One Borough, Several Stories: Television Documentaries Set in Tameside

From Park Bridge to Gee Cross, in 576i or 625 lines

The Paper Cup of Cheers: ground coffee partaken at the Stalybridge Farmers’ Market, February 2013.

Since the launch of Granada Television on 03 May 1956, a fair amount of the borough’s activities have been detailed in regional news bulletins. It has included the high points of Tameside’s fortunes such as the Queen’s visit to Ashton-under-Lyne in 1987, or the low points of its history such as the Moors Murderers and Harold Shipman.

In continuing dramas, Tameside remains a popular location, most notably in Scott and Bailey, Making Out, plus John Schlesinger’s films Billy Liar and Yanks. In documentary form, equally so with human interest features. Most of this down to the popularity of docusoaps since 1997 and a need for cheap and cheerful documentary material for daytime television. The rise of multi channel television has offered scope for several commercial outlets, thus meaning a repeat fee for Jason the Rat Man if The Consumer Police is aired in Latvia or the like.

It is the affable, down to earth nature of the average Tamesider that seems to work well with producers, though this could have a negative affect to some viewers. It could give out the picture that Droylsden may be rougher than Brixton, though we should be listening to their stories instead of trying to compare parts of Tameside with parts of London. (Please leave the Divide and Conquer stuff with the Daily Mail in Raja Brothers, thank you very much).

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1. Call The Council (BBC One, 15 x 45 minute episodes, 2014)

Over the last week, in the slot often occupied by Cowboy Trap or Stuff The Rich Tax Dodgers, Let’s Bounce On Those ‘Earning’ £72 Per Week, Tameside’s latest televisual appearance is narrated by Mark Radcliffe. Entitled Call The Council, it focuses on the day-to-day running of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council. The first episode included a Droylsden family who hung chicken out to dry, as part of a curing process for his family’s dinners.

The turnaround time for each of the weekday episodes is pretty nippy – today’s [26 May 2014] episode focused on the demolition of New Mill off Park Road, Dukinfield. This was a fortnight after the Tameside Reporter’s story.

The underlying message of its fifteen episodes is this: without our local authorities, this country of ours with 62 million people, would fall apart. How much of the work could have been safely and without thinking too much about profit margins if contracted out to a private body?

2. The Consumer Police (ITV/Title Role Productions, 2007)

Sandwiched between Friday’s double bill of Coronation Street episodes was a documentary series focusing on two areas: Lancashire and Tameside. Our borough’s Trading Standards and Environmental Health departments were the main focus. This would include reference to dealing with unlicensed Hackney Carriages (also covered on Call The Council), underage alcohol sales and substandard mini-motorcycles.

The environmental health department were featured in relation to pest control. Some of the more fun aspects were featured, most notably the restoration of a Dukinfield Borough refuse cart, celebrating a century of waste management in the borough.

3. Crimefighters UK (Tameside episodes) (ITV, 2007)

Shortly after the ITV News at Ten would be the preserve of cheap and cheerful documentaries (or as is often the case, crapumentaries), or regional programming. A staple of this timeslot would be hidden camera documentaries focused on the work of our emergency services. One enduring series is Crimefighters which covers the UK through the eyes of our police forces.

Whereas previous episodes have had commentary by Sarah Heaney, they eschewed commentary in the Tameside series. Instead, there was greater emphasis on the police officers and arrestee. Greater use of captions, set in Lucida Casual typeface, made the commentary superfluous and added a rougher edge to the series. This was also backed by subdued ambient music.

Included in the series was clips of Stalybridge at play, with the Market Street strip in full swing on a Friday night. Intro titles included a speeded up shot of Ashton Indoor Market and The Bowling Green, with a cameo appearance of a SpeedwellBus Dennis Dart.

4. Neighbourhood Watched (BBC One/Raw TV, 14 episodes, 2009 – 2012)

Once more, into the Cowboy Trap or Stuff The Rich Tax Dodgers, Let’s Bounce On Those ‘Earning’ £72 Per Week slot (or occasionally repeated on BBC Three), Raw Television’s 2009 production. Neighbourhood Watched focused on the work of New Charter Housing Trust’s activities as social landlord. Much of the series focused on hardships facing its tenants as well as NCHT’s role. It included references to anti-social behaviour, problems facing elderly tenants and family issues. In other words, all walks of life from cradle to grave. In Mossley, and eight other places.

A fair amount of the documentary was set in Waterton Lane, Mossley. The 1970s saw expansion to the north of its terraced houses off Hart Mill, with public housing ranging from maisonettes to five bedroom houses. Some of the maisonettes have deck access via a footbridge from Lees Road, near the Oldham bound 343 bus stop.

5. Marine Lives (Granada Television, 6 x 28 minute episodes, 2001)

Though documenting the fortunes of the Crosby based Evostik Premier Division side, one part of Tameside did make a cameo appearance: Bower Fold. Highlights of Stalybridge Celtic’s fixture against Marine (17 March 2001) saw the ‘Bridge win 2-1 at Bower Fold. Much to the ire of its then manager Roly Howard, with slightly subdued tones from narrator Roger McGough.

6. Mossley Goes to Wembley (Granada Television, 28 minutes, 1980)

Sticking with the Northern Premier League, Mossley was one of the NPL’s most successful teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 – 79, they won the NPL title, scoring 117 goals – a record held till the 2013 – 14 season, broken by Worksop Town (120 goals). The following season saw them retain their title, but national fame came to them when they went to Wembley on the 17 May 1980.

Mossley Goes to Wembley detailed the momentous day starting off with fans leaving for the railway station (special trains ran from Greenfield, Mossley and Stalybridge stations). There was some highlights of the F.A. Trophy final versus Dagenham, including George Duck’s opening goal and Ian Smith’s equaliser for the Lilywhites. In spite of being seen as the better side, Maycock scored the winning goal for the Daggers with the trophy going to Victoria Road instead of Seel Park.

The documentary finished with the fans and the side returning home and featured their homecoming. The very end would see Mossley A.F.C.’s Civic Reception by Charles Meredith (the then Mayor of Tameside) at the Market Ground.

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Whatever Next?

Whereas Mossley Goes to Wembley may have been seen by three million or so viewers in Granadaland, the chances of three million people seeing New Mill’s demolition is fairly likely. This time, the three million refers to a national figure watching Call The Council on its scheduled time, though many more could watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Today, watching television is less of a communal experience. Instead of watching the same programmes as other family members, you could always catch up on BBC iPlayer, Demand5, ITV Player or 4oD. Not only on a television, but also a smartphone and digital tablet as well as your personal computer. If there’s nothing on, you could always do what I often do: turn to YouTube.

Thanks squarely to YouTube and improved technologies, it is possible to set up an internet based TV station on an ALDI budget. Furthermore, an internet TV channel is mainly used for promotional purposes. More a corporate video stream than ITV on a lemonade budget.

Even in the internet age, there’s still a need for genuine community-based television with hyperlocal programming to set schedules. No matter how many WiFi enabled devices one can possess, there is still great joy in seeing your locality on a national TV station. Though only if good, rather than bad news is announced.

But bad news, rather than good news sells newspapers, or it goes viral in the Online Republic of Instafacetuber.

S.V., 26 May 2014.

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3 thoughts on “One Borough, Several Stories: Television Documentaries Set in Tameside

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  1. Must admit, I didn’t realise any of Billy Liar was filmed in Tameside, but my brother’s school mate, Col Needham (aka the founder of IMDb) confirms scenes shot at “Ashton Palais”.
    I’m not sure what to make of Call the Council. I’m getting a bit bored with former Denton resident Mark Radcliffe referring to them as “heroic” every 5 minutes, but he might have his tongue firmly embedded in his cheek. Could do without the tokenistic market traders calling for cheap parking, as well. 1000+ free parking spaces didn’t help Denton Market, did it? I missed the first week, and only stumbled on it by chance on Bank Holiday Monday, but am taping the rest of the series. Looking forward to seeing Parking Wardens ticketing bus stop blockers – LOL.

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  2. Just finished watching this series – no mention of Parking Wardens of course, but then again, does Tameside have any? Mind you, having seen the last episode, you can see how law enforcement simply doesn’t exist even for crimes commited right under the Police’s nose. I’m referring to an incident depicted 20 minutes in where a double crime is committed ie. a single act, breaking the law of the land on two levels. I’ll give you a clue; if this was filmed before July 1st 2007, I hold my hands up and say, sorry – not yet a crime!

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  3. Just watched the series of call the council. Appalling behaviour by the wardens picking the person up from the floor. Is the council providing such a poor quality of care that they do not know the difference between care and abuse?

    I am sure Manual Handling Teams, safe guarding and the CQC would be very interested if this was actually carried out by a care provider and would be taking immediate action.

    The programme said all the staff are fully trained to carry out these procedures. I would be very interested to find out if the council advocate dragging people up from the floor and what would happen if they found other care providers carrying out the same techniques.

    What they did is not trained by any training provider as far as I am aware. So are your training providers the same as what the local hospital provider uses.

    My mother did use the warden control services, the idea was that they had trained staff (or so I was told) who would be able to get her up from the floor as we were told in no uncertain terms that if we did that then it could be dangerous for us and her. My mother had involvement with the Manual Handling team over the years who in the main did seem very good and informed us that we should not be doing this kind of thing.

    So is it one rule for them and another for us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As my mother fell several times and they intervened I am now appalled they would have done exactly what we were told not to do. They could have seriously injured her doing this.

    Concerned Son and ex resident of Tameside

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