999 TV show - resort teenagers say: ‘We’re not as bad as we’re made to look’

PC Mike Ellis
PC Mike Ellis
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“DON’T treat us like criminals” - that was the message from young people in Blackpool who hit back after a prime-time Channel 4 documentary showed some of the town’s youngsters fighting police while getting arrested, throwing bricks and spending nights out on the street.

That was the message from young people in Blackpool who hit back after a prime-time Channel 4 documentary showed some of the town’s youngsters fighting police while getting arrested, throwing bricks and spending nights out on the street.

999: What’s Your Emergency followed police, fire and ambulance crews across the resort – and Monday night’s show focussed on how officers deal with misbehaving youngsters and out-of-control parents.

But now teenagers have claimed the show did not “fully represent” the town’s youngsters.

Katy Seddon, 14, a pupil at St Mary’s Catholic College, Layton, said she was disappointed the programme showed youngsters in such a poor light.

Katy, who volunteers at Rainbow and Brownie groups, said: “I was surprised by what the young people were doing, wandering the streets late at night. It’s the way they are brought up.

“I’ve got a part-time job in a cafe clearing tables and washing up. A lot of my friends have jobs or are looking for jobs.”

Bethany Acton, chairman of Blackpool Young People’s Council, added: “I consider Blackpool to be lucky to have so many enthusiastic and caring young people who volunteer hundreds of hours each year. It’s unfortunate this often gets missed.”

Blackpool Sixth Form College student Rebecca Ashpool, 16, of Layton, said: “None of my friends would ever dream of swearing at a policeman and the way teenagers behave isn’t like that at all.

“We don’t go out drinking or taking drugs or getting into trouble all the time, yet anyone who watched the programme probably thinks we do.”

And mum-of-four Victoria Culshaw, whose children attend St Cuthbert’s Primary School on Lightwood Avenue, added: “As soon as if finished I went on Facebook and several of my friends who aren’t from this area were messaging me saying ‘what a nightmare it must be living in Blackpool - the kids are awful’.

“But it isn’t like that at all.”

The show was filmed in the town last year and is being shown over 10 weeks on Channel 4, with a different issue highlighted each week.

Mel Ramsey, a dance instructor and co-founder of FY West Coast dance troupe, said it provided an unbalanced view.

She said: “It just shows one side – they could show all the good things Blackpool has to offer. One of the reasons we first set up FY West Coast because there was a need to give kids something positive to work towards.”

Coun Sarah Riding, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, added: “I do not feel the programme was anywhere near a true 
reflection.

“A large majority of young people in Blackpool are hard-working, honest and focused, with a strong desire to improve both themselves and the town.”

As well as showing youngsters getting in trouble with the police, the programme also focussed the teenage daughter of a Blackpool alcoholic – Andrea – who cared for both her mum and her younger brother.

The documentary showed her struggle with her mum, but still manage to achieve top grades in her A-Levels.

And Chief Insp Gary Dunnagan, of Blackpool Police, said: “What we saw does exist and we can’t hide from that fact but it is an absolute minority.”

A Channel 4 spokesman added: “The series is seen through the eyes of the emergency services. When they come into contact with young people it’s usually because things are going wrong. However, one of the main stories featured in last night’s programme was of a teenage girl overcoming a challenging background to gain 3 A -Levels and go to university.”

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS ON THE CHANNEL 4 SHOW - WE HAVE PRINTED MANY OF THOSE IN TODAY’S GAZETTE