Tuesday, May 24, 2016

This is not a Newham I recognise

Seriously it's not. That image is of Whitechapel Road in Tower Hamlets - the old Royal London Hospital building is prominent on the left. If this Daily Mail article can't even get the right borough (and it's far from alone in using this image), what hope accurate reporting?

Tonight BBC1 is broadcasting Last Whites of the East End about the white residents of my home borough Newham. This is the borough with the lowest proportion of "White British" residents (although they're still the largest single demographic) and has experienced a lot of population movement in the last fifteen years, with many moving out settling in boroughs further east. This is a subject that should be handled sensitively but I fear will instead spawn many kneejerk ignorant articles and posts.

So I'll just say one thing up front. I live just off Green Street (where Upton Park tube station is) and I have never thought I am in Baghdad or any other hypersensational comparison. The only time I have ever been scared around Green Street has been when West Ham were playing Millwall.

In a way the old Newham lives on in another form. It contains Stratford, which gave the last half of its name to "Walford". You can even find a real life street called Albert Square here (sadly no Queen Vic pub). And the E20 post code is now a reality, covering the Olympic Park in Stratford. But EastEnders doesn't remotely reflect modern life. It's an extension of a glamorised past projected forward, not some hidden corner.

I will be watching the documentary with interest to see how accurate a portrayal it gives or whether it sensationally plays with fire. I know I am far from the only person in Newham who wants to make sure the wider world sees an accurate portrayal.


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