The Duchess On The Estate

Tuesday, 25 August 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

The Duchess of York spent time on a Manchester housing estate to see for herself the problems people are facing there. She found the area plagued by crime, drugs and a lack of community spirit.

She came up with a solution: a community centre to bring local people together. And she had a novel idea about how she can achieve it, by bringing the mothers together on the estate.

The Duchess has enlisted Northern Moor resident Dawn, 42, to help her and they have found a suitable building but will need to raise £40,000.

Now they need other local residents to get behind the project and help improve life on the estate. The Duchess calls a public meeting to drum up support.

Despite a slow start, there’s a good turnout for the meeting and the Duchess tells the residents: “What we’re doing is we are going to build the bridge between young and old. We’ve heard from so many people who have said ‘we’re frightened to leave the house’. We’ve got to make changes I want Northern Moor to smile again and feel loved and be embraced. I know I can deliver but I can’t deliver on my own.”

One week after the meeting Dawn comes up with an idea to hold a family fun day. Dawn finds it difficult to get the volunteers from the meeting to get on board with the project. But Kathey and Maxine are committed to the project and a local garden centre donates plants for them to sell at the fun day.

The day arrives and the Duchess is impressed with the support.

Dawn adds up the takings and they have raised £2,300 with £640 coming from the plant sale.

Dawn says: “What a bonus. The biggest event that they’ve seen on the estate in a long time I feel. I can’t believe it. Absolutely overwhelmed. We are all short of money we all have to penny pinch and rob Peter to pay Paul but what money they did have they came and spent it didn’t they? I can’t emphasise enough how amazing it is and how supportive people have been.”

The Duchess visits Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, which owns the building, and secures it for a three year project which would act as a blueprint for other areas of the country on the condition that the extra money needed is raised within the forthcoming weeks.

But after work starts to get the building into shape the volunteers are faced with a problem – overnight gunshots are fired at the community centre’s windows.

Dawn says: “It’s got pretty serious round here we’ve noticed these bullet holes in the windows potentially everybody that comes in and out of the property, ie all my mates, we’re all in danger.”

The police initially advise Dawn to close the building. But after investigating they tell Dawn they can find no evidence of who fired the shots. It’s safe to return if everyone is willing to do so.

Aware of the problems on the estate, the Duchess returns to Manchester to try to generate some positive news and she doorsteps her business contacts to help raise the cash which is needed to fund the centre for the next three years.

Back at the centre Dawn calls a meeting – there is a shortage of volunteers and the money they raised at the fun day is running out. She appeals to local business to help donate items including a new kitchen and bathroom.

And she enlists the support of friend Simon, 25, a local resident with a criminal background, who is keen to make a fresh start.

He says: “Basically I’ve decided to give up that kind of life and move onto something else.”

Dawn tells him: “I need someone to come in to these kids and show them what to do. You’re in the ideal position not to preach at the kids, to guide them. If you don’t try you’re not going to get in the gates of heaven are you basically?”

Dawn decides to take a chance on him and for the next two weeks he leads the renovations.

The Duchess hosts a fundraising dinner and raises the £35,000 they need. The Duchess asks Simon to speak at the event and he explains what life was like growing up in Northern Moor and how he is managing to turn his life around.

By mid July the ground floor of the centre has been renovated and work is under way upstairs. The Duchess officially opens the building. And donations keep on coming in from local businesses.

The Duchess tells the volunteers: “I will say that I’ve never been more proud. What you’ve done is just realised my dream. Thank you very much.”

She returns to check on progress and says: “The thing about Woodville Community Centre it’s an ongoing project there’s always going to be things to do it’s never going to be perfect. The mere fact we’ve got this far is a complete miracle and if anyone’s been following the documentary they’ll know that I have had many, many reservations I never thought it could be done.”

Tuesday, 18 August 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

“Young people go out with their mobile telephones and their knives now. I’ve noticed a lot more violence, I’ve noticed bad language. Literally, you can’t get some young people to do joined up writing, let alone joined up sentences,” says the Duchess.

Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, has spent more than 10 days on a Manchester housing estate to learn more about the problems of ‘broken Britain’ in the new two part show The Duchess on the Estate.

Her trip follows on from the success of the ITV1 show The Duchess in Hull in which she took her anti-obesity message to a Hull family to help change their diet and exercise regimes and help transform their lives.

But as a result of her trip to Hull the Duchess realises that the problems facing Britons today go much further than just obesity and the film inspired the Duchess to take on this new project in Northern Moor, part of Wythenshawe, which is one of the largest council estates in Europe.

She discovers more about the issues facing local people during her trip – drugs, crime and a lack of community spirit.

Local resident Steven Fielding explains: “All these people around, they’re committing crime after crime, after crime, after crime and they’re still allowed back on the streets.

“Show me one area in south Manchester with community spirit – there’s none, none. Even your next door neighbours nobody talks to you any more everybody’s petrified.”

Fellow resident Marlene Entwhistle says: “We’ve had people that have been stabbed, people that have been assaulted, robbed, it’s gone on for years.”

Can the Duchess inspire local people to change their estate, and their lives, for good?

Dawn, 42, has lived in Northern Moor all her life. She is tired of what’s happening on the estate and has signed up to help improve the local area. She knows that a well known person is coming to tackle the problems but doesn’t know who. The Duchess is greeted warmly by Dawn and many of her friends.

Unemployed Dawn has a very strict attitude to parenting and lays down strict curfews to her three children who are aged between 9 and 17.

The Duchess’s new home for a week is a B & B on the edge of the estate. She wastes no time in getting to know the locals.

“Well you can’t possibly help people if you don’t know what it’s like,” says the Duchess. “You’ve got to know the area and you’ve got to feel it and you’ve got to live the life to really then want to champion it. I wouldn’t want my children to be frightened to go outside.”

Dawn shows the Duchess round the estate and shows her the shut down, empty shops.

The Duchess says: “Do you know what? It’s tragically sad. It’s got an air of misery.”

The Duchess heads to the local pub to find out why there’s such apathy on the local estate. She has a game of pool with the locals and meets Eamonn who has lived on Northern Moor for 10 years. With one in five men jobless in Wythenshawe the Duchess is keen to find out what opportunities there are for young men on the estate.

Eamonn tells her: “To be quite honest I got laid off from work last week…something needs to be done because it’s not getting any better and government after government are just leaving it and it’s getting worse and worse and worse and eventually we’ll end up like America won’t we?

“”There was a bloke who walked out of here apparently last Friday and got mugged by a young kid…he hit him with a baseball bat or something and tried to get his wallet off him, but that’s what’s happening, that’s what it is.”

The Duchess needs to find a solution –she visits Julie Bascombe, a Blackpool resident who turned her community round by setting up a youth centre called Dreamscheme. The trip inspires the Duchess and she now has a possible solution – a community centre which would bring the local people together.

And she has a novel idea of how she can achieve it – by bringing the mothers together on the estate.

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