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One town’s street that unites nations

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: February 08, 2013

  • Midland Road in Bedford

  • Midland Road in Bedford

  • (L-R)Tony Farmer and Siva Sellathurai

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IT was an area of town that was once called to be demolished following a shooting in a chicken shop in 2011.

A quarter-of-a-mile stretch of road that has been given an unwanted tag of ‘crime hotspot’.

But Midland Road in Bedford is arguably the most diverse street in the borough boasting a Polish supermarket, an Italian coffee house, a Chinese restaurant and Arabian sweet shops.

“You walk around here on a Saturday and there are no problems at all. I’ve worked here for eight years and I haven’t encountered anything that gives me concern,” says Siva Sellathurai, who is Sri Lankan and co-runs the aptly named Euro Off Licence on the street.

Recent figures from the 2011 Census showed Polish was the second most spoken language in Britain with more than 700,000 declaring it as their first 
language.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the last 10 years more than 12,000 migrants have arrived in Bedford with more than a third of this figure coming to the borough between 2004 and 2006.

Englishman Tony Farmer, who also runs Euro Off Licence, said: “Part of the thought behind the name of the shop was the multicultural area it was being opened in. I’m not surprised by the figures from the ONS because a lot of Polish and Latvians have arrived here in the last ten years - this is definitely Bedford’s most diverse street.

“It has its problems where there are so many languages being spoken in such a small area but often people will try to speak English or other customers will translate for them. We’re lucky in this shop that we have a couple of guys who are Sri Lankan and they speak to the older members of the Sri Lankan community.

“Everything finds a way of sorting itself out in the end.”

The 2011 Census found that in one Manchester street 48 per cent of the population didn’t speak English as their main 
language.

It estimated more than 150 languages are spoken in the city.

Mr Sellathurai added: “Bec-ause Midland Road is so close to the train station it is a gateway into the town.

“You get people coming and going from London, which has a multicultural population, and this is the first main street into the centre of town. So maybe it’s easy for them to settle here. This of course brings its problems because troublemakers can get away easily by getting on a train.”

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