Man Like Mobeen’s Guz Khan: “use of food banks transcends all demographics”

As BBC3 comedy Man Like Mobeen returns, its creator Guz Khan talks about telling working class stories, investigating foodbank use in British Asian communities and his trainee scheme to help youngsters into the television industry

Guz Khan‘s star is on the rise. Ahead of series three of hit BBC3 comedy Man Like Mobeen, the show’s creator and star has spoken to The Big Issue about representing the stories of working class communities and why he is using his success to create more opportunities for working class youngsters to work in the television industry.

The Coventry funnyman has also created an exclusive video in which he talks about the big issues explored in the new series of Man Like Mobeen.

Khan says: “What influences me as a creative is what is taking place in Small Heath, where the series is set.

“Unfortunately in the last year it has continued to be reports of youth related violence. So we explore why. It is easy to say, ‘oh, dangerous kids with knives’ – but there are always structural issues as to why these things are taking place.

“People throw the term austerity around a lot, but it is plain to see there is a lack of opportunities for our young people up and down the country. And if you have a tough working class area and the young people don’t have proper access to education… you can’t blame it on the kids.”

I thought it would be interesting to see how a British Pakistani in Small Heath might react to having to use a foodbank

Former humanities teacher Khan also explores the cultural resonances of foodbanks in the new series.

“Andy [Milligan, Man Like Mobeen co-writer] was telling me how the rates at which people are utilising food banks is increasing incredibly,” he says.

“I was like: hold up a second. As a British Pakistani in this country, I’ve never had a conversation or seen or thought about people I grew up with from the South Asian community using a foodbank. It got this cog ticking in my head. It can’t be true that we aren’t using them. It must be people hiding the fact.

“And it turns out from the statistics that use of food banks transcends all demographics, all races. I thought it would be interesting to see how a British Pakistani in Small Heath might react to having to use a foodbank. Because, in the British Asian community, there’s a culture of people bringing food to each other’s houses. Knocking on the door, ‘mom sent this’, ‘uncle sent this’.

“We also wanted to dispel myths around foodbanks.”

Khan switches effortlessly between booming jokes and serious sociological explorations.

Two thirds of the increasingly large and devoted audience for Man Like Mobeen are under 35. And for this series, Khan set up a trainee scheme to widen opportunities for young working class Midlanders join him in the television industry to .

Man Like Mobeen is, I feel, one of the best shows serving people in terms of representation and the stories that it tells,” says Khan.

“We have a wonderful behind-the-camera team. They are so loyal, they work so hard – and they are all white British dudes, pretty much. That is still the way it is.

“It’s not about saying, ‘hey, you shouldn’t be there’. It’s about drawing in a new set of blood to learn from them. Our focus puller Matt had one of our trainees Imran learning the ropes of what it’s like to do a camera setup, Krish was behind the camera giving input on the scenes.

“All of them turned up on time every day, and these are mad hours. Seeing these young people grow was amazing. And some of them have gone on to get other jobs in the industry immediately. A couple finished on our project and jumped straight onto the People Just Do Nothing movie.”

It’s a way of working Guz Khan plans to continue – paying it forward, sharing his success. And he gently suggests that other productions follow suit.

“If this tiny project Man Like Mobeen wanting to make this change can do it, I think it is something we can implement on every film set, on every television set. It’s not hard, bro.”

Man Like Mobeen is available to watch on BBC3 via the iPlayer from January 26

Read more from Guz Khan in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now from vendors and The Big Issue Shop.