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The Great British Food Revival: Can it be revived?

March 17, 2011

Last night I made a point of watching the first half of ‘The Great British Food Revival” on BBC2 (you can see it on iplayer here). The second half, presented by Clarissa Dixon Wright, I deemed to be unwatchable.

The show has received a  mixed response – Staurt Heritage (Guardian – quickly becoming my favourite newspaper website) was suitably irritated by the show’s title. The Great British Prefix has been used a lot recently, on countless shows, which was the root of his anger. Others have been a little more receptive to the show, with some twitterers rushing out to buy potatoes after seeing last nights episode.

none are as maddeningly ubiquitous as The Great British Prefix is at the moment. It’s horribly overexposed. It’s the Charlie Sheen of TV show titles.

-Stuart Heritage, Guardian



Gregg Wallace (from MasterChef) presented the first half of the show last night, centred around heritage potatoes. It was mild entertainment at best, but a highlight for me was seeing Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes on the show, who I have written about previously. They specialise in old varieties of potato, which seem to be quite a lot more interesting than the typical supermarket ones. I’m yet to have any, but I do want to eat a blue potato.


My problem with the show as a whole is that it seems to lack a point. It’s all very well me wanting a Ferrari, but I can’t just go out and get one. The show wants to revive British food, but it doesn’t really give us any great ways of doing it. I think it’s one of those shows that needs something behind it, like the peoples supermarket – the supermarket existed, as did their views and ideals. The Great British Food Revival is just a TV show about British food and a book, meaning the TV show is essentially a 5 part advert for a cook book.

Another problem is the choice of presenters. It’s a problem because of their audience – they’re preaching to the converted. Swapping Clarissa Dixon Wright, the Hairy Bikers (seriously annoying) and Michel Roux Jr (part-time Frenchman) with the Jamie Olivers, Simon Rimmers and Gordon Ramseys of the TV cooking world may have worked a little better.

Without wanting to find further faults (this is long enough already), it’s biggest competition was a Time Team special, which could only manage 1.6 million viewers, a 6.6% share, while The Great British Food Revival managed 2.2 million, a 9.1% share – hardly a Great British Achievement.

My Great British Junk Food:

8:10– Bran flakes
8:20– Toast with marmite
12:15– Chilli rice crackers
13:00– Pot noodle
14:00– Apple
15:30– Banana
18:50– Chilli rice crackers
19:15– Pizza

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2011 12:36 pm

    Interesting comment.
    I don’t really understand your point about not enabling viewers to help revive the various foods portrayed. As a producer portrayed in the last programme, we have seen an definite increase in sales across the various areas of our business. Tea Room Farm Shop & on-line. We have also had enquiries about buying weaners & various courses for teaching the process from Ark to Plate. Of course I would like even more focus on the producers, but, that’s not bad as a start.

  2. March 18, 2011 12:59 pm

    Thanks for commenting Jan, it’s good to get views from producers such as yourselves.

    My point is that while they do make us more aware of the types of British produce which are available, there isn’t a campaign as such. The show is what it is, a show. They don’t go much further than visiting producers, sampling produce, saying it’s great and then moving on.

    As you say, it’s not a bad start. However, I think they could have gone much further, perhaps getting in the faces of a few supermarkets – I just think that they are only really going to revive Great British food amongst those who have the time and money to buy direct from producers. In the first episode Michel Roux Jr spoke about a £3.50 loaf of bread – I can’t see people buying on a regular basis.

    However, you’ve experienced an increase in sales, which is obviously great, so I may be wrong.

    I would say that a lack of understanding in Britain is the cause of the problem in the first place (see here: Courses teaching the field to fork process help. Are you opening up your farm for Open Farm Sunday? I think that opening up farms and encouraging interaction with the public on big scale events like this will certainly help.

  3. March 19, 2011 11:19 am

    As someone who is involved in promoting local food and seeking to raise awareness about food I have to disagree with your post. I watched the Greg Wallace and Clarissa Dickson Wright programme with great interest, and will go back and catch the earlier programme on iPlayer. Whilst light and entertaining the show also makes some serious points subtly, without ramming food politics down the throats of casual viewers.
    In our small community owned greengrocer sales of caulis shot up after the Hairy Bikers piece, and I can assure you that our artisan baker – does pretty brisk business in our village with loaves ranging in price up to about £2.95 – not bad for a village in Pennine Yorkshire.
    The piece on potatoes has prompted me to think about expanding the range of spuds our shop offers as part of our planned expansion this year, and the piece on pork was equally informative, and gave a clear indication that many people are once again looking to keep pigs, which is great news. The more our society can move away from our umbilical dependence on the global food system and become more self reliant and independent the better for all of us, in my view. And programmes like this are a valuable contribution to this cultural shift.

    • March 19, 2011 7:42 pm

      I agree with everything you’ve said, Graham.

      My overall view on the programme, was that it was a good start but not much more than that. I just think that they could have done much more.

      The Great British Food Revival surely needs to be reaching out to the average everyday consumer, and I didn’t think it did that.

      On BBC2 at 8 pm with it’s biggest competition being a Time Team special and an incredibly boring football game, The Great British Food Revival only managed a 9.1% share of the viewings, just less than 3% more than the Time Team special – I don’t know if the show was interesting enough.

  4. March 23, 2011 10:24 am

    Some interesting points. This was clearly the BEEB’s answer Jamie’s Fish Fight and Hugh’s…. but without any of the charm.

    C4 seems to do a better line in “you might not be aware of this but…..there are tasty things out there which are better than you might be buying at the moment”

    where the BEEB was preeching like a 1950’s government information film.

    “you stupid man don’t you know that there are people who rear decent pork out there!”

    I don’t see people rushing out in their droves to look for a ‘dolly’ to make hand raised pies.

    Which is a shame, Rare Breed Organic Pork like the excellent pork I get from Peelham Farm, an organic sustainable farm in the Borders is sooooo much better than anything you can buy off the shelf. It’s well worth seeking out and lots of producers like Peelham who really care about what they are doing offer mail order services so you can buy from anywhere not just once a month at a farmers’ market.

    I’d heartily recommend anyone to give it a try for themselves. Yes it’s a bit of a treat but worth it when you can.

  5. March 23, 2011 10:33 am

    Some interesting points. This was clearly the BEEB’s answer to Hugh’s Fish Fight and Jamie’s…. but perhaps without the charm.

    Where C4 manages a good line in “you might not know this but…..” the BEEB was as heavy handed as a 1950’s Government information film “you stupid people don’t you know there are people producing decent pork!”

    It was a shame Clarissa’s section wasn’t more engaging. Rare Breed Organic Pork really is sooooooo much better. Seeking it out is well worth the effort, many organic rare breed pork producers in the UK offer mail order services so you don’t have to wait for your monthly farmer’s market or live somewhere that has one.

    I buy from Peelham Farm, an organic sustainable farm in the Borders which does mail order through their website

    Their organic pork is fantastic – really worth it and easy to get.

  6. Andrew permalink
    March 23, 2011 8:45 pm

    As much as I am wholly behind the ethos of this program I am hugely disappointed to hear that even a program on the subject the BBC cannot ensure the facts are correct. Most notably I have just been told that ‘mutton is allowed to graze at grass but lambs are not’.

    This is completely untrue. As a farmer, all the lamb produced here is reared totally off grass, as is the case along the majorityof the farsm in th UK. The reason the sales of mutton are lower is because there are less older sheep than there are lambs. PLEASE could the BBC check information on farming with real sources because the point of this program is great but is undermined by factual innaccuracies.

    Rant over, I am thoroughly behind this program, from the food producers point of view many of these older types of Great British food are more sustainable and fit with many of the extensive systems most farmers would prefer to use. I am really pleased that celebrity chefs are now pushing this as an issue.

  7. chicken hill permalink
    March 24, 2011 8:45 am

    Another programme about mutton which we haven’t had since we had our own sheep. I went to 3 websites last night from the mutton rennaisance though they said they sold mutton it no longer featured.
    This is one of the tastiest meats around only comparable to goat. I do not live near a town so orders would have to be mail order

  8. March 24, 2011 8:34 pm

    More interesting comments here. I have a feeling that the general consensus is that whilst the show makes the right effort, and we all agree that it’s a good cause and very necessary, the show just doesn’t quite hit the mark.

    I have written up some thought’s on last nights episode here:

    Again, I think there were similar problems.

  9. AnnP permalink
    March 25, 2011 1:43 pm

    I’d love to see an episode of this series on British, welfare-friendly, rose veal. I used to eat and enjoy veal a fair bit as a child in the 1960s and 70s, but discouraged (like many others I’m sure) by concerns about animal welfare, I have been avoiding it for years. I know that I should start to eat it again in order to support British farmers using higher welfare systems, and to prevent the export of tiny calves to veal crates on the continent. Sadly, I no longer know what to do with a piece of veal, and my culinary efforts so far have not encouraged me to make it a regular part of my diet. TV chefs help please!

  10. Tony permalink
    March 26, 2011 8:00 am

    Does anyone have the link to the apple grower shown with James Martin who provides a service of identifying apple trees and selling grafts of vintage varieties?


  1. The Great British Food Revival: Moroccan Mutton? « One Chicken Nugget

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