Eastenders, Sue Atkins, Michael Winner and Piers Morgan on Balham!

Profile image for aloquifique

By aloquifique | Friday, January 14, 2011, 13:45

So, 2011 and  it seems that Balham Bashing isn't going away.  

Last year Balham was referred to frequently  in BBC1's long running soap Eastenders where character Billie Jackson had  gone and ingratiated himself with a  notorious and violent gang in Balham, much to his mothers distress.

On blogs and twitter everyone who knows the area found the story line almost hilarious.  Had the writers ever been to Balham?  If they had done their research properly,  they'd realise the only gangs who maraud the streets are gangs of mums or nannies with buggies!!  I mean, for goodness sake.  Rupert Alexander, who has a studio here was commissioned to paint the Queen last year! @AndrewBober on Twitters writes 'it was really poor research on part of Eastenders team re. Balham.  It is a v middle-class part of Wandsworth. {sic}

When I asked the Eastenders production team to comment, here's what they said. "Although some of Billie's friends or associates are from Balham we have never implied the area had a problem with gangs".  They key word here is 'implied'.  By implication my fear is that those who know Balham less well will now make subconscious erroneous judgements almost by osmosis.

Here's the kind of thing I mean. Sue Atkins, the well know TV Parenting Expert wrote recently in her blog that she didn't mind if either plumbers or entrepreneurs came from Eton or Balham.  A throwaway comment which Sue admitted 'just popped into her head', but a telling one nevertheless.  The implication here is that Balham is the polar opposite to Eton.  Out of all the places in the UK, she opted for Balham when we have outstanding schools, bankers about to get whopping city bonuses and very expensive housing.

Even Michael Winner, film producer and writer, is having a war today {14 Jan 2011} on Twitter with Balham residents.  He's gone and labeled Balham as 'dull'.   The subsequent backlash has prompted a limp apology, "I apologise to the citizens of Balham. 2 of them are outraged by my jokey remarks that it wasn't the cultural and joy centre of the world".   Well, I can confirm it was way more than two.  Even Piers Morgan, CNN's new chat show host, waded into the fracas writing on Twitter "leave Balham alone, lived there for years and it's a great place."

So where's it all going to end up.  The Balham Partnership has a clear target in it's business plan  for 2010/11 to 'Promote Balham as a destination to those living further afield'.  Whilst Kim Sullivan, Balham Town Centre Manager. agrees these referrals are 'unfortunate', she does not intend to "stop endeavouring to position Balham as a great place to live, work, shop, visit and meet."  It seems like we know that, but the BBC has happily taken care of the hearts and minds of those living further afield.



  • Profile image for ianfreeman

    The local authority could at least have contacted the BBC about this. Anyone who has worked in PR for more than ten minutes would know to invite the EastEnders writers/producers down here to show them what we have to offer - great PR both for Balham and the show. Wake up at the back, there!

    By ianfreeman at 19:10 on 14/01/11

  • Profile image for aloquifique

    Oh the map of Balham is from the inside of Andrews Estate Agent opposite the station. It's a blow up of the AtoZ mounted on board.

    By aloquifique at 18:39 on 14/01/11

  • Profile image for NickMilo

    I agree with you, Balham should be defended where there is cause and it's damaging to the area's trade or reputation. I personally am a Balham advocate - I've lived here on and off for about 10 years - and will continue to be so when I've left.

    I think what I was arguing against was the fragile social constructs in which some people live within, causing them to be very precious about any misconceived remarks relating, directly or indirectly, to their social standing or the projected image they are trying to sustain. God forfend their peers judge them!

    I could be talking total rubbish. But anyway, where did the map in that picture come from? I want one.

    By NickMilo at 17:03 on 14/01/11

  • Profile image for aloquifique

    I think all who know Balham find the whole Eastenders thing amusing and in essence I agree with your points - who cares? But it does make a difference if trying to entice people to use Balham and its services from elsewhere proves harder because of wrong labels.

    By aloquifique at 16:39 on 14/01/11

  • Profile image for NickMilo

    I found the Eastenders reference to Balham amusing when I saw it aired but, really, who cares about the other 'negative' namechecks?

    Is it really important to have some bankers in the area? Or an artist that has painted the queen? Does the whole area live vicariously through these people? Does that make us Balhamites credible in the eyes of people living in areas perceived to be wealthier or more fashionable? Nope. Thought not.

    I do find it funny how the middle-classes - now they've all been so kind to 'gentrify' the area - are so desparate to jump to the defence of their 'territory' (on Twitter etc) in light of some weakly perceived slur on its worth, or the class, of people living within it.

    Either way, where can I find a map of Balham the size of the one in the photo?

    Cheers...Nick M

    By NickMilo at 15:18 on 14/01/11

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