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
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
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
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
Stockton residents being filmed for Benefits Street are being urged by their MP to quit the controversial TV show.
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has written to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the Channel 4 documentary.
The Labour MP has 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 yesterday he paid a visit to the street in Tilery to make sure residents “understand exactly what they have got themselves into.”
He said: “I spoke with several residents who told me they and their neighbours were opposed to the programme and wanted no part of it.
“They said just a few people wanted it, but the area was already suffering from troublemakers coming in from other areas to play up to the cameras.”
The MP said he left the street after two Love Production camera crews “followed my every step”.
In his letter to the residents he says: “The television executives claim a high moral purpose to give people who they say don’t have a voice a chance to speak out about their problems and how they feel let down.
“But what they haven’t outlined is the immense intrusion there will be into participants’ lives by themselves and large parts of the media who won’t be there to do the people of our area any favours.”
He goes on: “I hope that if you are one of the people thinking of taking part that you will think again, recognise what it will really mean for you, your family and local residents, and tell Love Productions their programme isn’t for you or our community.”
Helen Goodman MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Culture, was in Stockton yesterday visiting Preston Hall Museum and took time out of her schedule to meet Louise Baldock, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South, to discuss Benefits Street.
Helen said: “A lot of good things are happening in Stockton at Preston Hall and the Arc, so why does Channel 4 persist in perpetuating these dreary negative stereotypes? Benefits Street is not a serious documentary and serves only to make entertainment out of poverty and hardship.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 30 Aug 2014
> 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