Exploitation TV coming to a coffee shop near you

It’s always good to watch out when the national media comes to Croydon. Laden with preconceptions and unfortunate stereotypes, their tone is normally unhelpful about Croydon’s difficulties.

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Michael Selwyn: exploited by C4, and others?

Another exploitative effort comes from Channel 4 on Tuesday night, when the second series of The Undateables comes to our screens.

The first series was controversial, regarded by some critics as a 21st century version of the Victorian freak show, exploiting public revulsion in much the same way as circus ring-masters once did.

The first episode of the second series will focus on Michael Selwyn, a 26-year-old Croydon resident whose autism leaves him bright but distracted by detail.

Let’s hope that Selwyn’s intelligence will shine through, as he is interviewed at Matthew’s Yard, a Croydon coffee shop off Surrey Street that is a popular haunt for local Conservative party supporters and members of its “Glee Club” – a clique, many with vested interests, with some who try to deny the town’s short-comings. Matthew’s Yard hyper-active publicity machine has already been boasting publicly of the venue’s involvement with the TV show.

Talking of exploitation, it is unknown whether the businessman who is the sole owner of Matthew’s Yard sought a “facility fee” for use of his location by the TV producers, or whether it was done at no charge as a “community” project. #cushty, as DelBoy might have said.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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15 Responses to Exploitation TV coming to a coffee shop near you

  1. Inside Croydon made me aware that the Yard existed. I covered it in Shirley Life and tried to help the owner. Shappy chic is attractive in very small doses to a European.

    The coffee was undrinkable and I went as far as providing decent quality coffee for the owner to try.
    I never heard about the trial.

    I am a Londoner at heart and never set foot in the place again

  2. I think the coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had. Certainly the best I’ve had in Croydon.

  3. Interesting views about both the programme and Matthews Yard.
    I’m a regular at the Yard, and nobody could describe me as a “local Conservative party supporter” or a “members of its “Glee Club””. I think it’s a great place to meet people, just read or for meetings … in fact I’m having a work meeting there this afternoon, discussing equality and diversity training at the charity I work for (@diabetes UK)

  4. I’ve spent a lifetime tackling exploitation and discrimination of the most vulnerable in society so I’m not sure how you came to this conclusion about me.

    I haven’t seen the programme so can’t comment on it, however, I have seen other programmes and heard about the examples of how some countries in Europe support people who have difficulty finding relationships because of disabilities. It’s clearly a controvercial topic.

    My comments were about Matthews Yard, not the programme. In the interests of balance, quite a few Labour Party members / supporters also visit the Yard on a regular basis.

    • As someone who has “spent a lifetime tackling exploitation and discrimination of the most vulnerable in society”, then maybe you ought to be expected to have better awareness of where such exploitation is taking place, such as in a craven publicity stunt. As we have stated previously, in many ways, it is simply a matter of taste.

      Your comments about Matthews Yard are off-topic: the article is about the TV programme, not a review of the coffee shop.

      Were you asked by anyone at the coffee shop to post your comments?

  5. Dearie me! It seems that one cannot express an opinion without ruffling feathers. Why?

    I stand by my opinion on the quality of coffee but will add “espresso” to clarify the matter. I leave all other “coffees” to other people to enjoy. Unicuique suum.

    Nice to meet you in Inside Croydon, Raj. I thought you had vanished. Come for coffee in Shirley: you are always welcome.

    I am not really interested in the clientele of any premises. I usually go to public places with friends and will pay a second visit only if I enjoy a place. No publicity will transform a pumpkin into a carriage. Hard cash might.

    TV: I do not watch a lot of it and I would not watch The Undateables. There is enough misery around us.

  6. I have to say I don’t find The Undateables exploitative in the slightest. If anything it gives me greater understanding for people who are different from myself. I have never watched an episode and laughed at someone, laughed with, but never at. If anything I watch it and it makes my heart smile. It reminds me of the innocence and pureness of love. Something that maybe can get lost nowadays. I think that Michael came across as a really lovely, sweet guy. I was rooting for him to find a date, not laughing at him.

    I’ve never actually been to Matthews Yard so I can’t comment on their coffee. I did however support them in their expansion plans. I didn’t even see it as a donation as such because my ‘donation’ was £20. That actually bought me a lunch or brunch for 2 people with tea or coffee and a dessert. I would pay that for a lunch in other places in Croydon for sure. I wanted to support them because for me, Croydon needs more independent, creative spaces. I liked their values/ideals such as giving the space for rehearsals to theatre groups etc. Even just on a simple level of having another independent venue that could hold an open mic/comedy/music night etc that I would visit. More affluent areas of London have these very kind of establishments and when I discovered it on the web I got excited that this would be coming to Croydon. I’m sure that other venues like this exist already in Croydon but I was happy to support one more.

    • This is a fascinating example of the use of comments on websites.

      Let’s assume that the poster does actually exist, they go to great lengths to go “off topic” to defend something which they admit within the comment they have never experienced directly.

      It might just be the latest example of a “put up job” in terms of comments that have touched on a Surrey Street coffee shop. Clearly, they are very concerned about defending their short-term reputation.

      Let’s examine the content of this comment.

      “I have to say I don’t find The Undateables exploitative in the slightest,” they say, like some Victorian voyeur who has paid their tuppence for a Sunday afternoon tour of the Bedlam asylum. As we’ve said before, it’s all a matter of taste really.

      They then branch off piste (remember, this was a post about a programme, not a coffee shop) to assure us: “I’ve never actually been to Matthews Yard so I can’t comment on their coffee”, before going on to explain how they have forked out 20 quid on a scheme that they have also not examined directly.

      Is this the epitome of uninformed comment? Or could the Glee Club yet come up with something better still?

  7. Saif Bonar says:

    If you think I have either the time or the inclination to put people up to commenting on your pathetic website, you really are a misguided fool with a bigger ego than audience Mr Downes. Your website is insignificant and inconsequential, and I wonder what will come of it, and indeed you, if and when Labour win the next election. I guess Fairfield Halls will become the best thing since sliced bread, the council will be the smoothest run operation on the face of the earth – and you will be hoping for a cushty little job in the press office! Pathetic man.

    • Well thank you, Saif, for revealing your true colours in public.

      As someone who says he did not “put up” anyone to comment on this site, your response when we published the earlier comment was remarkably prompt. It was almost as if you were waiting for it. Thanks for adding to our readership stats.

      So glad, too, that you now appear to remember the name of our editor, who you have met on at least three occasions, although you have tried, unsuccessfully, to claim in public that Inside Croydon is an anonymous site. Perhaps you suffered some stress-related amnesia, or simply were lying to suit your cause?

      Funny how this website was not considered by you to be “insignificant and inconsequential” when we, readily and rightly, offered support to your venture and publicised your work.

      For those Johnnie-come-latelies in the Glee Club not familiar with our coverage of Matthew’s Yard, Saif was happy to write his version of events here, and here, as well as here, and get a little bit of business promotion here.

      All free publicity for Saif Bonar’s business, provided by what he describes as “a pathetic man”. Not that we think Bonar is a thundering hypocrite or anything.

      It would seem that Mr Bonar began to feel uncomfortable about this “pathetic website” when we began to look at his access to public funds and publicly funded schemes, and started to look into his own cushty relationship with Jon Rouse, the CEO of Croydon Council, and agents of the council, such as White Label, and his involvement with the “Old Town team” and the use of the Portas Pilot funds.

      Here are some of the facts as we have managed to discover:

      1, According to Bonar, he is the sole owner of Matthew’s Yard. Therefore any profits made from the sale of food and drink at the venue will come to him, as will any admission charges for attending “community” events staged in the crowdfunded “Studio” – which Bonar also owns.
      2, Bonar was the founding secretary of the Old Town team. He has since resigned that office, but has continued as a member of the committee.
      3, The Bonar-owned Matthew’s Yard provides office workspace for the council worker who is administering the Portas Pilot scheme, which has £100,000 of public money to spend.
      4, This work-place facility is provided at a “saving of £14,000” in costs to the scheme, according to figures provided by Bonar. He also told Inside Croydon that Matthew’s Yard is charging a membership fee for the council worker to be based at the coffee shop. Inside Croydon highlighted initial plans to spend £30,000 of the Portas Pilot fund on administration charges.We covered that story here. For some reason, Bonar felt distinctly uncomfortable about our coverage of this story.

      On the matter of The Undateables:

      1, The first series was widely condemned as being exploitative, for all the reasons previously discussed.
      2, The first episode of the second series was more “soft focus”, and the Croydon figure, Michael, came out of it very well indeed. Whether the TV producers exploited Michael and the series’s other subjects is a matter of taste and opinion; we still believe that to be the case.
      3, Bonar assures us that Matthew’s Yard received no facility fee for the use of the coffee shop in the programme.
      4, It was clear from the first episode that each location venue used by the programme makers was given an extensive establisher shot, so that viewers could clearly identify where the scene was shot. A form of product (or in this case, venue) placement.
      5, Bonar and his colleagues sought to get maximum publicity out of the venue’s appearance on this programme.

      This correspondence is now closed (we will be reporting on the latest Portas Pilot news later this week). We are going back to being insignificant and inconsequential, with our stories being picked up by The Guardian, the Evening Standard and Private Eye (and that was just in one week), or read here first by around 2,000 site visitors each day.

  8. I wasn’t defending anything, merely giving my personal view on both the programme and Matthews Yard. I thought this was a place for that being a Croydon resident who watches the Undateables and also supported Matthews Yard, both mentioned in this article. Clearly I was mistaken.

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