TV Reviews: The Strangest Village in Britain


Channel 4, 16 June


This latest offering in the Only Human series was filmed at Botton
village in Yorkshire. Its approach was underlined by the statement
that here “is where being different is the norm”. The “villagers”
were described as having “special needs, including Down’s syndrome,
autism and mental illness”, write Jean Collins and
David McCann

The film focused on six residents whose institutionalised behaviour
was presented for the audience to gawp at in a manner reminiscent
of a freak-show. Many scenes followed of chaotic and aimless
argument, bitterness and distress, with bullying and physical
aggression on show.

Botton is still sufficiently popular with local authorities and
families to have a long waiting list, but whether it is equally
popular with disabled people was not discussed. Do the “villagers”
choose, like their non-disabled “co-workers”, to be part of this
isolated Christian community?

Do they choose to live as part of a pseudo-family with non-disabled
“house parents” and their children? It was never considered.
One man was seen moving into a bedsit after 25 years at Botton. The
film focused on his subsequent confusion as if the move itself were
to blame. The conclusion we were expected to draw was: safe and
secure in Botton; vulnerable and unsupported in the wider

Where was Valuing People? Where was person-centred planning? Where
were people’s rights? This film took us back 50 years.

Jean Collins is chief executive and David McCann is project
worker at Values Into Action

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