An Indian-origin Labour councillor in Leicester has expressed “serious concerns” about a new Channel 4 documentary that scrutinizes the city’s renowned ethnic diversity.
The provocatively-titled ‘Make Leicester British’, which airs tonight, brings together eight residents of Leicester – four of them British citizens, the others recent migrants to the city.
The eight men and women will share a house together for several days before spending time living with each other in their separate homes.
The show is produced by the same people behind ‘Make Bradford British’, which won widespread critical acclaim but was criticized by politicians and members of the public in Bradford for showcasing the city as one which is deeply divided between white Britons and predominantly South Asian immigrants.
The follow-up documentary is already proving to be equally controversial.
Councillor Sundip Meghani
Leicester Councillor Sundip Meghani said he is concerned about the way the programme will portray community relations in the city, home to one of the largest Indian Diaspora communities in the world.
“For one thing the trailer begins with the following statement: ‘In one of Britain’s most diverse cities immigration polarises opinion.’ Most of us in Leicester know this is a lie”, Mr Meghani said.
“‘Polarises’ is a very strong word. It implies there are major disagreements in our city and that immigration is a huge issue for local people. This is simply untrue.
“It’s disappointing but unsurprising that Channel 4 regularly broadcasts controversial programmes such as this. ‘Benefits Street’ is another example. Channel 4 would have us believe they are a bastion of liberal media (but) in reality Channel 4 is a commercial organisation and in the end it all comes down to profits and advertising revenues”, Mr Meghani said in a blog post on his website.
“Immigration is one of many important issues we care about here in Leicester. But our people and our politicians do not talk irresponsibly about immigration or seek to blame immigrants for the ills of society.
“It is extremely offensive for the programme makers and for Channel 4 to suggest our city is not British, or that our ‘Britishness’ has somehow been diluted by the arrival of immigrants”, Mr Meghani added.
Other politicians, whilst reserving immediate judgment, appeared to also defend the city’s diversity.
Jonathan Ashworth, MP for Leicester South tweeted: “I’ll see what the TV show is actually like. But Leicester, proud of our rich diversity, is already British”.
Meanwhile, social media users – including scores of Leicester residents – have taken to Twitter to express their concerns as well with many saying that the trailer is ‘inflammatory’.
Others were bemused.
Melissa March said: “It strikes me Leicester already IS British: tolerant, interesting, liberal, diverse…maybe I’m missing something?”
Jamie Smith, who pens the ‘Futile Democracy blog, tweeted: “Having grown up in Leicester, I’m a little irritated by the ‘Make Leicester British’ title. The diversity is my Britain’.
Participant’s on tonight’s program – described by Channel 4 as a “social experiment” – include a 72-year-old man born and bred in Leicester; a 29-year-old landlady; a 63-year-old cafe owner and a 52-year-old Indian from East Africa, all of them British citizens.
Living with them will be a 36-year-old Lithuanian businessman, a 32-year-old Polish musician who has lived in Leicester for 12 years another Polish national – an ex-soldier who works as a security guard – and a 36-year-old single mother who moved to the city in 2004 after leaving Somalia.
The show’s executive producer Richard McKerrow said the show is a “timely and fitting” programme at a time when immigration dominates the political agenda.
“How we live together in such an ethnically diverse country as the UK is one of the most important and relevant issues facing us today”, McKerrow said.
‘Make Leicester British’ will be broadcast at 9 pm on Channel 4.