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.
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
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
The second series of the observational documentary series is being filmed in Kingston Road, Tilery, in Stockton.
It comes after the first – based in Birmingham – attracted huge controversy.
Sources close to the show havesaid that the first instalment of the second series of Benefits Street is expected to be shown on Channel 4 in March next year – although the exact date is still undecided.
The decision to film 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 some critics as “poverty porn”.
Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, accused the broadcaster of perpetuating a “monstrous travesty of reality”.
And Labour’s Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the documentary.
He also suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town”.
After the story broke in August that the show WAS being filmed on Teesside, Boro fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
Boro supporters’ group Red Faction were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.
Group member Steve Fletcher, 27, said at the time: “Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help, not mocking.”
However, the chief executive of Channel 4 defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.
Despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.
Mr Lee told a national newspaper:
“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes.
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that.
“I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 24 Nov 2014
Channel 4 has been accused of perpetuating a “monstrous travesty of reality” by producing shows such as Benefits Street.
The second series of the show is being filmed in Kingston Road, Tilery, in Stockton, after the first – based in Birmingham – attracted huge controvery.
MP Austin Mitchell accused the broadcaster, which sparked controversy with the notorious show Benefits Street earlier this year, of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
He made the comments as Channel 4 goes ahead with a second series of Skint, due to air next week, which was filmed in his Grimsby constituency despite local opposition.
The first instalment of the observational documentary series, an investigation into poverty in Scunthorpe, followed people living on the Westcliff estate.
The Labour MP told Radio Times magazine:
“Poverty isn’t an entertainment. It’s private, debilitating and alienating.”
“Channel 4 has discovered that poverty tourism does more for ratings than celebrity culture, missions to explain or any highfalutin attempts to hold government to account.
“Kicking people when they’re down (and gullible) is so much easier and less expensive than intelligent programming.
“Victims don’t sue, and when do-gooders complain, they can always be accused of wanting to censor serious seekers after truth. So we get a proliferation of misery telly and programmes like Benefits Street, Immigration Street and Skint.”
He claimed that the broadcaster was stirring up antagonism against the poor and failing to show balance by neglecting to put the rich under the same spotlight.“Demonising the poor and turning deprivation into entertainment isn’t just deplorable, it’s dishonest,” he said.
“Poverty has become an object of blame, as if scroungers are responsible for the size of the benefits bill, young people enjoy a life of idleness and ‘hard-working families’ are having to work for peanuts while lazy neighbours procreate.
“This is a monstrous travesty of reality and concentrates hatred on the least well-educated, most deprived.
“TV doesn’t even balance it with shows on the scandal of massive tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and the rich, the luxurious lifestyle of the City and Taxhaven on Thames or the excesses of the Wolf of Wall Street.”
> Well of course they don’t – those people own them !
He urged Channel 4 to “think again”, adding: “Why not turn the cameras on the bankers punishing the poor, with Benefits Bankers, Tax-Evading Toffs and Fiddling Financiers? When is television going to do its job and take on all that? All it needs is guts and a sense of fairness.”
> See my previous comment.
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed in Birmingham, made stars of some of its cast but was described by some critics as “poverty porn”.
Programme-makers faced opposition in Stockton, the location for the new series of Benefits Street, and in Southampton, where spin-off series Immigration Street was being filmed.
Channel 4 executive Ralph Lee recently defended the shows, saying: “We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes.
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
> In a way that perpetuates the stereotypes our tax-evading masters wish us to…
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Nov 2014
The chief executive of Channel 4 has defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.
Despite fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be ‘censored’.
The second series of Benefits Street is being filmed on Kingston Road, in Tilery in Stockton – leading to MPs and council leaders condemning the show, community groups launching a petition and Boro fans unveiling a banner at the Riverside Stadium reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But Mr Lee told a national newspaper:
“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programme” .
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the Channel 4 documentary.
The Labour MP had already suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town” after accusing them of setting people up for “entertainment purposes only”.
And two Stockton mums Charlotte Hall and Di Hewitt launched an online petition, attracting 1,700 names, asking Love Productions to leave Stockton.
Middlesbrough football supporters group, Red Faction, were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.
Group member Steve Fletcher, 27 said at the time:
“I was hoping it would catch people’s eye at the match and help raise awareness.
“I don’t think the show will paint Teesside in a particularly good light. It is trivialising a serious social issue.
“Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help not mocking.”
Business and council leaders condemned the filming, saying that it would “misrepresent” Stockton.
And proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother, frontman in local band Wildcats of Kilkenny, caused an internet storm when he sent an impassioned letter praising the town to producers.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
A cameraman has hit back at controversial TV show Benefits Street being filmed in the North with his own homage to his beloved hometown.
Crews from Love Productions are filming the second series of the TV show, which follows people living off benefits, on Kingston Road in Stockton for Channel Four.
But Karl Coates, who has worked as a cameraman and producer for Sky News and BBC, said he fears the controversial TV show will only show Stockton in a negative light.
In a rebuttal to the image he expects the programme to portray of his beloved hometown, the cameraman has gone out to film his own short video to show all the great things about the area.
In the short videos Karl states that Stockton, Teesside and the North East “will yet again be hung out to dry”.