Flying eggs, flying insults and flying in the face of local opinion - Benefits Street comes to Stockton

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the controversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

BENEFITS STREET:Kingston Road in Stockton, where filming of the contoversial Benefits Street documentary is taking place. Picture: TOM BANKS

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Stockton/Hartlepool)

AN egg whizzes over my head, making a satisfying splat on the street . I take a slightly shocked step back. Cue big guffaws all round, including from the Channel 4 cameraman. “Watch out, it’ll be a f****** bricks next,” laughs the young lad I’d been chatting too.

Welcome to Kingston Road on Stockton’s Tilery estate, the new ‘Benefits Street.’

Yet, for all the flying eggs and swearing teenagers, it wasn't hard to find everyday, decent people on the estate.

But, of course, not many, if any, working people have been signed on by Love Productions; the company behind the controversial Benefits Street.

As street resident, housewife, Joanne Briggs, 47, says: “My husband works and I look after my house and family, we’re just normal - far too boring for them.”

Anyone actually taking part in the programme stays silent when approached for comment, the watchful eye of the television cameraman seeing all.

The area’s political representatives were far from quiet when it came to condemning the programme, the first series of which drew more than five million viewers, but was dubbed “poverty porn”, receiving 1,800 complaints into the bargain.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said he had held discussions with Love Productions and the company had promised to keep him informed.

He said: “I’m deeply disappointed that they didn’t keep their promise. If that’s an example of the way they do business with an MP, what credence should people on the street give them?”

Love Productions hit back, saying that in fact Mr Cunningham was informed by phone that the street had been chosen last week. The company’s Creative Director, Kieran Smith, argued the series would focus on community spirit.

“It's an incredibly close community and whilst people may not have much they do have one another to turn to for help,” he said.

Despite this assurance, Bob Cook, leader of Stockton Borough Council, said it had been made clear to the programme makers that they were “not welcome.”

“I am extremely concerned about the way in which the fantastic people who live and work in Stockton will be portrayed by this programme,” he says.

There was some support for the programme on the estate, especially from younger people. John Ford, 18, says he would be on the show, albeit with his face blurred out. “It will help the area. I’ve been involved with crime and they’ve given me good advice on how to get out of it,” he says.

Jamie Smith, 20, who was delivering leaflets in the area, agreed.

Explaining he had been on Job Seekers Allowance, he says: “It might show people how hard it is to live on benefits. You read that it’s easy, well it isn’t.”

However, older people were almost universally against the series.

Retired nurse, Gill Stoker, 69, says: “I’ve lived on far worse estates and I can tell you the young ones here aren’t bad kids really, but there’s no work and they get bored. It will be easy to make them look bad.

“My family, my daughters, live down south. What are they going to think about where I live when they see this? But there’s a hell of a lot of good people live on this estate.”

Comments (1)

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9:09am Wed 27 Aug 14

marilyn49 says...

" ...chatting too.."?
" ...chatting too.."? marilyn49
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