Musician's defence of his home town of Stockton wins support after 'dunce's hat' Christmas 'tree' criticised

Darlington and Stockton Times: Mike McGrother Mike McGrother

A MUSICIAN and teacher claims to have won support from thousands of people for defending his home town following what he regards as a critical newspaper article.

Mike McGrother, well known in Stockton for his Wildcats of Kilkenny band as well as his musical work with children, took offence at an online Daily Mail article.

The story, also covered by The Northern Echo, contained criticism, much of it from local people, about a replacement ‘Christmas tree’ installed in Stockton town centre.

The 20ft ‘cone,’ described as looking like a dunce’s hat by one online contributor, has been widely criticised online, including by Northern Echo readers.

The Daily Mail only published the story online and the article contained a seven paragraph response from Stockton Borough council which explained Stockton High Street is being redeveloped at present and a real Christmas tree will return next year.

The only mention about Stockton High Street or the rest of the town was made by the Stockton council spokesman and online comments.

However, in his letter Mr McGrother argues the article only focused on a negative aspect of the town and he has written an open letter to The Daily Mail which he published on his website blog, Facebook and referenced in Twitter.

Mr McGrother said it has been read by 7,500 people and he has been inundated with messages of support.

Leader of Stockton council, Bob Cook, and leading Ingleby Barwick independent councillor David Harrington, have both endorsed the open letter.

Mr McGrother’s letter to The Daily Mail said: “Next time you come to my town Daily Mail, I would personally like to meet you.

"I would like to tell you of our heritage; of our regeneration and of our vision.

"I would love you to meet some of the 2,000 participants of last week’s community event; or the massive numbers of small, specialist shops who are bucking the trend and successfully setting up shop in the high street; I could take you for a coffee in one of a number of cafes and tea rooms; perhaps you could enjoy a gig, a comedy night, or theatre show in our thriving arts centre.

"We could pop to the world class watersports centre or visit Durham University Queens Campus. And then, once you have visited, I will wait and enjoy your complete lack of coverage and silent ignorance of a community that is real, dynamic and regenerating.”

No-one could be contacted at The Daily Mail for further comment.

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