COMMUNITY leaders have told of their fury after learning that a controversial TV documentary will be filmed in their neighbourhood.
As reported by the Daily Echo, plans were first revealed in April this year to film a sequel to the hit series Benefits Street – which prompted criticism for how it portrayed people on benefits – and producers were focussing on Southampton.
But now TV company Love Productions has confirmed that it will film its new six-part series called Immigration Street in the city – despite the protests of community and city leaders.
Each of the hour-long shows for Channel 4 will be filmed in Derby Road in Newtown – one of the most diverse communities in Southampton – and researchers for the programme say that it will focus on people going about their daily lives.
But community leaders fear that it could spark “racial tensions” which could have long-term repercussions on the neighbourhood and the city as a whole.
David Roath, of the Gurdwara Tegh Bahadur Sahib, in St Marks Road, fears it could ruin the community that he has “worked hard” to transform for 25 years.
He said: “I am firmly against it and our Gurdwara is firmly against it.
“I don’t want it here. By all means, have your fun but don’t have it in my street and don’t have it in the community that I have managed to bring up, that I have worked in for so many years.
“Look at what happened in Benefits Street. People will talk. I don’t want Derby Road to be a place where people unload their baggage.
“This Immigration Street is, for me, only a bad way forward in terms of we don’t know the end result. It could blow up in our face and we will get the usual repercussions from it.”
Kieran Smith, director of the show, said: “Immigration is one of the most keenly debated subjects in the UK right now and therefore it is incredibly important that we reflect the honest experiences of people who have settled in the UK and come to consider it as home.”
Mr Smith said that he had met with community leaders in the run-up to filming.
Both Pritheepal Singh Roath, of the Southampton Council of Gurdwaras, and Harjap Singh, of Hampshire Sikh Council, said that they hadn’t been consulted.
Mr Singh denounced the programme makers as “irresponsible” and said: “This is nothing but a spot of trouble. They are just trying to make money out of the situation.”
Mr Singh Roath said: “A lot of people aren’t happy. From what I have gathered people are worried about the situation.”
David Vane, secretary of Southampton Council of Faiths, said that his organisation did not want anything to do with the programme.
He said: “Everybody is of the general stance that Southampton is a fairly peaceful city. We don’t see that this programme will do us any good judging from the reaction to Benefits Street.”
Khalid Farooq, general secretary of the Pakistan Welfare Association, was more reserved in his opinion.
He said he was hopeful that the series would show how the community is united.
He told the Daily Echo: “It doesn’t matter where you are from or what religion you are, we are part of the UK.
“Southampton is a multi-cultural town. People are worried about the show in the community but people can learn something from it.”
Programme makers intend to air the six one-hour episodes on Channel 4 early next year.
Mr Smith elaborated on those being filmed over the next six months, none of whom, he said, have been paid.
He said: “There’s a whole mix of people. Some who are second or third generation, some regard themselves as British, some as British Indian or British Asian, some who have only recently arrived.
“The thing to be clear about is that although the working title is Immigration Street, we don’t spend six months talking about immigration. It’s about telling people’s stories.
“Just as Benefits Street didn’t spend six months asking people about their benefits, it forms the backdrop but it’s a story of humanity.”
As to why the company chose Southampton, he said: “Southampton is a well known city but very rarely do you see it on television.
“We could have gone to another city but we thought it was important to represent parts of the country that aren’t on television very often.”
He added that if people didn’t want to be filmed then they would be left alone.
He said: “There are no auditions, it’s documentary journalism, finding out what the people’s stories are, what their lives are like.
“It’s an observational series. No one is compelled to do it.”