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
Banners attacking the decision to film the new series of Benefits Street on Teesside were flown at the weekend’s Middlesbrough match.
Two were on display at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday – slamming the decision to film the Channel 4 show on Kingston Road at Tilery, Stockton.
One banner read “Being poor is not entertainment” while the other said “f*** Benefit Street”.
The Boro supporters group, Red Faction are the group behind the banners, and have spoken about why they took the step to take them to the Middlesborough vs Reading game.
“I was hoping it would catch people’s eye at the match and help raise awareness,” said group member Steve Fletcher, 27.
“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.”
“I am a proud Teessider,” added Steve, a telephone engineer. “I am proud of where I come from and don’t think this show should be filmed here.”
Filming of the second series of the hugely controversial TV show Benefits Street is under way in Stockton.
Source – Daily Mirror, 03 Sept 2014
A demonstration by the English Defence League in Middlesbrough and a counter demonstration have passed off (more or less) peacefully, say police.
Over three hundred police officers were involved in the operation, which has been planned for a number of months.
Around 150-200 counter demonstrators gathered, many dressed in red – the home colours of Middlesbrough FC and the workers movement – as a sign of solidarity.
A strong police presence was active around Ayresome Gardens, but counter demo organiser, Lawrie Coombs, said: “Every time the fascists come, we’ll stand together. But we don’t anticipate any trouble.”
Councillor Len Junier was a prominent figure, leading the march onto Linthorpe Road Middlesbrough.
As the crowds gathered he said: “We are lucky in Middlesbrough, we don’t have problems with racism.
“We don’t want the EDL splitting our community. We want to celebrate the diversity in our area. But we don’t want to get in anyone’s face.”
Addressing the crowd before setting off, a Counter demo spokesman told demonstrators to avoid the areas that the EDL were reported to be.
Then the counter demo set off along Linthorpe Road to the sound of drums and whistles.
Len Junier led the march while chanting, “Whose streets?” to which the procession replied, “Our streets!“
Passers-by looked on as the march made its way up towards House of Fraser where a series of anti-racist speeches were made.
The words, “We are British, we’re not going anywhere,” were met with applause from the protesters as the EDL gathered just down the Corporation Road.
Around 350 people took part in the EDL demonstration which set off from Corporation Road at around 2pm.
As the crowd set off, turning the corner from Corporation Road onto Albert Road, it wasn’t long before the singing was broken by the sound of a loud bang.
Police were forced to temporarily halt the march after the bang, from what appeared to have been a firework exploding, shocked many bystanders.
Seconds later, a second firework and a glass bottle were thrown from among the EDL crowd.
As it shattered on the footpath outside Middlesbrough Town Hall, at least one woman was injured and was sat at the road side being treated by an EDL first aider – her foot was bleeding.
Before the march, demonstrators had been warned that banners, flags and placards that might incite disorder would be banned along with anything that could be used to cause injury or damage.
Even so, some of the signs held by EDL supporters were openly hostile in their criticism of Islam.
One read: “Islam causes more deaths a day than cancer does.”
Further fireworks exploded as the procession turned onto Borough road.
As the procession passed some Asian men who were standing at the roadside, certain members of the EDL contingent began chanting “Scum, scum scum.”
Then, as the march turned onto Melrose Street, glass bottles and another firework were thrown in the direction of another group of Asian men, one of whom had a child on his shoulders.
Following this police moved the bystanders away from the march and the missiles which were still being thrown.
Mr Hussein, 37, of Southfield Road, was shocked and baffled by the march.
He said: “I’ve lived here all my life, we live a humble life.
“The people in Middlesbrough have never had these problems before and we don’t want them here now.”
Finally, the EDL supporters gathered outside Teesside Crown Court for speaches.
One speaker said: “When will the government admit that there’s an epidemic of child grooming happening right now.
“Street justice, street justice, is far worse than anything the government can do.”
Still on the issue of child grooming, a second speaker said: “Don’t say this is not a race issue.
“The peaceful majority are irrelevant.”
A total of two men were arrested – one on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and one on suspicion for assaulting a police officer.
Acting assistant chief constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Clearly there has been some disruption in Middlesbrough town centre to allow these demonstrations to take place, and we are grateful to local residents and businesses for their co-operation.
“We have been working with our local communities and partner agencies including Middlesbrough Council for a number of weeks now to ensure people have been aware of the events and have had the opportunity to contact us if they have had specific concerns.”
Police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “I attended one of the briefings to police officers this morning and have been out around the town centre observing activities. The whole operation has been well planned and in consultation with our local communities and businesses.
“Clearly the priority for the police today has been to facilitate each demonstration while ensuring the safety of the public and I am pleased that the day has passed off peacefully.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 June 2014