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A drama on the women’s Bangla Bantams supporters’ group to air on BBC Radio 4

A radio drama based on Bradford’s women’s Bangla Bantams supporters’ group will air on BBC Radio 4 this Thursday.

A radio drama based on a Bradford women’s community group involvement with a Bradford City Football supporters’ group will air on BBC Radio 4 this Thursday.

The radio play written by Kamal Kaan and Mary Cooper follows a fictional family who become a part of BEAP Community Partnership’s Bangla Bantams supporters’ group. The drama also highlights the impact Covid-19 has had on the women in the group.

The play was inspired by an interview the community Centre’s chief executive, Humayun Islam BEM, did with the BBC in 2018. Mr Islam has been instrumental in increasing community engagement and diversity within sports across the district.

The Bangla Bantams group was set up in 2015.

During the pandemic, the centre played an active role in distributing food parcels and promoting Covid-19 vaccinations to the community in Manningham, who are largely of Bangladeshi heritage.

Mr Islam is a non-executive director and chair of the Inclusion Advisory Group (IAG) at West Riding FA and trustee of the Bradford City FC Community Foundation.

He also runs the Bangla Bantams project from BEAP, which promotes and encourages participation by the South Asian community in grassroots football in the district.

The main character of the play, Nessa, voiced by Sudha Bhuchar, is invited by her son-in-law to watch the football live in the stadium with her women’s group. Nessa thinks the idea is crazy, but her best friend, Farida, voiced by Nina Wadia, thinks differently. Full English star Natalie Davies plays Sabina, the granddaughter of Nessa.

Chief executive of BEAP Community Partnership, Humayun Islam BEM, said: “it’s unbelievable. It is the first time that a sports fan club is having the opportunity to tell a story on the radio.

Humayun Islam BEM, chief executive of BEAP.

“It is a real drama telling the story of how the Bangla Bantam’s women group got together to support Bradford City.

“It showcases how important a fans group is and how football can bring people together, especially women. There has never been a fans group story told in this way.”

Kamal Kaan is a writer, actor, and director. He is known for playing Ravi Sharda on Doctors and Daniel in the Syndicate. In 2021, he worked as a script consultant on the film Ali and Ava, directed by Clio Barnard and shot fully in Bradford. The film debuted in Bradford in October and will hit the cinemas nationally in March.

He said: “The inspiration for the film comes from a TV interview with Humayun in 2018. It was a three-minute interview, but we wanted to get the story behind the headlines, so Mary and I spent around eight weeks interviewing Humayun and the women at BEAP to create the story.

“The story surrounds two friends who become involved with football through Humayun, going on a journey of friendship and family

Kamal Kaan is an actor, writer, and director. He co-wrote the radio play with Mary Cooper.

“BEAP did a lot of work around food parcels during the pandemic, so that aspect was integrated into the play as well.

“Despite what happened to the community in Manningham during Covid-19 and the number of people who passed away, the play is about hope and a celebration of community spirit.”

The characters in the play produced and directed by Pauline Harris for BBC Radio 4, are based on a “hybrid of people”.

“What we didn’t want to do, is say that this is a story based on this person, this person, and that person, just for privacy. So, the two women are fictional people based on real stories from a range of people”, Mr Kaan added.

The Bangla Bantam’s women supporters’ group was set up by BEAP in February 2015 following a meeting with Anwar Uddin from the Football Supporters Association who leads on the Fans for Diversity Initiative.

Kamal Kaan, Nina Wadia, Sudha Buchar, Mary Cooper, Darren Kuppan, Farzana Dua Elahe, Natalie Davies.

The women predominantly watch home games at Bantams stadium. The women pay for the games, with certain games subsided, depending on the fixtures.

Bangla Bantams is an award-winning initiative, being awarded the Fans for Diversity national award and the British Muslim Award for the most inclusive project in 2020.

Mr Islam added: “I can’t wait to listen to it. The play is a massive milestone for the community and fan engagement. This showcases that football is for all and will encourage more fans from diverse communities to support local clubs, which for us, is Bradford City.”

Bangla Bantams also invites different community groups from across Bradford to enjoy home football games to increase diversity and inclusion in sport.

In November, women from the Inspirational Women Foundation, founded by Asian Standard’s editor and managing director, Fatima Patel, were invited to watch a game at the stadium, where over two dozen women watched a football game live, the first time for many.

The radio play is 44 minutes long and will air on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on Thursday, 27 January. The drama will also be available on catchup on BBC iPlayer shortly after the broadcast.

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