A load of pork pies: Green Street sees red at hooligan film
Saturday 27 August 2005
But those who live, work and shop in the bustling east London street on which the film is based were yesterday projecting a rather different image.
The film, featuring the Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood and due to open in cinemas across Britain next week, has courted controversy with its graphic scenes of violence involving West Ham United fans.
But residents and business-owners on the diverse street - where pie-and-mash cafés stand next to samosa and sari shops - are bristling at how their colourful and diverse area has been depicted as a hotbed of football hooliganism.
"The makers of this movie are irresponsible," said Sir Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham.
"They have taken the name of a vibrant, bustling, multicultural street which is a magnet for people interested in fashion, jewellery and food and labelled it a violence place which it is not.
"The very least the film-makers could have done was invent a fictional street and a fictional football club but all they are about is making a quick buck."
The street lies in one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in London where the number of Asians - 65 per cent - and the black community - 15 per cent - far outnumbers the white population, which stands at around 16 per cent.
Despite its negative portrayal in the film, the street is often held up as a shining example of the positive effects of multiculturalism in London's East End.
The street, in the shadow of West Ham United's stadium, attracts shoppers, particularly among the Asian community, from across the capital.
Harvie Singh, 34, the son of a businessman from Ilford, who normally visits Green Street at least once a week, said he was always impressed at how much of a cultural melting pot the street was.
"Coming to Green Street is like a cultural event, there are all sorts of communities, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, living here. It makes you feel closer to your community. If the film shows something different to what it is then it can only be a misrepresentation of the truth," he said.
Residents and traders in Green Street believe the film's portrayal of violence among West Ham's supporters is incorrect. Many believe the violence prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s is no longer seen on the street. Some stallholders strained to remember an era when the street did face the football hooliganism of West Ham's infamous Inter City Firm (ICF).
Joan and David Holt, owners of Pie, Mash and Eels, a café they began running 22 years ago, said they were offended by the film if it was supposed to portray the street as it was now. "Green Street is now mostly an Asian area. It is a sort of Oxford Street for Asians. To say there is football violence now is wrong. There may have been violence at one time and I hope the film makes it clear they are not talking about now," said Mrs Holt.
Mr Holt, who has owned a season ticket for more than 15 years and only recently gave it up, said that he had witnessed bottle-throwing and animosity between West Ham fans and outsiders, but he had never felt intimated while at the football ground and had taken his young son to most games.
"We are talking years and years ago - it's all so quiet now. I hope that's not what people think about when they think of Green Street. Other parts of London have far more problems," he said.
Jane Downes 35, a fruit and veg stall owner who was born and brought up on Green Street, said she had witnessed football hooliganism but that was at least two decades ago.
"The ICF ruled the street. It was a dangerous place, bottles would fly everywhere and I couldn't walk down the road when I was about nine years old. It is part of our history but everything has changed since then. Everyone gets on with everyone else, there's all colours here, we live happily," she said.
Jack Ferguson, a songwriter originally from the Caribbean who had been living intermittently on Green Street for years, said that he had been away to Italy and came back two years ago when he noticed that the street had been transformed. "I really noticed the progress when I came back, there's a fantastic improvement so I don't think the film is relevant to now," he said.
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