Hub and I are both now glued to Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ on Monday evenings, sometimes against our better judgement … as it was the street which ran behind our church in Birmingham, and we know many of the people in it.
I was pleased at the positive portrayal of the Romanian gypsies, showing that they had not applied for any benefits, and were there because they wanted to work, to send money back home for their families. They had been deceived by a bent gangmaster who was only paying them £10 a day for 8 hours’ work. When they complained to the police, their gangmaster and his cronies started driving round the street. Frightened, most of them moved on.
At one stage a grey-haired lady (her name is Sue) was going up the street with another guy (who runs our Community Garden), giving out leaflets about Britain in Bloom, to try and encourage the inhabitants to smarten up their environment and to take a bit of pride in it.
What was never said at any point was that this initiative was entirely led by our church.
The hall shown towards the end was our hall, and the people going up the street had been heavily involved in our Community Garden initiative right from the start. We’ve been working with our neighbours for some time, starting with a hanging basket workshop six years ago.
When the Community Minister was staying with us in October, she talked quite a lot about the Channel 4 project. She said she thought it was a pity, that out of all the good things that were happening, Channel 4 chose only the few moments when Big Dee had got into an argument with another woman over one child biting another. There was no mention of the fact that our CM was the one trying to make peace, nor of the fact that the black guy who led the other woman away was the pastor of the very lively Cameroonian church which meets weekly in our hall.
There’s something intentionally misleading and biased about this omission, a vested interest in withholding information. When the church is doing something good and positive and constructive, one has to ask what is behind this perverse attitude.