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We don't want controversial Benefits Street style show in Southampton say city leaders
“WE don’t want it here.”
That’s the call from senior figures in Southampton as a controversial documentary company aims to focus on immigration in the city.
Love Productions – which filmed the Channel 4 show Benefits Street – has been filming in the St Mary’s area of the city for a documentary with a working title understood to be Immigration Street.
Its Benefits Street documentary focused on one of Britain’s most deprived areas but was criticised for the way it portrayed some of the residents and storylines.
Now the production company has approached people living in Derby Road for a sequel focusing on immigration and the area’s diverse communities.
But it has sparked concerns among key figures in the city who fear it could create tensions in the area.
They have been led by Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, who said he didn’t want to see the production filmed in the city.
The authority has also told residents to be cautious if they have been approached by the company to appear on the show and contacted Love Productions to seek clarification about the “nature and content” of the programme.
But it claims two meetings between the council and its head producer were cancelled at short notice by the production company.
It has also raised concerns that filming has taken place before the company provided clarification on the nature of the film.
Love Productions says the title and location of the show have yet to be confirmed, but film crews were seen in the Derby Road area of St Mary’s yesterday filming residents.
The Daily Echo spoke to a number of people in the road who confirmed they have been filmed for the show and they hoped it would portray immigration in a positive light.
However Cllr Letts said: “I think this sort of reality television show, which is finding entertainment out of individual cases, rarely has something good coming out of it.
“We have never had issues with race relations and we would not want that to be put at risk.
“It is not my decision, but my preference is that they do not show this show at all.
“But if they do make it then they should make it somewhere else.”
Harjap Singh, chairman of Sikh Council Hampshire and Southampton Gurdwara Council, said both organisations have raised concerns over the programme.
He said: “We are against it because it would be pretty bad for community relations.
“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” over the programme.
He said: “The Council of Faiths had a meeting 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.”
However Khalid Farooq, of the Derby Road-based Pakistan Welfare Association, said it was an opportunity to show how multicultural Derby Road is.
He said: “I think it’s good. It shows the multicultural environment of people living in Derby Road.
“They should show a positive aspect of the community.
“I think there needs to be more support to show how hard-working people are here.”
Councillor 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.
“Some people could be taken advantage of as they will not realise how the final edit will portray them.”
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 also makes programmes such as The Great British Bake Off, the Great British Sewing Bee and Mary Berry Cooks, has said it has not made a final decision on a location for its new series yet.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “Love Productions are researching a potential new series for Channel 4 about 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.”
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