Sunday, 27 April 2008

It's a Mean Old Scene - book review

It's a Mean Old Scene: A History of Modern Bradford From 1974, Redbeck Press, £9.99

"Be warned, this is no typical local history book, no gushing amateur Bronte biography, no rose-tinted recollection of the grind of life in the mills, no wistful trip down memory lane ending in a demand for a return to the days when trolley buses rattled along the streets and families of ten left their front doors open all night. Indeed, take a look at the title: It's a Mean Old Scene was one of Bradford's most infamous and possibly perceptive pieces of graffiti that endured throughout the 1970s.

With candour and thoughtfulness, Greenhalf tackles head-on real life in Bradford since the mid-1970s. He is one of the few people in the city to comment openly about the race question, neither side-stepping the issue with deft politically correct moves not spouting mindless, bigoted invective...

This book is a curious mix of social commentary and personal recollection. Some of the best chapters to my mind are the ones which focus on Greenhalf's journalistic exploits. Particularly notable is the moving passage on the Bradford City disaster, which begins with a newspaperman's cynicism and blossoms into a portrait of the human condition.

It's 'dark twin' is the piece on the Ripper murders, and Greenhalf's soul-bearing on how deeply the gruesome killings got under his skin must have taken great bravery to write - it is certainly not glib, easy reading...

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the things Jim Greenhalf has seen, one thing shines through this book, and it's possibly something he might be hard-pushed to admit to himself: he has a great and deep love for Bradford. Unlike many people in the city, Greenhalf cares."

DAVID BARNETT, Telegraph & Argus, Bradford, May, 2002.