“Paul and Mary Would Like You to Bake”

Heritage Television, Englishness, and an Idealized Multicultural National Identity


  • Caroline Kjærulff Aarhus University




heritage film, The Great British Bake Off, multiculturalism, national identity, postimperial nostalgia


In a time of devolution and fragmentation in the UK, The Great British Bake Off plays into the elements of heritage film and imperial nostalgia and especially all things considered ‘English’. However, the show also attempts to include a more diverse representation of the British people and recreate a national identity that leaves more space for ethnic minorities. Linking theories on national identity and theories on heritage film, this article examines how the GBBO format acts as heritage television which idealizes certain aspects of English history, as well as how the inclusion and celebration of contestants with an ethnic minority background adds to a portrayal of an idealized form of British multiculturalism. These findings lay the basis for a discussion on the connection between food culture and multiculturalism, and how GBBO tries to combine the past ‘glory’ of England with the present (multicultural) reality of Britain.


‘About the Show’. The Great British Bake Off, thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/about-the-show/.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. 1983. Verso, 2016.

Arthur, Andrew. ‘Netflix Acquires US Rights for the Great British Bake Off.’ Independent, 23 Aug. 2018, www.independent.ie/entertainment/netflix-acquires-us-rights-for-the-great-british-bake-off-37246563.html.

Ayto, John. The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food & Drink. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Baena, Rosalía, and Christa Byker. ‘Dialects of Nostalgia: Downton Abbey and English Identity.’ National Identities, vol. 17, no. 3, Oct. 2014, pp. 259–69, doi:10.1080/14608944.2014.942262.

Behan, Chris. ‘The English Village Fête.’ The History Press, www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-english-village-f%C3%AAte/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.

‘Biscuits’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 12. Aug. 2015.

‘Bread’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 19. Aug. 2015.

Black, Jack. ‘Celebrating British Multiculturalism, Lamenting England/Britain’s Past. Nations and Nationalism, vol. 22, no. 4, Mar. 2016, pp. 786–802, doi:10.1111/nana.12164.

Bradley, Peri. ‘More Cake Please — We’re British! Locating British Identity in Contemporary TV Food Texts, the Great British Bake off and Come Dine with Me.’ Food, Media and Contemporary Culture, edited by Peri Bradley, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, doi: 12048/10.1057/9781137463234_2.

‘Cakes’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 5. Aug. 2015.

Cameron, David. PM’s Speech at Munich Security Conference. www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference. Munich Security Conference.

Carpenter, Louise. ‘Behind the Scenes at the Great British Bake Off’. The Guardian, 20 July 2013, www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/jul/20/bake-off-behind-the-scenes.

Clini, Clelia. ‘(Post)Colonial Friendships and Empire 2.0: A Brexit Reading of Victoria & Abdul’. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol. 56, no. 5, 2020, pp. 703–15, doi:10.1080/17449855.2020.1823054.

de Groot, Jerome. Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture. 2009. 2nd ed., Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

‘Desserts’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 26. Aug. 2015.

Easton, Mark. ‘The English Question: What Is the Nation’s Identity?’ BBC News, 3 June 2018, www.bbc.com/news/uk-44306737.

Fish, Andrew. ‘Culture and Living.’ Britain Today: Uncertain Pathways to the Future, edited by Sara Dybris McQuaid and Robert C. Thomsen, 2nd ed., Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017, pp. 51–86

Frost, Vicky. ‘Crunch Time: Why Britain Loves a Good Biscuit.’ The Guardian, 6 June 2012, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/06/crunch-time-britain-loves-biscuits.

Gaston, Sophie, and Sacha Hilhorst. At Home in One’s Past: Nostalgia as a Cultural and Political Force in Britain, France and Germany. Demos, 2018, www.demos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/At-Home-in-Ones-Past-Report.pdf.

Gilroy, Paul. After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia. Routledge, 2004.

---. ‘From a Colonial Past to a New Multiculturalism.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 51, no. 18, 2005, pp. B7-B10. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/lt-h3-gt-colonial-past-new-multiculturalism/docview/214680679/se-2?accountid=14468.

Higson, Andrew. ‘Re-Presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film.’ Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, edited by Lester D. Friedman 1993. 2nd ed., Wallflower Press, 2006.

Hughey, Matthew W. ‘Cinethetic Racism: White Redemption and Black Stereotypes in “Magical Negro” Films.’ Social Problems, vol. 56, no. 3, 2009, pp. 543–77, doi:10.1525/sp.2009.56.3.543.

Lagerwey, Jorie. ‘The Great British Bake Off, Joy, and the Affective Potential of Nadiya Hussain’s Amateur Celebrity.’ Celebrity Studies, vol. 9, no. 4, Aug. 2018, pp. 442–54, doi:10.1080/19392397.2018.1508964.

Macdonald, Myra. ‘British Muslims, Memory and Identity: Representations in British Film and Television Documentary.’ European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, Aug. 2011, pp. 411–27, doi:10.1177/1367549411404617.

Mason, Andrew. ‘The Critique of Multiculturalism in Britain: Integration, Separation and Shared Identification’. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 21, no. 1, Nov. 2017, pp. 22–45, doi:10.1080/13698230.2017.1398444.

McQuaid, Sara Dybris. ‘The Political Landscape’. Britain Today: Uncertain Pathways to the Future, edited by Sara Dybris McQuaid and Robert C. Thomsen, 2nd ed., Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017, pp. 205–34.

Merrick, Jane. ‘David Cameron Has Revealed Who He’s Backing to Win the Great British Bake Off.’ The Independent, 5 Oct. 2015, www.independent.co.uk/news/people/great-british-bake-off-david-cameron-reveals-he-wants-nadiya-to-win-final-a6680026.html.

Monk, Claire. Heritage Film Audiences: Period Films and Contemporary Audiences in the UK. Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

---. ‘Sexuality and the Heritage.’ Sight and Sound, vol. 5, no. 10, 1995, pp. 32–34.

---. ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited.’ British Historical Cinema, edited by Claire Monk and Amy Sargeant, Taylor & Francis Group, 2002, pp. 176–98, doi:10.4324/9781315011424-18.

Narayan, Uma. ‘Eating Cultures: Incorporation, Identity and Indian Food.’ Social Identities, vol. 1, no. 1, feb. 1995, pp. 63–86, doi:10.1080/13504630.1995.9959426.

Nguyen, Hanh. ‘Why “the Great British Baking Show” Could Be PBS’ Successor to “Downton Abbey.’” IndieWire, 16 June 2017, www.indiewire.com/2017/06/the-great-british-baking-show-pbs-downton-abbey-1201843134/.

‘Pastry’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 9. Sep. 2015.

‘Patisserie’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 23. Sep. 2015.

Plunkett, John. ‘Bake Off’s Nadiya Feared Being Dismissed as “Muslim in a Headscarf.’” The Guardian, 28 Sept. 2015, www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/sep/29/great-british-bake-off-2015-nadiya-jamir-hussain-muslim.

---. ‘Great British Bake Off: New Contestants Poised to Serve up Sixth Series.’ The Guardian, 28 July 2015, www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/jul/28/great-british-bake-off-contestants-series-six.

‘PM Judges Charity “Bake Off” for Sarcoma UK.’ Sarcoma UK, 26 Jan. 2016, sarcoma.org.uk/GBBO.

Potter, Lucy, and Claire Westall. ‘Neoliberal Britain’s Austerity Foodscape: Home Economics, Veg Patch Capitalism and Culinary Temporality.’ New Formations, vol. 80, no. 80, Nov. 2013, pp. 155–78, doi:10.3898/newf.80/81.09.2013.

Rahbek, Ulla. ‘Multicultural Britain Today: Dilemmas and Disputes.’ Britain Today: Uncertain Pathways to the Future, edited by Sara Dybris McQuaid and Robert C. Thomsen, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017, pp. 113–42.

Rix, Robert W. ‘Media on the Move: Current Debates and Future Prospects.’ Britain Today: Uncertain Pathways to the Future, edited by Sara Dybris McQuaid and Robert C. Thomsen, 2nd ed., Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017.

Romeo, Claudia. ‘The Funniest Puns and Double-Entendres from “Great British Bake Off.’” Business Insider, 17 Sept. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/great-british-bake-off-funniest-puns-and-double-entendres-from-2016-9?r=US&IR=T.

‘The Final’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 7. Oct. 2015.

Thibodeau, Ruth. ‘From Racism to Tokenism: The Changing Face of Blacks in New Yorker Cartoons.’ The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, 1989, pp. 482–94, doi:10.1086/269168.

Thomsen, Robert C. ‘National and Other Identities.’ Britain Today: Uncertain Pathways to the Future, edited by Sara Dybris McQuaid and Robert C. Thomsen, 2nd ed., Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017, pp. 143–74.

‘Victorian’. The Great British Bake Off. BBC, 16. Sep. 2015.

Vincent, Alice. ‘Welcome to Welford Park: The Stunning Berkshire Location Where the Great British Bake off Is Filmed.’ The Telegraph, 29 Oct. 2019, www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/where-great-british-bake-off-filmed-welford-park-location-berkshire-uk/.

Whyman, Tom. “‘The Great British Baking Show” Is the Key to Understanding Today’s Britain - the New York Times.’ The New York Times, 29 May 2016, web.archive.org/web/20160529013121/www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/magazine/the-great-british-baking-show-is-the-key-to-understanding-todays-britain.html.

Zlotnick, Susan. ‘Domesticating Imperialism: Curry and Cookbooks in Victorian England.’ Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 16, no. 2/3, 1996, pp. 51–68, doi:10.2307/3346803.




How to Cite

Kjærulff, C. (2022). “Paul and Mary Would Like You to Bake”: Heritage Television, Englishness, and an Idealized Multicultural National Identity. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (8), 64–85. https://doi.org/10.7146/lev82022132069