The Great British Bake Off

A week has passed since the final of The Great British Bake Off and the sugar high has just about worn off. So, was Brendan robbed? Should consistency win over a stunning last minute performance? Was John’s mangled hand a strategic bit of self-sabotage to avoid a negative judgement? Was James punished for his ‘by the seat of his pants’ approach?

This, the most gentle of British competitions ended with some controversy this week for some of its most ardent fans. The Great British Bake Off sense of fair play was challenged when the consistently excellent, quiet and self-effacing contestant Brendan failed to win the competition. The prize this year was taken by the dark horse outsider John who beat both cool calm Brendan and hipster maverick John. This may stem from a personal bias as John hails from my home town but it’s hard to begrudge him the title. Modest and full of self-deprecating humour, John charmed throughout the series – we sympathised when things went wrong and shared the joy of his success. Success that appeared to surprise him as much as the audience at times. But this is, perhaps, the problem with The Great British Bake Off. Everyone is so nice, it’s hard to see anyone loose.

I came late to the show (apart from viewing The Great British Bake Off squirrel on YouTube like so many others of course) and this has been my first year experiencing the joys of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and the return of the 90s pairing of Mel and Sue. Before watching I must admit I couldn’t see the appeal and, if I’m honest, I had had a wee bit if disdain for the format but watched it as one of my students is about to start a project on cookery shows. I thought that, as this was the most successful cookery show on the BBC I should know precisely what I’d been turning my nose up at! One episode led to an I-player catch up binge and within a week the programme had become a firm favourite and each episode was eagerly anticipated.

The Great British Bake Off is a nostalgic programme that taps into myths about our national identity. This, perhaps, goes some way to explain its extraordinary success. This notion of a national identity based on fair play and a stoic resilience in the face of adversity has been the focus of a three part documentary on BBC4. Ian Hislop’s fascinating history of British emotions Stiff Upper Lip gives a real insight into the appeal of The Great British Bake Off. When all around are emoting like there’s no tomorrow – when emotional journeys are as important (if not more so) than musical talent (The X Factor); when emotional outbursts replace decision making and, subsequently, good judgement (Geordie Shore) then the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ approach of The Great British Bake Off is an oasis of reserve and there’s clearly still an audience for that.


‘Contact Us’ to order an AlbionMill Mini info-sheet on The Great British Bake Off.

The info sheet looks at the audience pleasures provided by the programme including its position within the competitive reality show genre; its relationship with British identity and the cultural and historical context of the show.

This photocopiable resource is just £7.00 – see the Teacher Area for more information and free samples of resources.


And Finally…

Follow the link below and scroll down the page to view MyView… a ‘review’ of The Great British Bake Off written by Peter Shilton who The Sun describes as ‘legendary goal keeper’. How limited do The Sun think their audience are? 6.5 million people watched the BBC show but apparently The Sun believes its audience to be so Neanderthal that they may not be able to see the appeal of the programme unless its filtered through the simplistic response of an ex football player. Is this the very definition of dumbing down?



Welcome to AlbionMill…

This web-site has been a long time in the ‘development stage’ and so it is with some relief that Winter 2012 sees its official launch. A fancy way of saying that, finally, I’ve got my act together, worked out how to get my words on-line and am about to start what I hope will be a forum for A Level Media Studies debate and discussion for teachers and students.

On the simplest level this blog will be a centralised way to gather my thoughts and ideas on all manner of events and issues related to the mass media. I hope that these thoughts will be of use to both teachers and students engaged in the study of the modern mass media. I know from the many teachers I have met over the years that the fast moving nature of the subject can be one of the biggest challenges when trying to support students. I hope that the blog will be of some assistance summarising recent issues, linking to media concepts, theories and ideas and providing ideas for classroom discussions and activities. This blog has no exam board affiliation and the aim is not to look at specifications, assessment processes and mark schemes but simply to discuss a range of media issues and debates.

Teaching Media Studies is the best job in the world. Most of my working week is spent in the company of bright and enthusiastic young people engaged in the study of contemporary media and whilst they can be a source of frustration most are usually a delight (you know who you were/are)!!  I hope that the blog will raise some interesting issues that might help with any number of the varied and fascinating topics that media students get involved in studying. I’ve no idea yet what direction the blog will take as it’s impossible to predict where the media is going right now. The only thing we can be sure of is that there will be change. As the blog develops I will take requests for topics and issues that you would like raised and will be offering a range of resources including up to the minute discussion points and more detailed info-sheets linking contemporary issues to media concepts and theories. You can contact me if you’d like to discuss the possibility of commissioning bespoke resources.

So, just to identify whose thoughts and ideas you’ll be reading here, I am a Media Studies teacher in a Lancashire 6th form college. My colleagues and I look after in the region of 180 students in any given year and we are pleased to have seen the vast majority off to university and jobs with super high grades. I began my teaching career in English and like so many of my media studies colleagues found Media Studies on my timetable one September despite having no expertise in the subject. I began as a self-taught ‘expert’ (although a few years in I thought I ought to do my Masters in this area seeing as I was making a living from it!) I also work in a senior position for an awarding body (with no knowledge of exam questions before you ask) and have written thousands of words on the subject for various sources over the years. I have led a lot of teacher training and am in the most fortunate of professional positions. I spend the majority of my working week talking about the stuff that interests me in my leisure time – the position of the media in culture and society.

Currently my personal media interests tend to be US TV shows. I am a Breaking Bad fanatic (whether it or The Wire the best show ever on TV is a burning question in my own mind right now). I also love another very badly scheduled programme – Community is my favourite comedy series of late (with Death Valley coming a close second). I wish more people had watched Veronica Mars and that Brits had had a chance to see the wonderful United States of Tara. My guilty pleasures are horror and superhero films, Criminal Minds and reality shows with ‘skill’ tests and eliminations… give me episodes of Next Top Model and The Apprentice and I can waste many happy hours but I will curl a scornful lip at X Factor of course… I also suspect I may be more than just a little addicted to internet news sites.

The central belief behind my own career choices and the existence of this site is that the media is a crucial area and it calls for serious study. Our lives are lived in a media glare whether it’s in our immersion into social networking or the near monopolisation of our entertainment choices by media industries and corporate interests. Our whole culture is a media culture first and foremost. The study of the media requires an engagement with history, politics and borrows from Sociology, Philosophy and Psychology. Media Studies engages with the important debates of the day and media literacy is both enlightening and empowering. I don’t expect the government or the Daily Mail to ever agree with that but those of us involved in the study of the media know better.

So pop back for updates and commentary and check out Twitter and Facebook for more AlbionMill related info.