Channel 4 has commissioned Love Productions to make a new 6 part documentary series which will follow the lives of people who live in Derby Road, Southampton. Love Productions have chosen this road because they claim up to 60% of the residents living there were born outside of England.
Immigration is one of the most divisive issues in the UK and this documentary has the potential to cause tensions within the community and the city.
I have been asked on numerous occasions what my view of this documentary is. Of course many of those asking are attempting to draw me into a political trap so I refuse to answer yes or no to the question, am I in favour or not, because it is more complicated than that.
We all know this documentary is likely to be controversial. Like its predecessor, Benefit Street, the show’s producers want people to talk about it. They wouldn’t be wasting their time if no one was going to watch. The problem with this type of TV series is the people who are likely to voice their views the loudest are frequently the most ill informed.
I attended a meeting in inner city Southampton where local people made their opinions clear. They do not want this documentary filmed in Southampton. The meeting was very heated and tempers were running high. But the points that local residents made were valid and understandable. They can see no good coming from this documentary and I agree with that position.
The reason why I refuse to give a yes or no answer to the question, am I in favour of the show or not, is because it is largely irrelevant what I think. I don’t live in Derby Road and I have no intention of watching Immigration Street. I have not seen any of the Benefit Street series either. As I mentioned earlier, these documentaries are designed to spark debate and this one is no exception.
The relevant question must surely be if I lived in Derby Road would I take part? The answer to that is an emphatic no. This show would not work if firstly, no one took part and more importantly, no one watched it. Unfortunately, like Benefit Street there are plenty of residents willing to take part and even more people happy to watch.
We are all entitled to an opinion. I would rather this show was not filmed here, but if not where? In an ideal world this documentary would be a ratings flop and Channel Four and Love Productions would move on to something else. But I think we all know what will happen. I hope those that criticise me and others will not commit the ultimate hypocrisy and watch this series when it is screened next year.