If you think Benefits Street looks a bit grubby in tonight’s show it was probably a lot worse before.
Tilery Estate on Kingston Road, Stockton-On-Tees – the new setting for series two of the Channel 4 documentary –was deliberately spruced up by the local housing association before filming began, according to one of the residents who takes part in the show.
Dorothy “Dot” Taylor told RadioTimes.com that the houses were renovated by the housing association which owns them, suggesting the organisation was anxious about the cameras coming onto their patch just before the General Election.
“We did get a lot done,” she said. “The houses got done, when they didn’t for years. We had been promised work long before and they said there was no funding and then we got lots of things done, windows and doors.
She laughed: “Maybe with an election coming up they thought they would posh the estate up a bit.”
A spokesman for Thirteen Group, the housing association which owns the properties in the road, said the work did take place but had been planned many years in advance. She denied that it was in response to the proposed filming.
“The ongoing investment in our properties is planned well in advance and any inference that the filming of any TV programme could influence this is completely untrue,” she said.
Whatever the answer, Dot added that the residents still welcomed the clean-up prior to the filming of the controversial documentary series.
Kieran Smith, creative director at Love Productions, which made both series, told RadioTimes.com that the new street was deliberately chosen because it was smaller than James Turner Street, the Birmingham neighbourhood used in series one, and would provide a more intimate feel.
Characters in the new series include mother of six Julie, who has a severely disabled son called Reagan, and her friend Sue. The two women – along with their gang of close-knit friends who frequently congregate on each other’s doorsteps to talk – have become the stars of the show.
Others include unemployed Lee (below) who has been denied a crisis loan but is able to rely on the food bank and his neighbours for something to eat.
Benefits Street series two episode two airs on Monday 18th May at 9pm on Channel 4