A community group in Manchester has said the BBC show Manctopia ‘failed’ to properly highlight the experiences and needs of people living in social housing.
The four-part documentary series, which ended last week, focused on Manchester’s housing boom and looked at why developers were choosing to invest in the city.
But members of Greater Manchester Savers, a network of savings groups linking up residents from across Manchester, have objected to what they see as negative stereotyping of their communities in the programme, when they are actively working hard to achieve better outcomes and solutions.
Tina Cribbin, who lives in Hulme, said she was disappointed in how the show offered investor-driven development as the only possibility for Manchester’s housing future.
“Manctopia really disappointed me in so many different ways,” Tina said.
“I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I feel that we were totally not represented as communities who fight daily against the battles of gentrification and how that affects us.”
Tina is part of a community group called On Top of the World Hulme, which works alongside One Manchester Housing Association to look at supported accommodation provision for social housing tenants in Hulme.
Tina said that labels describing local areas as poor, disadvantaged or ‘donuts of deprivation’ were what disappointed her most when she watched the documentary.
“The BBC had the perfect opportunity to provide a balanced programme which showed the realities of living in the city centre,” she added.
“It gave nothing of my community and nothing of the people who live here and face this on a daily basis.”
In the documentary series, the Lifeshare charity which provides food for homeless people are seen having to move out of its city centre headquarters after 30 years and left to find an alternative venue outside the centre of town.
According to Roy Bennett, who also lives in Hulme, it’s a situation that many charities and community organisations in Manchester are being faced with.
Roy said he felt Manctopia missed an opportunity to look at how sufficient land could be protected for the future of community facilities and housing for older people.
“To get rid of these places and not even replace them with smaller areas where we can be I think is a bit nasty,” Roy said.
“There’s nowhere to go and it’s very difficult if you’ve got problems discussing it with someone.
“I think we’re being shoved to one side and nobody seems to be caring.”
Read more of today’s stories here
Ellie Trimble, who lives in Miles Platting and is a Church of England Rector in the area, said she was involved in early discussions about appearing in the series but had concerns about how they were going to tackle certain topics.
“It really felt like there was a hidden agenda,” Ellie said.
“I didn’t have an awful lot of confidence but still I would have hoped that the programme might have addressed some of the huge issues we’ve got in our city around housing.”
She added she was ‘disappointed’ in the documentary and said there were ‘massive missed opportunities’ to fix stigmas surrounding homelessness and night shelters.
“There’s really complex reasons that people find themselves on the street,” Ellie added.
“That made me cross that they didn’t really address that.”
The members of the group shared their thoughts on the television show as part of a blog post on the Greater Manchester Savers website in a bid to ‘give voice’ to what they felt were the real issues real issues concerning housing in Manchester.
The network is partnered with Community Led Action and Savings Support (CLASS), which provides professional support to savings groups affiliated to Greater Manchester Savers.
“Greater Manchester Savers feel that, ultimately, there was inadequate analysis of the local, national and international factors that are shaping the current housing crisis and resulting in people being displaced from the city,” said Sophie King from CLASS in a blog post written on the Greater Manchester Savers website.
At a time of national crisis, Greater Manchester Savers consider the airing of this series to have been misjudged and the nature of its directorial narrative to be misleading and unrepresentative.
“The suggestion that the main focus of the programme may not have been properly and clearly explained to some of the individuals interviewed is also concerning.”
A resident who appeared in the documentary series added that she felt ‘misled’ about her involvement and the true nature of what the show was going to focus on.
Thelma McGrail from Miles Platting briefly appeared in the documentary alongside resident Anne Worthington who was fighting against the potential redevelopment of her council estate in Collyhurst.
Thelma, who has been the founder and chairperson of the St George’s Day parade in Manchester for the last 17 years, said she became involved in the production because she thought it was going to focus on the Miles Platting community’s involvement in the parade.
“The disappointing side of it is that I didn’t realise what the programme was going to be about,” Thelma said.
“I thought it was going to be about community-based Miles Platting, Colyhurst, Ancoats and asking people of the communities what they wanted in the communities.
“Unfortunately it was all about the money and the power that was going into Miles Platting and Ancoats.”
Thelma also said she felt certain aspects of the documentary fed into negative stereotypes of the area and the local community weren’t given a chance to respond.
“I don’t think Manctopia fed anything into the community of Miles Platting and Ancoats,” Thelma added.
“It was a bit derogatory of Miles Platting when it was showing a show house for £240,000 saying it was all thieves and vagabonds whereas it’s proper hardworking people in Miles Platting.
“It wasn’t called for that kind of sentence and there wasn’t anyone there to rebut to tell people there were hardworking people in Miles Platting and not just scallies.
“If they had explained it to me I might have had a few other things to say about moving around but they didn’t tell me about that, I thought it was going to be more about the community.”
In response to the claims, BBC told the M.E.N the documentary series was a ‘snapshot’ of Manchester’s housing and development market and featured a ‘wide group’ of individuals.
“Manctopia is a four-part observational documentary series following people from across Manchester, interconnected by the city’s recent housing boom,” a BBC spokesperson said.
“In the making of the series, we spoke to and filmed with a wide group of people who offered their views on Manchester’s property boom.
“The programmes featured developers and decision-makers who are shaping the city; individuals and communities who want to keep calling their part of Manchester home; as well as some of the 5000 homeless people across the city and the charities that support them.
“The series shows a snapshot of what was happening in Manchester, in relation to housing and development, during the filming period.”
Video: The Openshaw street that is littered with dumped rubbish (Manchester Evening News)