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Being working class is something to be proud of: filming The Mighty Redcar

Dan Dewsbury

Director, The Mighty Redcar

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Madison, a local resident who narrates The Mighty Redcar

The programme’s development team went around a number of places, but what they found with Redcar was that the people were really willing to talk because they wanted to talk about the issues that mattered most to them.

What better place to go to than where people want to talk to you, and want to tell you about how proud they are about their town?

Although there were those who wanted to talk to us, trying to find narratives that explain the bigger picture was quite difficult, as we met with about 400 people, not including the many hellos and brief conversations.

I ended up going up with the people I got on well with, and fortunately their stories turned into what being young’s all about - falling in love for the first time, moving away from home, getting exam results, these are huge things in your life.

The first filming started in November 2016, and for the team it wasn’t easy being away from their families and friends for a long time as there was a lot of filming at weekends.

A real high point was seeing some of the young people achieve their dreams, and the realisation for me that they’re amazing in their ability to adapt, to increase their ambition, and to do things that they didn’t think they could do.

But we had to constantly reassure the town to keep faith with us, that we weren’t going to represent them unfairly, and that we were making something objective that understands that love of where you are from: home is always home.

When you can’t show someone the final product because you’re in the middle of making it, that’s tough - people have to genuinely trust you, and have to have faith in you and the entire team worked hard to foster that.

It’s an anxious process, someone saying ‘film me for six months’, because the gloss goes away after a couple of days. But what’s good is that you get to see people change, and in this they shine.

Sometimes, with programmes on a similar territory, people in Redcar had felt it had been an unfair representation of a town, and we all felt it was important that the Redcar they saw in this was one they recognised.

It’s a big responsibility to show what real life is like for different parts of the UK, and any time anyone shows anything to do with working class towns, it’s looked down on, and that saddens me as I think being working class is something to be proud of.

When you think of Kes and Cathy Come Home and what used to be called kitchen sink dramas, you remember the pride people had and I wanted to show in some small way that this pride hasn’t died in places like Redcar.

The people of Redcar have massive amounts of love for where they come from, so I think it’s great that the BBC allowed us to do this in a way that is a true reflection. I did the filming along with Stuart Bernard and Jonny Ashton, and we benefited from the amount of time that we had to make this series. You can spend time getting lovely shots of places, and getting to know the town and the people really well.

When the title comes up on every episode, there’s a shot of a drone going over the Eston Hills. That was a logistical nightmare in terms of getting access, and on a good day with the sun just about to set - you’ve only got one chance to do it! And then also being hounded by other drone operators who can find you by geolocation. I learned a lot about logistics.

Filming something as huge as The Mighty Redcar is not always going to be perfect, but that’s kind of the beauty of making documentaries, it's real life and some of the things we filmed you’d not have been able to write in a drama.

I remain immensely grateful for the producers’ research, the talented, hard-working crew that 72 Films provided us with, the editors who managed to find a clear vision from what had been filmed, and of course, and always, the people of Redcar.

The Mighty Redcar begins on 6 September at 9pm on BBC Two.

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