Who Made Your Pants?

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Immigration Street – not wanted here.

tl;dr – No-one round here wants Immigration Street including us; they asked us to be involved and even turned up at our door after we said no. We like immigration and hope; we don’t like immigration street

You may have heard that Love Productions, the production company behind programmes like Benefits Street and The Cruel Cut are filming a programme in Southampton called Immigration Street.

This has not been well received. People have travelled to the Channel 4 offices in London to protest about it. Public meetings have denounced it. The TUC have spoken out against it. There are petitions  against it. People here are making it clear that they don’t want it.

Derby Road, upon which the show is to focus, is a hop, skip and a jump from our tiny factory, Well, it’s a few hundred yards away, round the corner, over the level crossing and left.

It’s an energetic, vibrant street. I cycle along it if I’ve a meeting in town and it’s one of the few streets in Southampton where I see kids playing out. Cars go slowly here, knots of people chat and shop and bustle. Other streets issue off it up a slow hill, leading up to the Royal South Hampshire hospital. Cafes and shops change hands, change names regularly. It’s full of energy, entrepreneurship and hope.

I’ll be honest. This area, where we and Derby Road are – Northam, Newtown, St Mary’s – is not wealthy. It appears unfavourably in the Indices of Multiple Deprivations. It scores low on measures like Economic Engagement. The housing stock is not of great quality and the roads poorly maintained; it’s one of the cheaper parts of town to live. And so, when the successive waves of immigration have washed over this port city that we live in, this part of town has seen Ethiopian and Lebansese, Carribean, Turkish, Somali, Polish and Indian restaurants and shops open up alongside the Gurdwaras, Hindu temples, mosques and churches all around. St Mary’s, home of the Saints, is named for the church which still stands next to City College today, where many of our team here passed English exams.

Which bit of migration, exams and entrepreneurship doesn’t say hope to you? I see it everywhere.

Today, Derby Road is plastered with signs like these

Image from Guardian Sunday 8th Feb 2015

They’re in house and shop windows and on street signs in a glorious act of civil disobedience, designed to spoil camera angles. People are protecting their homes – the places they love.

We were approached by Love Productions. Back in April 2014 they emailed asking if they could talk to us. After conferring with the team, I said no. I then received another email, which I think wasn’t meant for me as it addressed someone else and said,

Thanks for this and sorry for my late reply. Shame that Becky isn’t keen. Do you think it’s worth me dropping in on the factory in person? Or best to leave it there?

I replied again saying thanks but no. I was starting to feel a bit Mama Bear about it.

Three months later, someone from the show turned up at the factory. They were asked to leave. The next day I received another email asking me to talk saying,

‘I fully respect that you don’t want your company to be involved, and I have no intentions of trying to twist your arm, I promise! It really would just be great to get a bit of your insight.

I replied that it didn’t feel very respectful to have said no repeatedly and to be pushed, repeatedly. If you know anything about my life, you’ll know that my ‘no’ not being heard is going to push a few of my buttons.

Like so many of the people who have spoken out against it, we’re concerned by what this show will do. Derby Road and this whole area is a diverse, energetic, entrepreneurial, hard grafting place – it doesn’t need tensions to be stirred up in the name of ratings.  For centuries people have entered Southampton from the water at this end of town, and while now people tend to arrive into the UK on planes, the one thing that unites them is that come with hope in their hearts for a brighter future. One they’ve travelled for. One they’re prepared to work for. One they’ll push their kids to study for.

We believe in hope, not hate. We believe in solidarity, sisterhood, supporting our neighbours; in the absolute benefits of immigration, and diverse societies. We’re proud to be where we are.

See you on Hope Street

(can you spot us?)

hope street hope not hate including pants factory (1)


Filed under: Uncategorized

10 Responses

  1. Love Derby Road for its multicultural nature and fabric shops. I fully support the campaign against Love Productions. How dare a TV company overide the wishes of the residents? Don’t they have any rights?

    • beckypants says:

      Our thoughts exactly – residents have a perfect right to privacy and to not be filmed. People have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to be on camera and not all of us want our five minutes of fame. Thanks for responding Francesca.

  2. smittenness says:

    I can’t see how anything called “Immigration Street” will be presented in any kind of balanced or respectful way. The title alone sounds divisive and poisonous. I teach people from abroad English, some are immigrants, some are refugees and they’re just as wonderful and annoying and brilliant and ordinary as I like to think I am. I hope I’m wrong but what are the chances this reduces a diverse group of people into “them” as opposed to “us”? I applaud your refusal to be involved and your patience in dealing with the repeated requests. x

    • beckypants says:

      Thanks so much for that comment – yes, quite, people are people are people, we’re all equally wonderful, annoying, brilliant and ordinary, and we’re all much much more the same than we are different. It will be interesting to see what happens after the show airs – we’re so glad it’s been reduced in length already. Thanks for commenting! x

  3. Great piece of writing and I am in agreement. A different show with a different name might have been more balanced or even shown some positive leadership in these times which are already verging on the nasty, where we are constantly being pitted against each other. Would love them to do ‘Banker Street’. ‘Tax Loophole Street’ or somesuch, but it’s easy pickings for them to kick people when they are down. There was a great article written recently that asked if a community can be said to have a voice if it constantly says no to filming and the production company goes ahead anyway? I think it’s a bloody nerve to have left Derby Road inhabitants for decades to get on with it, then to poke a camera into their lives for ratings. Glad people got together to protect themselves.

  4. It makes me feel deeply ashamed of our country that such a programme could even be considered as anything other than an attempt to inflame things. We have always had a history of welcoming others but that all seems to have gone by the board. I wonder how those who view immigrants with suspicion and hostility would feel if the boot were on the other foot – I guess they’d be hoping for kindness and compassion.

    • beckypants says:

      Thanks for this Janette. We’re proud of the welcome this country has extended to so many people – including, for example, my Austrian gran. We’d put money on the fact that most people have immigration in their not very distant past! Thanks for taking to the time to reply. Becky

  5. Jan Kewley says:

    I spent my student years around Derby Road, and it even to a pretentious middle-class student like me it was friendly, fun and a real community of communities.
    This kind of programme sneers and looks down its Daily Mail nose at people. It encourages people to make scapegoats of those who least deserve their contempt. It divides and ‘others’, dehumanising immigrants like it has dehumanised the unemployed. They aren’t “people like us” so they aren’t really people. This is what the likes of UKIP and EDF trade on.
    I’m very glad the locals have made a stand. I hope they can keep the production crew out all together. Let us know if there is anything we can do, please!

    • beckypants says:

      Wow, what a reply! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. We agree (lovely phrase) it’s a real community of communities. You may have heard the latest – the show is now just one hour, rather than six hours. To air on the 24th Feb. We’re not sure here if we’ll watch it yet…

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