Last Night’s TV – Kevin McCloud: Slumming It

by Lynn Connolly

I suspect that half the world’s gone mad, and our future King is among that half. We heard fairly quickly in this film last night that architects, planners and, as mentioned, Prince Charles, think that “slum living” could be the new in thing.

Where we see hovels and horrific living conditions, they see a solution to overcrowding and urban development. And it angered me, possibly an unreasonable amount that people like Prince Charles – who lives in palaces – and others who doubtless live in delightful seclusion behind wrought iron gates somewhere can begin to imagine that plonking the rest of us into modernistic shanty towns is a good plan.

And yes, of course I realise that none of these plans for ‘high-density living’ include plonking thousands of Brits somewhere where there’s running sewage and so forth, but still, who do these morons think they are? Have they ever considered living a ‘high-density’ life themselves? Maybe even lived somewhere like the Gorbals at the height of its poverty stricken times? I suspect not, and as ever, those with the most consider they’re well equipped to make plans for those with the least, and it p’s me off.

However, I’ll get off my soapbox momentarily and discuss the subject of this review…

Kevin shuffled off to Dharavi where he found what one would expect to find in a slum area; sewage racing little kids through the streets, horribly crowded houses made from whatever was around at the time and very little evidence of anything sanitary whatsoever.

One woman was throwing up out of a window, and it did in fact provide a little amusement when Kevin realised it was in fact someone in the house he was staying in. I was also amused when, on the subject of the free-running sewage, Kevin remarked, “Human sh*t is human sh*t isn’t it?”

Well yes, Kevin, it is, but is it the best of ideas to stand around a) breathing in the bacteria from it and b) not trying to do something about it?

And of course, where there’s sh*t of any kind, there’s an abundance of vermin and parasites who consider it something of a plentiful buffet. So add together all those factors, and you have yourself a recipe for mass deaths from something fun like bubonic plague.

Perhaps that’s ultimately what Prince Charles et al have in mind for those who’d end up in their ‘visionary’ slums; just kill ‘em orf. Bloody proletariat.

That said, despite living in conditions that would make most of us do a 180 outta there, the hospitality and welcome Kevin received from the two families he stayed with was remarkable, as was their community spirit. And yes, I understand that in part, that’s what the planners are aiming for by recreating Dharavi here, but nonetheless, sense of community or no, a slum is a slum, and most of us do everything we can to improve our lives, not actively pursue something infinitely worse than what we have.

And those in Dharavi – with one notable exception in the form of a millionaire who chose to stick around – want out of it. One little girl who was a member of one of his host families wanted to be an air stewardess and worked hard at school in order to achieve this dream.

However, overall, though I very much like Kevin and at no point did he come across as being patronising or unwilling to muck in and do his bit, at the end of it, assuming he doesn’t catch dysentery and die, he’ll be back off to his comfy and probably designer home. But at least he’s given that way of life a go, whereas I don’t see Prince Charles volunteering for a stint in Dharavi like Kevin did, so while there may have been a touch of oooh-look-at-the-poor-people-aren’t-you-glad-it’s-not-you about it, at least Kevin had the balls to go live the life, even if for a short time.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.