Hidden History: The Lost Portraits Of Bradford 9pm, BBC Four

There’s a book to be written about the skips of the UK: about the treasures sometimes found in there, and all the treasures that have been lost.

Anyone with passing knowledge of British television history will know about the barbarous junking policy that persisted until 1978, leaving huge gaps in the archives as broadcasters chucked out the only recordings of programmes to make room on shelves, or wiped videos to re-use tapes: Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, David Bowie…straight into landfill.

Similar stories – entire studio storerooms junked – blight cinema and music. And if you reckon it’s much better now, a similar cycle is currently unfolding in libraries across the land, as books, papers and other documents are trashed because digital copies have been made, and, as we all know, nothing can ever go wrong there.

Sometimes, a true sense of what has been lost through such thoughtlessness only becomes clear when a story comes along about something being saved and rediscovered. So it is with Hidden History: The Lost Portraits Of Bradford, an unfussy little film, buried in the schedules, that feels like one of the week’s most important programmes.

In 1983, a man called Tony Walker, who owned the tiny Belle Vue photographic studio in Bradford, sold his little highstreet shop on. Walker had worked there since the mid-1940s, first under the original owner, who opened the place in 1926. He mentioned to the new buyer that he was clearing out the half-a-century’s worth of negatives in storage. He’d already dumped all the pre-war images at the tip, but he still had hundreds of shoeboxes full of negatives to be junked. The new buyer persuaded him to stop, and called in local historians, who realised they’d found a goldmine.

Over 17,000 of Walker’s pictures were preserved from the skip, and, all shot on the same spot with the same camera as the years passed, they form a unique record, capturing the changing face of a British city in the mid-20th century.

From the late-1940s onwards, many of the people who visited Belle Vue to have portraits taken were new arrivals, workers and refugees from the Asian subcontinent, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, attracted by the offer of employment in local mills: people who were having pictures taken to send back home, to reassure the family they were well, or to show off their new lives.

What makes these photographs so extraordinary is that, until he retired in 1975, Walker was still using the shop’s original Victorian-era plate camera, a 1905 model, using glass negatives, and illuminating shots with natural daylight rather than artificial light. This meant his subjects had to hold their poses, and, as well an astonishing luminosity, the pictures, even those from the 1970s, have a proud, self-conscious, Old World formality that’s simultaneously naïve and revealing.

But while the pictures have astonishing life, they are anonymous. The sitters’ identities have been lost, and the documentary follows attempts by presenter Shanaz Gulzar and local historians to begin putting names to faces. Setting up shop at a bus drivers’ canteen (several portraits feature nattily uniformed drivers), a Windrush celebration, a Ukranian club and a Bangladeshi community centre, they encourage locals to sift through images to see if they recognise anyone, with moving results – including people discovering pictures of their parents they’ve never seen, and even themselves.

It’s a lovely documentary, about photography, about social history, about a particular city, about a particular country, and about a particular fifty years. In passing, looking at these incredible, strange, almost ceremonial portraits, and thinking how they were nearly lost, made me think about all the pictures on all the camera phones today that will never be printed, or even looked at again. Who’s going to find them?



Seven Worlds, One Planet

6.15pm, BBC One

Another extraordinary natural history programme presented by the extraordinary David Attenborough. The “seven worlds” are the seven continents, and the series explores how the particular conditions of the great landmasses have shaped the animal life found there. Rocking the red parka look at 93, Attenborough starts with Antarctica, to consider what it takes to survive such a hostile environment. Life is possible thanks to the rich ocean surrounding the frozen wastes, which provides food for penguins, seals, albatross, and whales. The footage is always stunning, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes heart breaking. Once again, Attenborough stresses the climate crisis: this ocean is warming, casting doubt on the future. “This is the most critical moment for life on earth since the continents formed,” he says. “We are changing the world so rapidly wildlife is facing some of its greatest challenges yet.”


Dublin Murders

9pm, BBC One

Wolves, antlers, doppelgangers, children vanishing in the woods – this adaptation of Tana French’s crime novels is so madly convoluted it’s almost funny, but manages to be admirably watchable, thanks to the excellent cast and writing that lets flickers of humour flash against the fairy tale gloom. (NB, There are two episodes a week, Monday & Tuesday.) Having been driven away by Rob (Killian Scott) following their night together, the wounded Cassie (Sarah Greene) has thrown herself into the lonely, dangerous business of going undercover, agreeing to pretend to be the murdered woman who looked exactly like her – who was herself pretending to be Cassie’s old undercover alter ego, Lexie. Keep up. As she returns to the house that “Lexie” shared with her fellow students, she begins to wonder if these devoted pals could actually be her killers.


What's My Name Muhammad Ali

9pm, Sky Atlantic

We aren’t short of documentaries about Muhammad Ali, but what makes director Antoine Fuqua’s two-part film sing is how he allows the fighter to narrate his own story, weaving together quotes drawn from a vast array of archive interviews. The title is well-chosen: “What’s my name” is – infamously – what Ali demanded of opponent Ernie Terrell after every other punch while systematically destroying him in 1967, vicariously hitting back against all the critics who had rounded on him following his name change and conversion to Islam. This was the era that made him The Greatest, when Ali fought to come back against an establishment that was happy to have him as polite Olympic champion Cassius Clay, but outraged by the Vietnam-protesting Ali: as much an icon of social change and civil rights as of boxing. Collaged from evocative footage, it’s a thrilling ride.


The Dead Room

10pm, BBC Four

It’s your actual Hallowe’en, but, once again, you’d be hard pushed to know it from the schedules of the main TV channels. BBC Four is at least making a bit of an effort, however, by rolling out a repeat of this clever and eerie tale, written by Gentleman Mark Gatiss, who originally created it as a new entry in the Ghost Story For Christmas strand. A spare and spooky piece, it centres on a pompous old-school actor (Simon Callow, in fine form), who has been hosting a radio horror story show for 40 years. For his latest recording job, he’s returned to a studio he used to work in decades ago, bringing potent memories of the long hot summer of 1976 creeping from the shadows. It’s stripped-down and wonderfully claustrophobic, and the BBC’s Maida Vale studio almost becomes a main character itself.


Get Rich Or Die Trying: Music's Mega Legacies 9.30pm, BBC Four If you’re a Prince fan, there’s a mouth-watering moment in tonight’s wry music documentary on the financial afterlife of popstars, as the camera glimpses the fabled Paisley Park vault, where boxes of unreleased tapes lie stored. But, wrapped in legal wrangles, with no will in sight, the question is whether they’ll ever be released – and who will profit if so. Presented by a knowing Ana Matronic, the film explores the complicated mechanics of the dead rock star industry, and how management and business keep the brand rolling and earning long after the likes of Elvis have left the building. Elvis’s team set the pace, but there are cautionary tales: are authorised Bob Marley bath salts really the way he’d want to be remembered? More recently, though, David Bowie set a new standard, by leaving behind careful instructions for his representatives on Earth.



9pm, BBC Four

For anyone who’s followed the long, tortured arc of Laure and Gilou’s relationship – and the transformation of the latter from addled, corrupt screw-up into bruised and battered human being – this current series keeps on giving. And taking. Their mishandling of things has seen the team kicked off the Herville case, and the two have fallen out for good (yet again). But Laure’s Spidey sense keeps tingling. She’s sure something’s off about the Fraud Squad’s investigation, and, gradually, persuades a sceptical Gilou to listen. Eventually, they’re working together, alone, and in secret. Meanwhile, out of jail and back at work, Karlsson seems to be reverting to sly old ways as she thinks about how to protect a client from Judge Roban’s investigation. Excellent stuff again tonight, with a particularly lovely hotel sequence.