Southmead police and residents hit back at BBC Panorama 'racism' claims
Criticism of a Panorama documentary as an "unfair portrayal" of life in Southmead has been led by police Inspector Mark Runacres, who is in charge of policing on the estate.
He has been supported by teachers, business people, councillors and ordinary residents who say the incidents of racist abuse and violence presented on the BBC1 programme, called Hate on the Doorstep, were not a fair representation of daily life.
There are some people who agree that the show gave an accurate picture of life on the estate, but most are furious at the implication that the area is rife with racism.
In the programme, two undercover Asian reporters posed as husband and wife and spent two months living in the area. They used hidden cameras and microphones to record incidents, which included physical as well as verbal abuse.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
In one incident in the programme, Tammana Rahman, aged 19, had stones thrown at her and was told to get out of the area.
In another, an 11-year-old boy threatened to slit her throat and kick her "back to Paki land".
But Inspector Runacres said: "We believe this documentary is an unfair portrayal of Southmead and the vast majority of people that live there.
"Of course any incidence of racism is totally unacceptable and we always deal with it robustly but we want to make it clear this documentary only concentrates on a small handful of individuals from the Southmead area.
"Despite the impression that Panorama may have given, Southmead does not have a disproportionately higher incidence of race-hate crimes than other areas in Bristol or indeed across the UK."
Work involving the police, city council and other agencies in the area includes a youth club and youth projects, multi-cultural events, the Family Intervention Project to tackle problem families and a scheme called Operation Staysafe where youngsters can be taken off the streets by police at night and their parents called.
Liberal Democrat cabinet member Gary Hopkins said that the council and police had already been working with the youngsters shown in the programme before it was aired.
Two of them are involved with family intervention projects, and he said that one in particular was showing "phenomenal progress".
Mr Hopkins said: "Whilst we know we still have more to do in the area, the programme did not reflect this in anyway."
Some residents the Post spoke to said that the programme was true to life on the estate.
One, a 46-year-old Muslim woman in a head scarf, who did not want to be named, said that many of the incidents shown on the programme had also happened to her and her 10-year-old son on numerous occasions since she moved to Southmead two years ago.
A 47-year-old man, who also did not want to be named, said: "It was a fair representation of what things are like here."
But he added: "The problem is anti-social behaviour generally – not just racism."
The last line sums up the thoughts of most of the people the Post spoke to – the people filmed in the programme would probably target you with abuse regardless of your race.
Barbara Daykin, head teacher at Little Mead Primary in Gosforth Road, said: "Those youths are not representative of Southmead as a whole. But I think what a lot of people here are saying is that it is not an issue of race – it is a problem of general anti-social behaviour."
She said that a quarter of the school's pupils were from ethnic minority backgrounds and got on well.
Similarly, 20 per cent of pupils at Fonthill Primary in Ascot Road are from ethnic minorities and head teacher Stephen Dand told the Post that the school is working actively with the charity SARI (Support Against Racist Incidents) to challenge racist attitudes.
Gill Waines from the United Reformed Church on Wigton Crescent admitted Southmead had its bad side, but said: "There are so many good young people here who would never have treated the two people in that way.
"The majority of people accept there is diversity in the estate."
Hussein Syed and Deeps Bhogl opened Greystoke Car Spares in Greystoke Avenue about a year ago and say they have had no problems with racist abuse.
Mr Bhogl, 50, lives in Downend. He said: "I was born in Uganda, and Hussein was born in Pakistan. But we have never been called names or treated badly by kids round here. Kids come into the shop and we talk to them, we have a bit of banter."
Southmead youth worker Lesley Lenton said: "I thought the programme was unbalanced. Ninety Nine per cent of the kids I work with are just not like that. I recognised some of the people in the film and they're people we work with, we don't just let this happen round here, we know who is a problem. Most of the kids are great, they love sport and playing football and visiting the community centre."
Several people the Post spoke to felt the film had been a "set-up".
Karen Green, manager of the SCARTinformation shop in Greystoke Avenue, said: "Some of the footage was contrived. It was in streets where people are known to act like that, it's not like that in every street in Southmead. A lot is being done by the council and community groups to work with the kids in the film. It was a totally one-sided point of view."
The father of Sonny Clark, the 11-year-old boy from Southmead who was seen calling a female Panorama undercover reporter racist names, threatening to slit her throat and attempting to steal her bag, has apologised on behalf of his son.
Peter Clark said he believed Sonny had been brought up better than he had been portrayed on Panorama and that he was shocked to see his behaviour on the programme.
Mr Clark, 43, a builder from Westleigh Road whose mother is of mixed race, said: "He was a nasty little thug on the telly. He's actually a sweet kid. He wasn't brought up to be racist, that's for sure.
"I had never seen him like that before. I was shocked, the whole family were. The first I knew about it was when I saw the programme.
"I don't like the kids he hangs around with. He's been led astray. But that's still no excuse and I would like to apologise on behalf of him. What he did should never have happened."
● A 22-year-old man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of racially aggravated assault and an 11-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of the same offence as well as on suspicion of attempted robbery, as a result of police inquiries following the Panorama programme.
Julie Semple, 52, owner of Ali's Hair Design, Southmead, said: "I have complained to the BBC because my business could be clearly seen in the programme, they kept showing the sign above the shop. The reporters certainly had an agenda. They went looking for trouble. There's good and bad everywhere."
Daniel Kemp, 29, website manager, said: "The programme was not represent-of the community that I know in Southmead.
"Obviously you can't account for the stuff that went on, you cannot make excuses for it, but it was all done by a small minority."
Lorraine Hutchinson, 43, out of work, Southmead, said: "There are some decent people here, it's just certain families.crime can be very bad, especially car crime. I tend not to go out at night because of the gangs of youths hanging around."
Sadie Chandler, 30, single parent, Knowle, said: "My parents live in Southmead and I often come here. I think that black people and white people get on better than Asians and whites. I think Asians are more scared. That's why they get beaten up."
Owen Vhotman, 28, security guard at Aldi, Southmead, said: "I was laughing when I was watching the programme because it was all true and I've seen it happen to me. Although most of the people here are friendly I have been racially abused. It's the kids."
Christine Priest, 54, registered disabled, Southmead, said: "It's all right living in South-. There's a strong community here. There are some very nice people in the estate. It's definitely not all bad."
Hussein Syed, 39, owner of Greystoke Car Spares, Southmead, said: "It was just not true. I have lived here for nearly seven years, no problems. My wife has no trouble either. We have no trouble at all - not racist comments or any kind of abuse."
Zoe Alexander, 27, recruitment consultant, Southmead, said: "I think it gave the wrong side of Southmead. It just showed the bad ones, we are not all like that. We are not racist but there are people who cause some trouble round here."
Scott Sanders, 35, unemployed, Southmead, said: "I think it was a bit of a set-up. They put themselves in that street and provoked trouble. Southmead is not that bad, but the show made us all look really racist."
Kathleen Glover, 51, a church minister, Southmead, said: ""I have lived here all my life. Yes, there are sometimes problems but it is anti-social behaviour, not racism. I think the programme was unfair. This is a very mixed-race area and everyone gets on OK."