People in Stevenage have hit back after Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton said it had been his dream to “get out of the slums”.
Hamilton, who made the remark during a speech at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) event, was born and grew up in the Hertfordshire town.
Social media users have been defending the area since the comment on Sunday.
However, others have defended Hamilton, saying his words were “taken out of context”.
The five-time F1 world champion has so far not commented.
Speaking to one of the presenters of SPOTY, Gabby Logan, he said: “It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums.
“Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very, very high but we did it as a team.”
The leader of Stevenage Borough Council said it was “disappointing” and people felt “very offended”.
Shoppers in the town centre gave a mix of responses to the BBC.
One shopper, George Acquaah, 20, said: “I don’t think he should disrespect the place where he came from, as it’s made him who he is.”
Another shopper, Charlie, 27, said: “He is a role model and should think about what he says and how it makes people feel.
“Just have a bit more respect for the town that supports you. The town is proud to have him but he obviously isn’t proud to come from here.”
On social media, Richard Davies wrote on Twitter: “Let’s hope his profile will raise awareness for those less fortunate than him who remain in the impoverished slums of Hertfordshire commuter town Stevenage.”
‘Kind of laughed’
But not everyone shopping in the town thought he warranted the criticism.
Amber, 26, said: “Stevenage isn’t the greatest but it’s not the worst.
“To say it on TV like he did was a bit out-of-order but I do understand where he’s coming from. I just kind of laughed when I heard it. I wasn’t angry.”
Stevenage was designated the UK’s first New Town in 1946.
Devised as a radical solution to London’s post-war housing crisis, it now has a population of about 88,000.
Other Stevenage stars
- Jack Wilshere (born 1992) – footballer
- Ian Poulter (born 1976) – golfer
- Ashley Young (born 1985) – footballer
- Kevin Phillips (born 1973) – footballer
- Ed Westwick (born 1987) – actor
- Cathy Lesurf (born 1953) – folk singer-songwriter
- Leslie Phillips (born 1924) – actor