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
A petition against Benefits Street being filmed in Stockton has gained more than a 1000 signatures.
The campaign was started on change.org by two Stockton mums Charlotte Hall and Di Hewitt little over a week ago and has been shared across social media.
In total 1,409 people have signed the petition on the site – which is the world’s largest petition platform – against the show being filmed on Kingston Road at Tilery, Stockton.
They took to Stockton High Street today to collect yet more signatures.
Their Twitter account @StocktonSaysNo also has more than 500 followers – and Twitter users have joined discussion of the topic using #NoBenefitsStreet.
Once the pair have finished collecting signatures they will be delivered to both Channel 4 and the production company Love Productions.
Social worker and mum of two Di, who lives in Eaglescliffe, said:
“Through my work, I’m impressed by the strong community spirit in the North- east and feel that it is important that outsiders see this rather than negative stereotypes.
“I’m not originally from Stockton, I moved up from the East Midlands 22 years ago and think that Stockton is a fantastic place to live and raise children.
“I want my kids to feel that Stockton is a good place to live and work and that there are endless opportunities for them.”
Carer and mum of two Charlotte, from Stockton, said:
“I was born in Stockton and have lived here all my life.
“Only a few weeks ago after enjoying SIRF and attending the 1245 Sunflowers events I was saying how far Stockton has come and how there’s so much to get involved in.
“I don’t want to see that hard work ruined by our town being associated with a stigmatising programme like Benefits Street.”
Chris Flanagan, from Stockton, said on the petition page:
“Sixth best place to live one week…Benefits Street the next!”.
Emma-Bliss Harding, from Norton, said:
“I live in Norton and heard they were filming at the duck pond which is near my house.
“I don’t want the area that I love in displayed in a bad light.
“This programme is nothing but negative.”
Hayley Garland, from Stockton, said:
“We are proud of our town, our heritage, arts, culture and thriving independent shops.
“Take your sensationalist TV somewhere else!”
Christine Thompson, from Stockton, said:
“My hometown is starting to get back on its feet and I fear that this will be a big backward step.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 04 Sept 2014
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
Boosting turnout at elections has taken a new twist after a family’s eight-year-old dog was invited to vote.
Canines in the constituency don’t usually figure highly during the battle for votes on election day, but Zeus, an ageing Rottweiler cross, has got his paws on a polling card in the run-up to one political dogfight.
He has received an invitation to vote in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament on May 22.
The card, addressed to “Zeus Hoyle”, dropped through the letterbox of his owner Russell Hoyle’s home in Cheshire Road, Norton, Teesside.
Russell is planning to take his four-legged friend for walkies to the polling station on election day.
He said: “Me and my wife are going to vote and Zeus is coming with us. He has got his voting card.”
Zeus appears distinctly underwhelmed by it all.
His political persuasion is unclear, although his owner hopes he is not a Tory.
Asked how he planned to vote, Zeus let out what appeared to be a big yawn.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette 14 April 2014