Police are continuing to review footage from the controversial TV show Benefits Street.
Officers from Cleveland Police say inquiries are ongoing into circumstances surrounding some of the scenes and also what unedited footage is available.
The show featured residents living on Stockton’s Kingston Road.
One of the criticised scenes featured Neil Maxwell. The 36-year-old was shown apparently dealing in cannabis and claiming £700 a month in benefits.
Maxwell, who has since been jailed for his role in a double stabbing, was also filmed smoking the drug.
When the first show aired on May 11, Cleveland Police issued a statement confirming they would assess footage from the show to see whether it can assist in criminal investigations.
The opening episode of Benefits Street attracted almost three million viewers – but was down on last year’s first instalment.
Last night’s episode of the new Channel 4 series featured residents getting to grips with the media interest in their street.
The goings-on in Kingston Road in Tilery, Stockton, attracted 2.95 million viewers (13.5%) on Monday night.
The documentary beat New Tricks on BBC1, which attracted 2.2 million, and came second to Safe House on ITV, which was watched by 4.8 million.
The audience was 75% above the slot average, but the total was down on the 4.3 million viewers who saw the opening episode of the controversial first series last year.
Channel 4 said that it was the most popular programme in the slot for 16 to 34-year-olds
The first series was made in Birmingham and attacked by some critics as “poverty porn”.
The broadcaster’s head of documentaries Nick Mirsky has said the “increasing divide between rich and poor” is an important subject and has not ruled out making a third series.
“There isn’t a third series of Benefits Street in production but what I would say though is that the gap between rich and poor and the subject of welfare and benefits is an important subject.
“Channel 4 have to keep looking at that and finding ways of telling stories.”
> How about a fly-on-the-wall series showing how Jobcentre staff treat claimants ?
Or do the poor always have to be the villains ?
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 12 May 2015
A participant in the new series of Benefits Street filmed in Stockton says he regrets his decision to take part in the show.
The second series of the controversial Channel 4 show will be screened this month after being filmed on Kingston Road, on the Tilery estate.
Lee Nutley is one of six main characters followed in the six-part series, but after watching the first episode earlier this week the 42-year-old is convinced he made the wrong decision.
“If I could take it all back I think I probably would,” said Lee, 42. “It took months for the producers to convince me to take part. And I only really did because some of my family were already in it.”
It’s only been two days since the show premiered in London but Lee, who has been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for the past year, said he already feels like a “local celeb” in his home town.
“I went to Stockton earlier and people were stopping me in the street. Mainly people I know shouting ‘Lee, you’re famous now mate’ and stuff like that.
“But this is not why I went on the show.
“I don’t plan to become some big celebrity and earn loads of money.
“As far as I’m concerned you don’t need money to be happy, and us lot being filmed here will prove it.”
Lee, who will appear alongside his mum Chrissie who lives nearby, added that his life is “totally different” to how it was a year ago when filming was taking place.
He said: “I’m in a much better place now. I was on anti-depressants when the cameras were here and my epilepsy is under control now. I’m just waiting for one more test and once I’ve got the all clear I’ll be straight back to work.
“I’ve worked all my life and I plan on getting back to it. If people think I want to sit on my backside on £45 a week, they are very wrong.”
Lee, who has lived on the Tilery estate for about 30 years, admits he is very “self critical” of his appearance on the show.
He said: “I’m not worried about what the viewers will think of me. Everyone has said I come across really well, but I hate watching myself.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 01 May 2015
Community leaders have condemned controversial TV programme Benefits Street for openly shows drug dealing and substance abuse in Stockton.
The show, which was filmed in Kingston Road on the Tilery Estate follows on from the first series which made stars of some of the inhabitants of Birmingham‘s James Turner Street but was described by some critics as “poverty porn“.
Among the residents introduced in the first Stockton episode is Neil Maxwell who is shown bagging up cannabis, smoking the drug and taking pills before a court appearance.
The Northern Echo reported in March that Maxwell and his brother Robert were jailed for a double stabbing after one of them was accused of stealing money and tobacco from a neighbour. Both admitted unlawful wounding and Neil Maxwell was locked up for two years and three months.
The 36-year-old, who told the film crew he has taken “early retirement” from a life of crime after a string of convictions, said he claimed benefits because he suffers from memory loss.
In one scene, he is seen spending his benefits money to top up his tan at a local sunbed salon.
Kieran Smith, from Love Productions which makes the show, said they had followed “strict guidelines” about filming illegal activity.
“We filmed with Maxwell for quite a long period of time and he was very clear about the potential repercussions about his behaviour and what might happen to him.”
Mr Smith said the show was “not glorying in his behaviour” and was “quite an honest account of what his life is like.”
But Cllr Bob Cook, the leader of Stockton Borough Council, Labour, condemned the programme makers. He said:
“Why wasn’t this reported to the police? If there’s a crime the police should be told, that would responsible.”
> I suspect the police will know about it all by now ! I dont think they are dealing with a criminal mastermind here.
Cllr Cook accepted that there was poverty in Stockton but argued the programme was unlikely to give a fair portrayal of the town. He said:
“There is deprivation in Stockton but we also have some of the most affluent areas in the country and it is one of the best areas of the country to start a business.”
The word on the street was “This is Stockton-on-Tees” as thousands of residents attempted the world’s biggest game of Chinese Whispers to bolster the town’s image before a controversial Channel 4 documentary is broadcast.
Over two days ‘The Loudest Whisper’ will spread the message at some of the borough’s beauty spots including Infinity Bridge, Preston Park Museum and Grounds, and Wynyard Hall.
The ‘Psst…’ (Positively Stockton-on-Tees) Campaign was launched after filming for the Benefits Street series started last year which, it is feared, will negatively portray residents living in Kingston Road in the deprived Tilery area.
The first series, based in Birmingham, was branded ‘poverty porn’, however the hit show’s producers insisted it was about ‘giving a voice’ to a little known section of society.
World champion Stockton sprinter Richard Kilty demonstrated his pride for his home town by starting the “This is Stockton-on-Tees” whisper with more than 200 pupils at North Shore Academy, near Kingston Street, before 800 people passed it on over Infinity Bridge.
The message was then spread around 300 teenagers on their lunch break at Stockton Sixth Form College before it was put on ice at the Billingham Forum skating rink.
The makers of Benefit Street, Love Productions, said on its website about the documentary:
“It’s a place where residents face challenges such as bringing up children in poverty, low levels of education and training, drug and alcohol dependency, and crime. But it also has a strong sense of community, where people look out for each other and where small acts of kindness can go a long way.”
Mike McGrother, frontman of the Wildcats of Kilkenny who masterminded the ambitious Psst…event with Stockton Borough Council, said:
“The nature of a Chinese Whisper reminds us that a message can be manipulated, but we are choosing to remind people of how a positive message can bring a community together.
Phil Mulhaire who produced the spectacle, added:
“This is a light-hearted response to the Benefit Street programme because people feel it will not a true reflection, that its people are not feckless, this is to show the other side.”
Source – Northern Echo, 14 Mar 2015
Benefits Street now looks unlikely to air before the General Election in May.
The second series of the controversial series has been filmed on Kingston Road in Stockton’s Tilery Estate.
It was previously understood that the series was set to air in March, after sources close to the show suggested it would be around that time.
However, due to tight broadcasting rules of what airs in the run-up to a General Election, it could now be after voting has taken place in May.
Anything deemed as politically contentious needs to stick to strict broadcasting guidelines.
It’s not clear if Benefits Street would fall into this category or whether this would prevent Channel 4 from screening it as adaptations can be made to ensure it adheres by any rules.
But it was reported in The Guardian’s Media Monkey column that it will be a six-episode series, going out after the election.
“Channel 4’s Immigration Street may have been derailed by protesters (it’s down to a single film) but the second run of Benefits Street is still very much on track – six episodes will be aired about an estate in Stockton-on-Tees after the General Election,” it stated.
“It seems the new series will also cover the media kerfuffle the show has created: Love Productions’ Benefits Street crew has filmed the crews sent by other broadcasters including the BBC, who in turn were sent to film them filming the residents.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Feb 2015
Shhh…A giant game of whispers is planned across the whole of Stockton!
The ‘Loudest Whisper‘ will be one of the main events planned for the Positively Stockton on Tees (Psst…) campaign to fight against negative publicity that Benefits Street may bring.
The second series of Benefits Street – filmed on Stockton’s Kingston Road on the Tilery estate – is due to hit our screens in just weeks.
Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman Mike McGrother is one of those leading the campaign.
“There’s an abundance of community pride in Stockton-on-Tees – it’s just not our style to go shouting it from the rooftops!
“But if we’re faced with a series that seeks to paint us in an unfair light on national television, we shouldn’t take that lying down.
“Through the Loudest Whisper event and all the other parts of the Positively Stockton campaign, we can dispel the myths that will inevitably be trotted out using the sense of humour, community spirit and understated manner people in our borough are renowned for.
“And it’s all for Comic Relief – our voices – though quiet, will be heard!”
It will take place over the two days of Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 and will also raise money for Comic Relief.
A message will be passed from person to person, making use of human chains as well as all kinds of transport, from jet-skis and rowing boats to buses and bikes.
Details of the full routes that the whisper will take will be unveiled later this month but there will be opportunities for the public to get involved, as follows:
• Friday, March 13, 12.15pm at the Infinity Bridge, Stockton
• Friday, March 13, 5.30pm at the area near ARC and The Storytellers pub, Stockton
• Saturday, March 14, 12.20pm in Ropner Park, Stockton
• Saturday, March 14, 1.15pm at Preston Hall, Eaglescliffe
People across the region and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for the borough by sharing photographs, videos and stories.
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign and how to get involved visit: www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk
Source – Sunday Sun, 15 Feb 2015
A well-known Stockton singer has delivered a Valentine’s card to a top Benefits Street producer as part of a campaign against the show.
Love Productions’ supremo Kieran Smith was said to be ‘bemused’ by the gesture which was carried out as part of the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, launched as a response to the potentially negative publicity which may brought by the controversial series.
Wildcats of Kilkenny star Mike McGrother delivered the card, containing a simple ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ message, to the Holborn headquarters.
“The whole nature of our response to Love Productions is that we have made a decision to mirror what they do, but as a ‘lovelier’ production,” said Mike.
“They chose to come to our hometown uninvited and work in a way that they choose.
“We are simply starting our response by visiting them uninvited and reminding them, Valentine’s style, that things can be done in a ‘lovelier’ way – and that will continue to underpin our planned response.”
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign was launched in November.
Attention will soon shift to the campaign’s centrepiece event, The Loudest Whisper, which will see a whispered message passed around the entire Borough.
It will take place over the two days of Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 and will also raise money for Comic Relief.
People across the region and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for the Borough by sharing photographs, videos and stories.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 14 Feb 2015
Plans to put a more positive spin on a North-East town ahead of the airing of the next series of Channel 4’s Benefits Street are underway.
TV company Love Productions chose Kingston Street in Stockton to film its second series of the popular Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall show, dubbed by some as “poverty porn“.
The next series is expected to air in March and Stockton Borough Council says it is expecting a less-than-flattering portrayal of the town.
Now businesses are throwing their weight behind a campaign to shine a positive light on Stockton.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign has a website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up for people to share photographs, videos and stories about the area.
Now, thanks to donations from local businesses, the best submissions will be rewarded in a monthly prize giveaway, the first of which is afternoon tea for four at Wynyard Hall.
Council leader Bob Cook said:
“We came up with this campaign to create a space where people can share their views on what they love about Stockton-on-Tees and we’ve been delighted with the response so far.
Mike McGrother, Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman, said:
“What has been lovely about the response so far is the overwhelming reaction from across the borough – and beyond.
“We may not have the revenues and reach of Love Productions – but what we will do in response is a much ‘lovelier’ production all round.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit:
or follow the campaign on Twitter @positivelySOT
Source – Northern Echo, 19 Jan 2015
A major new campaign has been launched to hit back against any negative portrayal of Stockton from the controversial show Benefits Street.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign is a light-hearted response to what is expected to be a less than flattering portrayal of the borough when the Channel 4 series airs next year.
And people across the borough and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for Stockton by sharing photographs, videos and stories.
A new website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up to kick-start the campaign.
The decision to film the second series of Benefits Street in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by critics as “poverty porn”.
After the story broke , Middlesbrough FC fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Channel 4 chief executive Ralph Lee said the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.
He defended the channel’s right “to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society”.
Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook said:
“We did everything in our power to persuade the producers of Benefits Street to turn their attentions elsewhere. Sadly, you can’t win them all.
“What became clear, though, was that lots of people agreed with us that this is not a good thing for the borough.
“So, we’ve decided to focus our energies on turning a negative into a positive. We’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to respond to a series like Benefits Street is to celebrate, with good humour and quiet confidence, all that is great about our fine borough.”
The campaign will give people the opportunity to share their views on what they love about Stockton.
The council will support the campaign, but now want to “hand it over the public”, said Cllr Cook.
“This is a borough-wide campaign for the whole of Stockton-on-Tees. We’re delighted that our local media – The Gazette, Northern Echo and BBC Tees – are in agreement with us and have agreed to unite in their support of us.
“Whether you’re from Stockton, Billingham, Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Thornaby, Norton or Ingleby Barwick, we’d love you to get involved.”
Benefits Street is expected to be aired in March 2015 and the Positively Stockton campaign – also known as “Psst…” – features a major event that same month.
Billed as The Loudest Whisper, the event on Friday, March 13, will see a whispered message passed around the borough – starting and ending in Kingston Road – where the series is being filmed.
The message will be passed from person to person using human chains as well as all kinds of transport, from horses and rowing boats to buses and bikes.
The event, which will also raise money for Comic Relief, is being organised by Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman and proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother.
“There has been an assumption from the producers of Benefits Street that we’re a community that needs to be given a voice,” he said.
“To present this as ‘factual’ television designed to engineer some kind of social benefit is a bit arrogant I think.
“There’s an abundance of community pride in Stockton – it’s just not our style to go shouting it from the rooftops. But if we’re faced with a series that seeks to paint us in an unfair light on national television, we shouldn’t take that lying down.
“Through the Loudest Whisper event and the Positively Stockton campaign, we can dispel the myths that will inevitably be trotted out using the sense of humour, community spirit and understated manner people in our borough are renowned for.
“And it’s all for Comic Relief. Our voices, though quiet, will be heard!”
The new campaign also has the support of Stockton’s MPs.
Alex Cunningham, Labour, in whose Stockton North constituency Benefits Street is being filmed, said:
“There is much for us to be positive about our borough from the talent and resilience of our people to the powerhouse of the local council and other organisations doing their best in difficult circumstances to create jobs, improve our town centres and make life better for us all.
“It is tremendous that our community is reacting in such a positive way.
“Doubtless Channel 4 will claim our campaign would never have happened but for their unwelcome intrusion into our community, but they will be wrong again – there have been many positive initiatives over the years promoting our success, which is perhaps why the borough is seeing its population grow and why it was voted one of the best places in the country to do business.”
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said:
“If you look around you in Stockton you see things getting better – more jobs, more investment, a town and community proud of its past and looking to its future.
“We need to talk up what makes us great and this campaign is a brilliant addition to that. Benefits Street will show what they want, we will show the truth and talk up Teesside.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit: www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Nov 2014