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Plans revealed for sequel to controversial Benefits Street programme in Southampton
MAKERS of the controversial Benefits Street documentary are planning a sequel in Southampton.
Love Productions has approached residents in Derby Road, St Mary’s, for the new show that will be called Immigration Street and will focus on the area’s diverse communities.
Harjap Singh, chairman of Sikh Council Hampshire and Southampton Gurdwara Council, said the organisations have raised concerns over the programme.
He said: "We are against it because it would be pretty bad for community relations.
"The Vaisakhi celebrations looks to bring communities together but it seems the programme makers could put certain sections of the community against each other.
"A few people I have spoken to have raised concerns and have asked to make sure this doesn't happen."
David Bane, secretary of the Southampton Council of Faiths, said the organisation was "cautious".
He said: "The council of faiths had a meeting last Tuesday and there's mixed feeling about it.
"We don't have control over what the programme comes out like.
"The Southampton Council of Faiths is nearly 19 years old and we have worked very hard to link communities and keep the trust and peace.
"Southampton has a history of immigration. We have had people come to this city for years and I think in a way majority of people see it as a real added value to the community - we have around 47 languages spoken here.
"We need to be careful."
However Khalid Farooq, of the Derby Road-based Pakistan Welfare Association said it was an opportunity to show how multi-cultural Derby Road is.
He said: "I think it's good. It shows the multi-cultural environment of people living in Derby Road.
"They should show a positive aspect of the community.
"I think there needs to be more support and show how hard working people are here."
Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrew, deputy leader of Southampton City Council and cabinet member for resources, represents the Bevois ward.
He said: "It is difficult because your whole experience of the programme is sensationalised from James Turner Street in Birmingham and it turned out the whole programme was stage managed.
"They have had meetings with council officers on one occasion and said they will try to do a balanced programme.
"My view is that on balance looking at previous production it will not be in the interests of people in Southampton as I fear they will be turning to portray a certain angle on the downside of immigration."
Cllr Satvir Kaur, Southampton City Council's cabinet member for communities, said: "If I am being completely honest I do have concerns about a potential programme called Immigration Street.
"We have one of the most diverse cities on the south coast. We have a variety of diverse communities in Southampton and community cohesion is something we should pride ourselves on.
"My concern is that it will not show that, and I am genuinely worried about vulnerable people in that area in Derby Road.
"I do not want them taken advantage of and portrayed as something they are not.
"As cabinet member of communities I am working closely with Alan Whitehead and the police about our fears of this show. We have some really strong partnerships in this city and together we want to voice our concerns.
"Some people could be taken advantage of as they will not realise how the final edit will portray them.
"I have worked in media and I appreciate that ultimately they want something that gets viewers and showing that we are a big happy family, is probably not going to be it."
He said he was worried that the programme would follow a script rather than tell the truth and reflect the community accurately.
He said: “Some programmes can be a tremendous fillip and bonus in getting across to the public what the real issues are. I don’t think the company in this instance has a track record to do that.”
Mr Whitehead has written to every home in Derby Road asking people what they think about the planned programme.
Love Productions, which makes programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee and Mary Berry Cooks, has said it was not made a final decision on a location for its news series yet.
Benefits Street focused on the residents of James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, where it was reported that more than 90 per cent of residents lived on benefits.
Screened over five episodes starting in January, it was controversial with politicians and the police and provoking hundreds of complaints.
It made household names of residents such as White Dee, the self-styled "mother" of the street.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: "Love Production are researching a potential new series for Channel 4 at life in a community where diverse groups of people live alongside one another.
"The title and location are not yet confirmed and discussions are ongoing with local people.
"Benefits Street sparked an important debate about the welfare system.
"It was a fair and balanced observational documentary series and was a sympathetic, humane and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts in benefits.
"Love Productions is an award-winning production company responsible for a wide range of programmes, including The Great British Bake Off."
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