Hot on the heels of Gordon Ramsey coming to Nottingham, ‘The Secret Millionnaire’ made an appearance on national TV tonight, again based in my beloved home town. Incase you’re unfamiliar, the programme places a millionnaire in a community for a few days undercover, to enable them to forge relationships and – should they feel the need – make donations to causes or individuals.
I’m a big fan of the programme, whilst the cynic in you might suggest it’s an opportunity for privileged people to feel good about themselves for sharing a little wealth with the proles, from watching a few I generally get the impression that the folks who sign up for it are genuinely generous-hearted people – and I must admit, rather shamefully, that a few of the ones I’ve seen before have been touching to the point of bringing a lump to the throat.
So it was with interest I tuned in to see what they make of ‘Hood Town’ – the media bastard that it is. Of course, the opening scenes dealt with the reputation we have garnered as crime capital of the universe, although pleasingly the taxi driver who took her to her digs kindly corrected her that such perceptions are a bunch of arse. So what did our secret millionnaire make of a few days in darkest Hyson Green?
Pleasingly she starts by doing some research on local volunteer type schemes – keen to help people who are already attempting to help themselves, and thankfully beyond the introduction to the programme Channel 4 quit on the predictable shots featuring police cars with lights and sirens on, or CCTV cameras panning the streets. Before long she’s in the middle of a launderette in St. Anns – brave lady!
Of course, inevitably it is the less salubrious areas of the town that feature on this programme – just as with all the other towns – but what always resonates so wonderfully are the fantastic people who toil for good causes, their sense of community spirit and their welcoming nature in the face of an apparent stranger who is keen to get involved in their endeavours; unknown to them of course a potential source of significant funding.
The massive plus side of this is you get to hear loads of proper Notts accents, a dialect conspicuously absent from TV generally – and very badly imitated when actor types attempt it – so it’s great to see loads of ‘bogger speak’ – as Rich would call it – on national TV. The reaction of the millionnaire lady was particularly amusing, because being American the very blunt sense of humour exhibited by most Nottinghamians worth their salt was quite shocking to her – albeit in a good way, she loved it!
So there were two main initiatives she sampled on her visit, a community launderette in St. Anns which had a delivery service that covered pretty much all of Nottingham, where she met a volunteer who had been working towards mass food provision and cooking training for kids. The second initiative was ‘Independent Street’ where an energetic lady got all the local kids involved with carnivals all over the country to try to stop them from getting sucked into some of the less wholesome cultures that unfortunately pervade our youngsters.
As is often the case with this particular show, the benefactor found herself very immersed in the people and communities she was visiting – and with the dilemma of the pretense she’d been living under. Imagine if you’re a community worker who finds a volunteer, only to find they’re actually minted and want to give you a big cheque – it would be a strange thing to happen, who knows how you’d react? So you can understand the nervousness.
In the end, she gave a big cheque for £15,000 to the launderette to get them a new van – as theirs was on its’ last legs. Next up was Joy of ‘Independent Street’, to whom she donated the same amount – to a suitably extreme reaction. It’s really heartening – and whilst a programme taking in areas like Hyson Green, St. Anns, Billborough and numerous other areas might not be exactly be sending the Nottingham tourist industry into excitement – having sat and watched it, I felt pretty good about my home town after seeing it.