Blog: Behind the scenes of our new series 'Granada to Granada'

Filming in the ancient Andalusian city of Granada Credit: Josh Stead

This week on Granada Reports we've been exploring ordinary life of people in the North West compared to people living in our programme's namesake - the Spanish city of Granada.

Producer Josh Stead spent a week meeting people from across the region who have made their home in Andalusia. Here are his thoughts from that trip.

  • By Josh Stead, Producer

On paper, the city of Granada in the very south of Spain and the North West of England couldn't be more like two worlds apart.

One, notorious for its grey skies and drizzle, the other so hot in the summer that people desert the city and head for the beach, choosing to make up their working hours in the cooler parts of the year.

Credit: Josh Stead

When you land in the city, constantly framed with the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains, topped with snow even at this point of the year, it's really a tough ask to come up with any similarities between the two regions at all.

Credit: Josh Stead

But the links between Granada and the North West go back decades. When founding Granada Television in the late fifties, Sidney Bernstein chose to name his new venture after his favourite holiday destination. In both places, you'll find a strong regional identity, and people more than happy to shout about where they're from.

Both places are a real melting pot of cultures. The North West made up of people with links to other countries stretching back generations, Granada the last place in Spain to be reconquered from Muslim rule by the Christians, leaving it with a strong Nasrid architectural heritage, best encapsulated by the looming presence of the Alhambra palace, right at the top of the city.

Credit: Simon Higginbottom

Within both places you find people who love their home so strongly, they stay there for a lifetime. Yet also, you find people from all over the world who have been drawn there. In Granada we met British expatriates, one of the world's foremost experts on Spanish culture and literature, people from elsewhere in Europe who were drawn to the city to work. It mirrors the people we filmed with in the North West, a retired couple who moved to Manchester from Pakistan in the sixties, a young Polish couple working for a Europe-wide recruitment agency in Bolton, and the parents of four children, who met at Liverpool University and returned to the city more than twenty years ago after a spell in Turkey.

Among all of these people, along with finding out about their lives and what drew them to call both of the Granadas home, we asked them about their place in the European Union, and what might happen to them when Britain leaves.

Credit: Josh Stead

Another strong similarity between both places, at different ends of a continent, are that everyone you speak to knows what Brexit is, and has an opinion on it.

When stopping people in the street when in Spain to vox-pop them for their opinions on Brexit, we fully expected blank looks, and for people not to be so aware of what's happening all the way away in the UK. In reality, the Spanish know all about the travails of the UK trying to negotiate their way out of Europe, and they have strong opinions.

Credit: Josh Stead

The city's Mayor tells us that his fears around Brexit centre around the University's ERASMUS project, one of the biggest in the country, and that it might stem the flow of information and learning, along with the impact on the local economy, so reliant on exporting fruit and vegetables to the UK.

A student at that university tells us her friends talk about how Brexit might limit their career opportunities. With Granada occupying one of the most economically challenged parts of Europe, people grow up knowing they may have to move elsewhere to find work.

Her parents tell us that they're certain, in some way, that Spain will lose out. They say a hard Brexit would be a disaster, and hope a soft Brexit will mean trading relationships will continue uninterrupted.

Young Danish and French creatives - digital nomads they refer to themselves as - talk about how the convoluted process of extracting the UK from the EU has all but quelled talk of following suit in their traditionally eurosceptic countries.

Credit: Josh Stead

For the Spanish, a country which under the dictatorship of Franco felt cut off from the rest of Europe, Brexit is a real conundrum. Professor Duncan Wheeler, from the University of Leeds tells us that for so long, a seat at the European table was such an ambition of Spain, that there was genuine excitement when they were granted access to the Eurovision Song Contest, seen as the first step to joining the club.

Sometimes as an island nation, Britain can understandably feel quite apart from the rest of Europe. But the strength of feeling in Granada is that we are all inexorably linked together. The region's MEP, Clara Aguilera says the main thing we've learned from Brexit is that it's such a difficult process to leave the EU, other countries are also thinking that it isn't worth the hassle.

People in Granada feel tied to Britain. They continue to watch closely what's happening with almost every cough and spit of Brexit, they try to get their heads around the ramifications of meaningful votes, and follow the Prime Minister's dashes to Brussels for meeting with their leaders. They try to figure out how it all might affect their future. Just like we do in Granadaland right here in the North West.