With the controversy still raging about Channel 4 documentary Bouncers and its depiction of Newport, RUTH MANSFIELD asks how we can change the image of the city for the better.

IT led to outrage on Facebook and Twitter, caused politicians and council officials to speak out and even led to a hit Youtube rap by Goldie Lookin’ Chain.

The controversial Channel 4 documentary Bouncers, which followed door staff from the city’s LRS Security as they dealt with drunken revellers, got many talking but also led to many complaining that the programme failed to show a balanced picture of Newport.

Comments from some of the doormen, including that Newport clubbers were “inbred” and “mongos” only added to the outrage as it tarnished the image of the city.

But how do we turn the image back around? How do we get people focussing on the positives of the city rather than just thinking of it as a place to avoid when planning a night out?

Managing director of Effective Communication PR, Alastair Milburn, says that a campaign built on the positive aspects of Newport is the way forward.

He said: “It takes time and Newport has had a lot of kicks in the wider media over the years but a campaign built on the many great things in Newport, and especially its people, is the only way to go.”

He said the city should take example from Cardiff which, despite once having a bad reputation for its night time behaviour, is now renowned for its good nightlife, attracting people from all over the UK.

He said: “It’s 2012. We need to start promoting the music scene and nightlife. Create a buzz, create some intrigue.

Just look at what happened with Newport State of Mind.

That really put Newport on the map. There has to be much more of that kind of thinking and attitude.

“But you need to invest time and you need to persevere. It’s just too easy to roll over and say ‘Nobody likes us.’”

Current Miss Newport, Victoria Grinnall, 17, said: “We need to listen to more young people and see how they get involved with the city and what their views are. We need to concentrate on the positive things too such as the theatres and the shopping facilities.”

For Newport EastAMJohn Griffiths, encouraging people to see a night out as more than just binge drinking is one of the answers.

He said: “The council and police should work together to try to get rid of irresponsible drinks promotions which encourage binge drinking.

“A night out is very one dimensional at the moment with people going from club to club drinking as much as they can rather than families going out eating and for entertainment.

It needs to be more varied.”

He added: “I think what we need to do is get the true picture of Newport across. That programme distorted what Newport is all about. There are lots of people volunteering, doing amazing amounts for charity and looking to make Newport a better place.

“The impression I get from Newport people is that they are proud of the city and do care for it. We need to concentrate on this.”

Newport council leader Matthew Evans emphasised the many positive aspects of the city including sites such as Newport Wetlands, Newport Cathedral, Tredegar House, the Transporter Bridge, Caerleon Amphitheatre and Newport Museum and Art Gallery.

He also noted the city attracting major projects and outside investors such as the Newport International Sports Village, which the Football Association of Wales has picked as the new home of Welsh football, and plans for the new multi-million Friars Walk shopping centre, and said education in the city was also something to be celebrated with a recent Estyn report placing the council’s education service among the best in Wales.

Cllr Evans said despite the impression created by Bouncers, people can look forward to some positive TV promotion of the city.

He said: “Channel 4’s Time Team recently spent time filming in Caerleon while the history of Newport is the focus of an episode of the BBC Wales series Welsh Towns. Both of these programmes will air shortly.

“Newport’s significance to the development of the railway system in the UK was also the focus for a recent episode of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys.”

He added: “Unfortunately the scenes shown in Bouncers are common across the UK and are an issue for Newport as they are for all cities, but Newport has so much more to offer its visitors and residents than this.

“The programme focused on a very small part of life in Newport.”

‘We have a lot to celebrate’

South Wales Argus: Transporter Bridge: Picture by John Briggs

POSITIVE: One of John Briggs' shots of Newport

ONE person who has put his positive image of the city into practice is John Briggs, 64.

The photographer, originally from the USA, moved to Newport in the 70s and in 1999 released Newportrait, a book of images including the one above.

Mr Briggs said: “Newport is an enjoyable city... and the people are very friendly.”

Mr Briggs said that although his book showed some negative changes in the city such as closure of businesses, there was also a lot to celebrate too.

South Wales Argus: Photographer John Briggs' pictures of Newport from his book 'Newportrait'.


“There are lots of new structures and infrastructures such as the university campus, the Riverfront arts centre and the Southern Distributor Road.” Bouncers, he said,was an unfair portrayal. “People need to try to think more positively about the city and what it has to offer.”

‘Unfair on city’

South Wales Argus: FRIENDS Lauren Thomas, 22, (left) and Gemma Gullis, 25, for Newport bouncers feature

UNFAIR: Lauren Thomas, 22,(left) and Gemma Gullis, 25

FRIENDS Lauren Thomas, 22, and Gemma Gullis, 25, from Pontnewydd, Cwmbran, have been coming out to Newport for several years.

Miss Thomas said: “It was very unfair on Newport. Every city and town has reputations but they picked all the bad points and made it look awful. It’s no different to anywhere else.

“I’ve never had any trouble and feel safe in Newport.”

Miss Gullis added: “The show was horrendous, it was definitely over-exaggerated.

“It has given Newport an awful name. People don’t want to go out because of what they’ve seen on TV.”

Funny, says one, grossly unjust, say others

South Wales Argus: Newport bouncers vox pop

BEN FRAMPTON went into Newport city centre on Friday night to talk to revellers about the show: IN AN odd coincidence, the first person we spoke to in the street was Chris Harrhy, 17, the son of Len Harrhy, operations director of LRS Security – the security firm at the centre of the programme.

He said: “I thought it was funny, a bit over the top. It was edited to be like that. I don’t think it was too harsh but Newport is safe enough to go out in.”

Moving up Cambrian Road close to Wetherspoon’s, the Greyhound and Kama Lounge, where a lot of the footage was shot, drinkers offered a mixed response to the programme.

Colin Wildy, 20, from Underwood, said: “The bouncers were out of order, it’s not as bad as they made it out to be. The way they spoke is disgusting.

There’s nothing wrong with this place at all.”

Molly Rankin, 20, from Rogerstone, said: “There are two sides to every story – we were interviewed by the camera crew but it didn’t go in because we were sober. It isn’t as bad as people say – people forget about Newport’s history, such as the Chartists, and the fantastic music scene.”

Ashley Wood, 25, from Maesglas, said: “There’s a lot of good in Newport and that show put a bad view out about how Newport is and gave Newport a bad name.”

Oliver Bishop, 19, from Rogerstone, said: “It made Newport look a lot worse than it is – Newport has got a name for itself and people judge it on that before they see it.”

But there’s a scenic side

South Wales Argus: Peter Ellis pic of Newport Riverfront for Newport Bouncers

STRIKING: Peter Ellis' picture of Newport's riverside

PETER Ellis, who runs Ellis Photography in Risca Road, Newport, is another photographer who has concentrated on capturing the striking side of Newport as opposed to focusing on the negative, as in the picture above of the city’s new university campus.

South Wales Argus: Newport photographer Peter Ellis

MORE THAN JUST PUBS: Peter Ellis After he heard a man from Wolverhampton make a disparaging remark about the city’s railway station he set himself a mission of capturing Newport’s eyecatching images, which he hopes to exhibit.

He said: “People should look at the good things.

With the photos I was trying to put across that the area does have something going on and is more than just pubs and clubs.”