A HAMPSHIRE MP has warned that a controversial documentary may leave residents feeling they have been misrepresented.
John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, voiced his fears over how communities in Southampton may react once the sequel to Benefits Streets – understood to be called Immigration Street – hits our television screens.
He was speaking at the annual meeting of the Southampton Council of Faiths yesterday.
As previously reported, Love Productions, the film company behind Benefits Street – a series which prompted criticism of how it portrayed residents living on benefits – has started filming in St Mary’s.
City leaders have already roundly criticised the planned production, saying they fear it could risk race relations within the city’s diverse communities.
However, Mr Denham believes Southampton is bigger than any television programme.
He said: “It is more likely that people will watch this programme and feel that their community has been unfairly represented.
“I think people will see the programme and think ‘this is not the community or city I live in’ and will rise above it.”
The Southampton Council of Faith continues to urge people to use caution when speaking to the production teams.
David Vane, secretary of the council, added: “We just want people to be aware of what happened in Birmingham – where Benefits Street was filmed – wasn’t necessarily what people intended to be contributing to the programme for.”
At the meeting Mr Denham, who was guest speaker, also praised the work of the council.
He spoke of how the charity had helped keep different communities talking to each other and fostering integration among the city’s diverse neighbourhoods.
He recognised the many challenges people in different communities face – rising number attending food banks, questions about immigration and community cohesion – but said that the work of leaders of different faiths had helped to attack those.
Mr Denham said: “If we want to believe that we are one society, which I think we are, if we want to have shared values that help us work together then you have to engage people, and that is done primarily when they are motivated by faith.
“I have learned the value of the contribution of the leaders of those faiths here and I hope this continues.”
When contacted previously by the Daily Echo, a Channel 4 spokesman said: “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.”