BBC2 to revisit Victorian-era poverty in “The Slum”

The British pubcaster has ordered the tentatively titled living history series The Slum, which places participants in conditions akin to the late Victorian era, from Wall to Wall.
January 22, 2016

BBC2 has ordered the living history series The Slum from London-based Wall to Wall.

The tentatively titled five-part series, which is scheduled to broadcast later this year, will follow modern-day Brits as they are transported back in time to the late Victorian era of the 1860s. Participants will experience living and working in poverty-stricken London over a three-week period in which they’ll be expected to earn enough money to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

In order to do so, candidates will engage in the same traditional trades of the era, such as tailoring, candle-making and wood-turning, and will then be tasked with selling their wares on the streets of modern-day London.

Contestants will live side by side in a single Victorian building that will encompass modest dwellings, workshops and a “slum shop”, as well as a rooming house containing make-shift beds for individuals unable to pay their weekly rent.

The series will shine a focus on the role slum-dwellers played in “kick-starting the welfare reforms of the early 20th century that some argue were the very first moves towards a welfare state.”

Cate Hall serves as executive producer for Wall to Wall, with Mark Ball acting as series producer. Kim Shillinglaw, who recently exited the pubcaster as controller of BBC2 and BBC4, and Tom McDonald, natural history and specialist factual formats, commissioned the series for BBC2.

“At a time when questions about poverty and welfare provision still preoccupy us today, this ambitious series will bring us face to face with the shocking truth of just how little money many of our great-grandparents lived on, reveal the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience required to survive in The Slum, and raise provocative questions about what kind of safety net the poorest should have,” said Shillinglaw in a statement.

“Through the experience of our slum-dwellers, we’ll chart the social and economic change that impacted on the lives of the urban poor until the nation began to sit up and take notice,” added Hall. “This series will show how and why those changes took place, and it will naturally raise questions about our present and our future.”

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.