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The Street

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First episode dateApril 13, 2006
Creators Jimmy McGovern
Writers Jimmy McGovern
Networks BBC
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About The Street

Prolific television writer Jimmy McGovern is the creative force behind this award-winning drama, which first aired on the BBC. Each season consists of six one-hour episodes that tell stand-alone stories about the residents who live on the same street in Manchester, England. Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Gina McKee, Jane Horrocks and David Thewlis are among the all-star cast who have appeared on `The Street'. …

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May 28,2023 7:20 pm

By Ashitha NageshCommunity affairs correspondent

Far-right groups have been stoking tensions in UK towns by posting inflammatory leaflets through people's doors and staging anti-migrant rallies. In one town in South Wales , a local community has banded together and is planning a peaceful counter-protest.

Annie , 73, has lived in Llantwit Major on the South Coast of Wales for More Than 50 Years . She lives in an Old Church building, loves guerrilla gardening and co-ordinates a seed-swap with other gardening enthusiasts in her community.

She has seen her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren Grow Up in The Town .

And now, she is one of the unlikely ringleaders of a local pushback against a national far-right group that is targeting Llantwit Major .

It is not a fight Annie pictured herself taking on.

Patriotic Alternative has been staging anti-migrant protests across the UK, and leafleting communities where there are existing tensions about the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers.

It started leafleting Llantwit Major in February, soon after Vale of Glamorgan Council announced that temporary houses for refugees were going to be built on The Site of a closed-down primary school. The leaflets promoted a protest against the development on 25 March, and read: " Llantwit says no to a migrant camp" and: " No more Migrants - Wales is full".

Like many in The Town , Annie had Never Heard of Patriotic Alternative. But she started to feel their influence.

Debates on The Local Facebook group became increasingly heated. Friendly Small Talk in cafes and on The Street quickly turned into anxious conversations.

On 21 February, The Town 's football club posted a statement on Social Media saying: " Racism, xenophobia and discrimination have No Place in Llantwit".

Shortly afterwards, the Cardiff branch of a national anti-racism organisation came to Llantwit Major , meeting people who were Worried and promising to co-ordinate a response.

Then there was Radio Silence .

" I just thought, 'this is ridiculous, let's just get on with it, what's stopping us?'" another Llantwit Resident - Rhian , whose name we've Changed - Told Bbc News .

Rhian created a new WhatsApp group chat made up of anyone she thought might be Worried - including The Head of the knitting club, the football club's matchday DJ and The Town 's punk-turned-priest, Father Edwin Counsell.

Like Most People in The Group , Jack, the football club DJ who also works at His Family 's cafe, Told Bbc News that he doesn't have a background in political activism. But he felt protective of his community and the " misfits" that live there: " Llantwit is overwhelmingly a very positive, friendly town… where weirdos and eccentrics are welcome. "

The Group said the idea of a full-blown counter-protest felt intimidating - They didn't want to inadvertently invite agitators of any political background.

In The End , They felt The Best way to challenge The Group was with non-violent Resistance - " The Spirit of welcome" Fr Counsell Told Bbc News .

The Day will Kick Off with an overnight vigil at The Church The Night before, He Said , followed by a Welsh Cake giveaway during The Day . Another church will also open a space during The Day for anyone feeling anxious about Patriotic Alternative.

" Welsh cakes are a symbol of hospitality, " Fr Counsell said. " So if you meet a far-right, neo-fascist bonehead who looks out of place here, the critical question you must ask that person is: 'Would You Like a Welsh Cake ?'"

It has been branded a " day of kindness".

" Do I want to welcome these people to Llantwit? " Fr Counsell said. " To tell you The Truth , I don't, I want them to go away and let us get on with sorting out a local issue. But if They are going to come, then I hope They see something in our welcome. "

There is, however, undeniable tension in The Town - Annie said she has occasionally been challenged while handing out leaflets for the " day of kindness". One Man spoke to her at length about " how much he hated Muslims" She Said .

Another Woman Told her she'd just bought and renovated A House near The Site of the development, and that while she was happy for Ukrainians to be housed there, " if anyone else comes, I'm moving".

But the issue is not black and white - and for many in The Town , their opinions sit in a Grey Area . Some generally approve of the rehousing of asylum seekers, But disagree with how the plans are being carried out. Annie , for example, said she agrees with The Principle But worries that those in the new houses will be segregated from the rest of The Town .

Others worry that a sudden increase in population could put a strain on local services. One Woman , responding to The Council 's announcement on Facebook, wrote that Llantwit is " a Small Town which is already growing too fast for it to cope… Now we have this".

In particular, A Number of people hoped The Site was going to be used to build a new health centre, which those behind The Day of kindness said They understood and sympathised with. But this is also something Patriotic Alternative has directly seized on in its posts targeting The Town , with slogans such as: " Where's the medical centre? ".

Llantwit Major is not a single case. Patriotic Alternative has targeted other towns in the UK, often where there are hotels used as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

In north Rotherham, leaflets warned residents of " white genocide". The Group has made several visits to Skegness, where tensions are already high around The Occupation of hotels, which some residents feel would otherwise be used by holidaymakers. A demonstration outside a hotel in Kirkby, Merseyside, in February, made News Headlines when it descended into disorder.

Patriotic Alternative has a significant reach online, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) Told Bbc News . Analysis from CCDH found that tweets posted by Patriotic Alternative's founder, Mark Collett , were collectively viewed More Than 10. 6 million times before he - and The Group - were suspended from Twitter on 23 February.

Now, The Group primarily shares content on less mainstream platforms.

" Smaller Social Media platforms, out of the glare of intense scrutiny, are incredibly dangerous breeding grounds for extremism, " Callum Hood, head of research at the CCDH, Told Bbc News .

Councillors, community leaders and groups which work with refugees in the affected areas have Told Bbc News that hotels are often in inappropriate locations, and local communities and councils are only involved at The Last minute, if at all.

In Knowsley, The Council said it had been given 48 Hours ' notice before The Hotel was used to house asylum seekers.

And in Llantwit, even those who are positive about the housing development believe it was " sprung" upon the community without much notice. Vale of Glamorgan Council has said it only got permission to build the houses in December.

The Home Office Told Bbc News it will " continue to engage with local authorities as early as possible, whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people".

Tim Squirrell, from The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), Told Bbc News that it is exactly these kind of " wedge issues in local areas" that are exploited by The Group , to " boost their profile and gain recruits".

Patriotic Alternative sees concerns around immigration and asylum as "'winning issues' that will gain them local support and allow them to introduce people to their more overtly extreme beliefs" He Said .

On its website, Patriotic Alternative describes itself as a " Community Building and activism group" and campaigns about what it claims are " issues such as the demographic decline of native Britons in the United Kingdom , the environmental impact of mass immigration and the indoctrination and political bias taking place in British schools".

For Annie , thinking about the prospect of a far-right group coming to her town makes her feel " scared, anxious and horrified" - But at the same time, she says she is " amazed at how solidly everyone is behind us".

Jack agreed. Despite the flyers, He Said Most People didn't want the protest to happen: " What you generally find is how diplomatic it is here. People actually listen to each other, consider things and find compromises. "

Even for most of those who are concerned about the housing development, He Said , " They 're Like - 'yeah, But we don't want here'".

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