Sarah Ferguson: The Duchess On The Estate

Ferguson, Sarah

“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.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM ITV1