BBC documentary highlights white flight in Newham

PUBLISHED: 14:50 17 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:44 18 May 2016

Debbie Oakman and her daughter Leanne. Picture: Ian Pierce/BBC pictures

Debbie Oakman and her daughter Leanne. Picture: Ian Pierce/BBC pictures

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A potentially controversial documentary focusing on the plight of Newham’s white working class population is to be aired by the BBC next week.

The film, called the Last Whites of the East End, focuses on the decline of the traditional cockney in a borough with the lowest white British population of anywhere in the country.

Debbie Oakman, who features in the documentary alongside her daughter Leanne, is angered by the fact her daughter will move to Essex when the family has lived in east London for generations.

“I’m still here because my Mum’s still here, and that’s how we were raised,” Debbie said. “And this is what I don’t get, that I am now losing my children to Essex because they don’t want to live in the east end and I still don’t know why?”

Not everyone in the documentary believes that the changing demographic of the area is a bad thing, especially for children.

Emma Peltier, Headteacher at Drew Primary School in Wythes Road, Newham, said: “children don’t see colour, children don’t see religion. Children don’t see all those things that adult’s see.”

Kelly Close, producer and director of Last Whites of the East End, spoke of the difficulty of getting people to talk about sensitive subjects like race and religion but hopes his film can change peoples attitudes.

“I hope that our film goes some way to liberate and question some unheard voices,” she said.

“And also to discuss the complexities and ironies of the exodus of the white British from this iconic place that is so much a part of their identity.”

The BBC is set to air the Last Whites of the East End next Tuesday, 24 May, at 10:45pm on BBC One.

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