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Reality TV hits the streets

May 18 2009
Rich kids and their minders hit the streets for 10 days If you have been bedding down in Soho, Chelsea or Waterloo of late, the chances are you might have come across a film crew on its way to make the next season of reality show contestants famous. But this, the show's creators say, is a reality show with a difference: Filthy Rich and Homeless is a BBC Three programme (see last issue, where we broke this news) in which five of Britain's wealthiest people try living on the streets of the capital city for 10 days. Two "homeless experts" - Rebecca Pettit, director of the US-based poverty study programme Urban Plunge, and Craig Last, a youth worker for one of Centrepoint's high-support hostels - watch them, to ensure their safety and their learning process. The first programme sees the five 'abandoned' at various points across London, with just a bag (and a film crew) to keep them company. It also reveals the background of the group: a 19-year-old farmer's son; the daughter of a newsreader; a 40-year-old entrepreneur; the UK's youngest self-made millionaire; and a public school-educated student. As you might expect from a reality show of this type, the characters have certain ideas about life on the streets. Ravi, the 24-year-old millionaire, starts out by believing it is always possible to make money and attempts to set up a flower selling business. After a few brushes with the law for selling without a license, he realises it is not quite as easy as he thought. Clementine, the only girl in the group, feels hard done by when she is left to fend for herself in Soho and turns to a celebrity friend of the family for help - although not without criticism from the "experts". The following programmes see the five staying at hostels. But what is the programme trying to achieve? Is it a quick laugh at the expense of a bunch of rich kids who have never had to go without, or is it a serious attempt to bring together two groups of society who rarely meet? In a future issue, The Pavement will be speaking to people involved in the show, and readers who've come across this show on the streets, but for now all we have to go on is the website. Describing itself as "one of TV's most hard-hitting and controversial experiments ever", one might be forgiven for thinking this is just another form of the car-crash TV that brought us the likes of Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity... But the site also provides links to various organisations around the city. While it is unlikely that anyone looking for help would end up on this site, there is a chance it could open up someone's eyes to what the Beeb considers "the very harsh realities of life for those who have nothing". If you have had an encounter with any of these people, or the film crew, please get in touch.