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BBC documentary about Newham criticised ahead of broadcast

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 May 2016

Newham is the subject of a BBC documentary

Newham is the subject of a BBC documentary

Archant

People of all backgrounds have been speaking out against a new BBC documentary about the decline of Newham’s white British population.

The new BBC film, Last Whites of the East End, which is set to air tonight, has claimed in pre-show material that half the white British population left Newham during the last 15 years.

However census figures show that despite a decline between 2001 and 2011, from 81,390 to 51,516, significantly less than 50 per cent, the white British population is still the largest ethnic group in the borough.

Many residents and community leaders have spoken out about the reported content of the documentary.

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales said: “The distorted image of our borough reportedly portrayed in this documentary is not one I or the majority of our residents identify with.”

He added that he would be “hugely disappointed” if the programme is as negative as recent reports suggest.

“This would mean the BBC is broadcasting the kind of sensationalist stories that just stir up tensions across communities,” he said.

But the documentary’s executive producer, Emma Wakefield, has said the show celebrates many aspects of life in the borough.

She said: “This film tells the story of East Enders dealing with rapid change and voicing their personal opinions about what is happening to their culture and communities.

“It celebrates many corners of Newham, discovering hidden communities that support each other and thrive and reflecting a wide range of experience, telling the stories of those embracing change as well as those who have chosen to leave.”

Cllr Dianne Walls, who worked as a teacher in Newham for 42 years, believes that the influx of people coming to the borough through immigration has had a positive impact.

“We used to have nativity and Diwali plays, and in 13 years as a headteacher I only had two parents object to the plays,” she said. “I don’t understand how people can’t see how good these things can be in terms of us all getting along,” she added.

“I’m really concerned that this is coming out as it reflects a small minority, I live here and it’s a very strong community,” said Vivian Archer, who runs Newham Bookshop in Barking Road, Upton Park.

Basharat Ahmad Pir, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Newham, was saddened by the film’s reported content.

“Why they don’t want to live here I can’t say. If white people are leaving the borough then it is not right because we need to live together,” he said.

Last Whites of the East End airs tonight on BBC One at 10.45pm.

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