conditions of the workhouse.
I’ve lived in Birmingham for several years, long enough to get confused sometimes when my brain forgets what the new Bull Ring shopping centre looks like when I round the corner at the end of New Street. “Where did this all come from?” it wonders for a split-second, before the buildings in front of me coalesce and I remember where I am. I still call House of Fraser by it’s old name: Rackhams. And I just can’t get used to the new Library of Birmingham (not surprising as it’s hardly open due to budget cuts).
So there I was, sitting down to watch BBC Two’s new Cold War thriller The Game. After much joshing ‘The Game is afoot! Well, nearly, iPlayer is still buffering!’ I found myself in 1970s London. Well, it’s supposed to be, but I immediately recognised Birmingham. Specifically, MI5’s headquarters, which is brutalist masterpiece Central Library. Loved and loathed, the haters are winning because the Library of Birmingham was built a year or two ago to replace it and poor old Central Library, John Madin’s concrete masterpiece, is, as I speak, being pulled down.