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.”
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
> 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