UEL academic says Last Whites of the East End highlights ‘complex issue’
PUBLISHED: 17:06 25 May 2016 | UPDATED: 13:55 26 May 2016
An academic from the University of East London has spoken out in support of a recent BBC documentary about the declining white working class population in Newham.
Dr Ruth Cherrington, an expert on working class communities and traditions, said the Last Whites of the East End opened up a discussion that is hard for some people to talk about.
“It is a phenomenon that can be controversial to talk about. That’s something I think the documentary did quite well,” she said. “It represented different groups without making out these groups are racist.”
Dr Cherrington also pointed out that the documentary brought up some uncomfortable home truths about modern Britain society.
“It raises the question of multiculturalism and does it work? It’s a complex issue. You can’t say we’ll only have white working class people living in an area.”
The documentary, which aired last night on BBC1, partly focused on the West Ham working men’s club and the how it was one of the last bastions for the white working class community to meet.
According Dr Cherrington the social clubs offer the white working class community a place to meet much like religious groups can at their place of worship.
“I’m not saying communities should stay the same but if we want a multicultural society we must provide spaces for people to mix, and also to do things other groups don’t,” Dr Cherrington added.
Dr Cherrington also said the one area that the documentary failed to focus on was the current state of social housing.
“In the past a lot of social housing was comprised of white working class people and if you lose that social housing you have to move out and away. It also comes at a time when there is immigration coming from all parts of the world,” she said.
“When people don’t feel like they belong anymore it’s because all their points of contact are gone,” she added.
The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, released a statement today reiterating his disappointment with the ‘sensationalist’ documentary.
“The borough has changed over the years like many other areas across the country for a wide range of reasons from changes in the economy, house prices and the general transient nature of our population. But the image of Newham as having no community spirit is not one that I or the majority of our residents identify with,” he said.
“However, it is important that we listen to the views of every resident within our borough and look at how we can deliver a strong and cohesive community based on fairness for all.”