“WE DON’T want you here.”
That was the message from members of a Southampton community as they urged TV bosses to scrap the controversial documentary being filmed on their street.
Dozens of angry residents from the Derby Road area spoke out against the filming of Immigration Street at a heated public meeting last night.
As previously revealed in the Daily Echo, Derby Road was picked by Love Productions to be the focus of the programme, which is due to be aired on Channel 4 next year.
Filming has been taking place over the last few months, with the production company saying the show will “reflect the honest experiences of people who have settled in the UK and [have] come to consider it as home.”
But it has provoked a furious backlash from the community.
Last night they vented their anger at the meeting at Maytree Primary School, which was organised by Newtown Residents’ Association.
About 100 residents turned up to hear more about the filming, and grill Love Productions’ creative director Kieran Smith, below.
There was a tense atmosphere throughout the course of the evening, and Mr Smith was booed as he entered to speak and jeered and heckled throughout.
Residents accused him and the production company of “inciting racism” by calling the programme Immigration Street.
Mr Smith responded by saying the name, which is still a working title, conveyed the message that the street had been “transformed” by immigration over several generations.
He said any resident who was filmed would have a chance to see the footage before it was used, and denied that residents were offered cash to take part.
He was asked several times what it would take for the company to decide not to continue filming the programme, but he said he was not in a position to cancel the programme or make any changes, as it would be a joint decision between Love Productions and Channel 4.
He said: “What we wanted to do with this series is find a street and we found Derby Road in an area which over the years has been transformed by immigration.
“What we’re not doing is saying that everyone who lives in it is an immigrant.
“What we wanted to do was to observe and reflect who lives in one street.”
But he failed to win over the residents at the tempestuous meeting, and was interrupted regularly by residents, some of whom held up banners reading “Go Away Love Productions, We Don’t Want You Filming Here”.
One said: “Do you realise the stigma that you are bringing on a community? For you it’s a six-to-eight-week project; for us it will go on for a generation.
“Do you appreciate that?”
Kate Gladders the service manager of Two Saints Day Centre in Frederick Street said she saw people being filmed outside the centre, one of whom had “quite distinctive National Front markings”.
She said: “I personally think that you chose that particular person because you wanted to incite some racial disharmony in the community.”
Mr Smith responded: “We are not cherry-picking vulnerable individuals and we are not here to cause racial tension.”
Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead, below, was one of the politicians who had urged Love Productions to stay away when the plans were first announced. He addressed the meeting, and urged Love Productions to think again.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I think the meeting showed that this company has picked the wrong community.
“Residents have said they want nothing to do with this and they really ought to listen to that.”
Two senior Labour city councillors – Jacqui Rayment and Satvir Kaur – also addressed Mr Smith at the meeting and urged him to listen to the residents.