Tagged: James Turner Street

TV’s Benefits Street in Stockton condemned for showing criminal activity

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.

 He said: “We are never suggesting to Maxwell that he does this on camera, we don’t encourage him in any way shape or form.

“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.”

 Cllr Cook’s political rival, Cllr Ken Lupton, recent leader of the Conservative Group, agreed. He said:
“As far as I’m concerned, if the programme identifies criminal activity they should be making the police aware. It’s just showing the town in a bad light and is not giving a balanced view.”
> But its worse than that of course – the programme sends out the message that this is what all people on benefits are like.  Mail and Express readers will lap it up.
Source – Northern Echo, 29 Apr 2015

Benefits Street-style ‘welfare ghettos’ are a myth, according to Teesside research

The idea of ‘welfare ghettos’ full of streets where nobody works is a myth, according to research carried out in Middlesbrough by a Teesside University academic.

Professor Rob MacDonald says the concept of ‘benefits streets‘ – brought to the public’s attention by the television programme currently filming its second series in Stockton – don’t exist.

Residents of Kingston Road on Stockton’s Tilery Estate will feature in the next run of the Channel 4 show, due to be broadcast early next year.

A popular misconception of such areas, Mr MacDonald says, is that they are dominated by families who haven’t worked over generations and that unemployment is the preferred way of life.

Instead, his research found, even in deprived areas most households contain people who work and younger people want to find jobs.

The first series of Benefits Street, filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham, was met with tabloid headlines about “90% of residents on hands-out” and “the street where 9 out of 10 households are on welfare“.

But Mr MacDonald says those figures are misleading.

His research, conducted along with Professor Tracy Shildrick from Leeds University and Professor Andy Furlong from Glasgow University, was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Their studies in Middlesbrough and Glasgow focused on 20 families and aimed to find out whether some popular ideas about the unemployed were actually myths.

Mr MacDonald said:

In seeking neighbourhoods to test out the ideas, we selected areas with very high levels of worklessness – perhaps like the makers of Benefits Street.

“Even with these extreme cases, the majority of local people of working age were not on unemployment benefits. This is a far cry from the situation where an entire community sits on benefits for life.”

In James Turner Street recent statistics have shown that between 62% and 65% of households have somebody in employment – meaning that 35% to 38% of households could be described as workless.

Mr MacDonald said:

“In this sense, James Turner Street is very similar to the neighbourhoods we researched in Glasgow and Middlesbrough.”

Confirmation that Benefits Street was being filmed on Teesside caused widespread anger.

The Gazette’s photographer was egged while taking pictures of film crews on Kingston Road, Boro fans have displayed banners protesting against the series and families have started petitions against the programme.

Love Productions, the company behind the series, insists its intention is to give the communities taking part “a voice“.

In the university research, of the younger people interviewed who did not have jobs, most had brothers and sisters who were working.

Mr MacDonald added:

“This throws into doubt theories that rely on the idea that individuals are so swamped by negative role models and so bereft of positive examples of people in jobs that they learn that worklessness is the norm and to be preferred.

“The idea of ‘benefit ghettos’ where unemployment is a ‘lifestyle choice’ is a powerful one that helps justify the government’s cuts to welfare budgets. Yet our research has demonstrated that this is a myth, in the sense that it does not reflect the facts of the matter.

“If a culture of worklessness cannot be found in the extremely deprived neighbourhoods we studied, then they are unlikely to explain more general patterns of worklessness in the UK.”

In response to the research, the government insisted that “sadly, joblessness isn’t a myth”.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said:

“In 2010, the number of families with no one working peaked at over 3.9 million.

“Latest figures show that this has fallen by 450,000 suggesting we were right to implement a radical overhaul of the welfare system.

“We are very careful about the language we use – making it clear that it is very often the system itself that has trapped people on benefits.”

The study that Mr MacDonald contributed to, ‘Benefits Street and the Myth of Workless Communities’, was published in the Sociological Research journal.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 12 Sept 2014

 

Benefits Street series 2 IS being filmed on Teesside, Channel 4 confirms

> Poverty porn is back on the agenda. You’d have to be mad to get involved with enterprises like that…

Filming of the second series of the hugely controversial TV show Benefits Street is under way in Stockton, Channel 4 has confirmed.

But as film crews shoot the residents of Kingston Road, in Tilery, for the country’s viewing pleasure, the show has raised concern among local MPs, council leaders and community groups.

It has been accused of “exploiting people” for the “sake of entertainment”.

But the hit show’s producers insist it is about “giving a voice” to a little known section of society.

When it aired earlier this year Benefits Street attracted widespread controversy, with critics branding it “poverty porn” and it received 1,800 viewers’ complaints.

The series was investigated by regulator Ofcom owing to the huge number of complaints. But Ofcom ruled the show did not breach broadcasting rules.

Some residents claimed they had been misled about the thrust of the programme and that producers deliberately withheld the title from them.

But others said the programme, which featured the residents of James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, shone a light on an otherwise hidden part of Britain.

It also became Channel 4’s most popular programme since the 2012 Paralympics, attracting audiences of more than five million.

Producers have scouted a number of locations on Teesside, including North Ormesby and Brambles Farm in Middlesbrough, and other locations in Stockton before settling on Tilery.

When the Gazette received a tip-off that Love Productions, who make the show for Channel 4, had been filming in Kingston Road for around a week we went to investigate.

When we arrived we were met by a Love Production camera crew and a frosty reception.

The TV crew, didn’t utter a word when questioned and several locals, who were on first-name terms with the film crew.

And the locals made it very clear that they wanted the Gazette’s reporter and photographer to leave their street… by throwing eggs at them.

Previously, a spokesman for Channel 4 said Love Productions were “in development and researching potential new locations for a second series of Benefits Street and are looking at a number of areas around the country”.

But they refused to confirm that new location was in Stockton.

Now, when pressed by The Gazette, both have now confirmed filming has started in Kingston Road.

Kieran Smith, creative director for factual at Love Productions, said: “The thing about Benefits Street is we’re looking to give a voice to a community that don’t really have a voice.

“We think it’s incredibly important to represent those people.”

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, is due to meet with Love Productions in the first week of September in Westminster.

He said earlier last week: “I have spoken to them on the phone.

“I know they are in the area but they won’t confirm or deny that they’re filming or where they’ve been talking to people.

“They won’t tell me because they fear me trying to dissuade them from taking part.”

The Stockton MP also expressed his concerns that the show will cause division among Stockton communities.

There are many people who don’t want to see this kind of thing in their street,” he said.

It happened before on Dixon Street when neighbours set against neighbours with some wanting to take part and others wanting nothing to do with it.

“This is about exploiting people’s often difficult lives for the sake of entertainment.

“Love Productions claim that they’re talking to people to explain what they’re getting into but they can’t protect them from the media circus that will affect their lives if this comes to Stockton.

“As far as I’m concerned, I will work with local people to ensure that, if they do go into this, they go into it with their eyes open.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Gazettte,  26 Aug 2014

Benefits Street rumours resurface after film crews are spotted in Stockton area

Concerns that controversial television show Benefits Street could be filmed in the Stockton area have resurfaced after reports that film crews have been spotted in the area.

Numerous sighting of filming being carried out in Norton have been reported – and rumours are rife in the village that it is for the Channel 4 show.

But Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has urged people not to worry – and says the film crew seen may not even be from the programme.

When the producers came to see me in Westminster a couple of months ago, they said they would not be going to Dixon Street (where they were previously researching),” said Mr Cunningham.

They said if they were going to be in Stockton, they would keep me informed – and I have not been told me anything.

“However, I have heard there was some sort of filming going on in Norton so I have sent a note to Love Productions asking if they could tell me if they are up to anything.

“At the moment there is nothing to fear, but it is important to keep vigilant.

“If people are getting approached to be on the show, they need to get in touch with my office.”

Norton North councillor Steve Nelson claimed he saw someone filming by the duck pond in Norton on Wednesday.

But he added “it could have been for something else.”

If it is them, I wouldn’t want them in Stockton and definitely not in Norton,” said Councillor Nelson.

If people are approached by Love Productions to take part in the show I would urge them to say no.”

In May, it was claimed Benefits Street researchers were chased by residents and pelted with eggs.

TV crews were in Dixon Street, off Dovecot Street, Stockton, when residents allegedly chased, egged and threw a bucket of water over the research team from Love Productions, which makes the show for Channel 4.

One Norton High Street shop worker said: “I think it’s shocking. We don’t want Benefits Street here.”

Another said she saw two women being filmed walking down High Street and were also seen in Home Start Teesside charity shop.

People are saying it is Benefits Street,” she said. “But I hope it’s not.”

There have also been reports that the show’s researchers have been in the Middlesbrough area as they look for a setting for a second series.

The first series of Benefits Street, filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham , sparked a national controversy about its portrayal of people living on benefits.

Media regulator Ofcom received hundreds of complaints about what was dubbed ‘poverty porn‘.

But it was hugely popular and global broadcasting rights for the show were later sold .

Benefits Street gave Channel Four its highest viewing figures of any show since 2012.

Love Productions have been asked to comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  15 Aug 2014

Benefits Street: second series be filmed in Middlesbrough?

Hugely controversial television show Benefits Street could have its second series filmed in Middlesbrough.

Researchers for the Channel 4 show have been approaching residents and councillors in certain parts of the town asking if they would like to take part in a future series.

There have been reports of the North Ormesby, Brambles Farm, Pallister Park and Grangetown areas of the town being targeted.

The first series of Benefits Street, filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham , sparked a national controversy about its portrayal of people living on benefits.

 Len Junier, Labour’s councillor for North Ormesby and Brambles Farm, said: “Channel 4 rang me asking whether I would be interested in taking part.

“I refused point-blank.

“I told them I don’t take part in programmes that show people in a bad light.

“East Middlesbrough has had its issues – it would be wrong to say it hasn’t – but those people in the show in Birmingham were set up.

“They were made to look like spongers and scroungers.

“I asked Channel 4 not to contact me any further.”

 

Ann Bayley, who is chairwoman of North Ormesby Neighbourhood Development Trust, said: “There are a lot of people in North Ormesby on benefits but there are a lot of good people.

“Things are going quite well around here, there are only two empty shops – we’re trying to improve.”

Specific streets thought to have been visited by researchers include Peaton Street, North Ormesby, and Marshall Avenue.

Meanwhile, TV chiefs have remained tight-lipped about the possibility of using Middlesbrough as a location.

Love Productions – which produced Benefits Street – referred queries to Channel 4.

And a spokesman for the broadcaster said: “Love Productions are in development and researching potential new locations for a second series of Benefits Street and are looking at a number of areas around the country.

“The first series ignited an important debate about the welfare system and we are interested in seeing if we can revisit this through the experiences of residents of a street in a different part of Britain.”

But speaking after the original programme was aired, Dee Roberts, who appeared in the series, said: “They said they wanted to film for a TV show about how great community spirit is in the street and how we all help each other out on a daily basis.

“But this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It’s all about people in the street living off benefits, taking drugs and dossing around all day.”

Source – Middlesbrough Gazette,  04 April 2014