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The Vote: The Duchess on the Estate

Fergie backlash has begun as Northern Moor residents revolt against the Duchess. Lynda Moyo asks, who is right?

Written by . Published on August 19th 2009.


Yes: - 57%
No: - 43%

The first part of Sarah, Duchess of York’s highly anticipated documentary, The Duchess on the Estate aired on ITV1 last night. As part of her ongoing efforts to mend what she calls “Broken Britain”, Fergie travelled to Manchester on a crusade to save Northern Moor. Whilst many local residents took part in the TV programme, others who didn’t are angry at the portrayal of their area.

It’s often said that the monarchy's popularity is in steady decline due to the fact that many young people can’t connect with them. But Fergie wants to bridge the gap.

“I’m on the public stage in order to get the voice out,” she said as selected Northern Moor residents shared their concerns about the area.

“Show me one area in South Manchester with community spirit. There’s none. Everyone’s petrified,” one man said.

Others spoke of stabbings, robberies and assaults. Then it was on to the main participant in the show, Dawn McGowan – a self confessed over-protective mum who desperately wants the area to improve. “I’d kill for my kids,” she said.

Fergie then watched some YouTube clips of ‘council estate life’ to try to get an idea of the residents’ fears. “I didn’t realise they were proud of their disgraceful behaviour,” she said, looking at a video of trigger-happy chavs. “It’s all very easy for us to read about it in a newspaper from our comfy armchair.”

Overcoming ignorance was clearly part of the motivation behind Fergie stepping out of her comfort zone, but at times it reared its ugly head. Exiting the car at Dawn’s house for the first time, she yelled to the driver: “Neil! Car! Watch! Bags!” It appeared that YouTube had left her with preconceived notions before she’d even stepped foot in Northern Moor.

“I’m Fergie. Do you know the Queen? Well, I married her son. I married a real-life prince,” she said to Dawn’s camera-shy young son who didn’t have a clue who she was. He acknowledged her before carrying on playing his computer game. And he wasn’t the only youngster who couldn’t care less.

She met a group of lads on the estate. “What’s with the cameras?” asked an 18-year-old, swigging a bottle of Stella in the middle of the day. “What do you want to do with your life? Is it boring?” Fergie quizzed. “No, it’s shit”, he replied.

Fergie’s conclusion was that boredom often results in a spiral of drugs, violence and crime, saying empathetically: “The general consensus is boredom, no job and no hope. It must be very difficult to live without hope.”

But haven’t we heard this hundreds of times before in a hundred different areas of hundreds of different UK towns and cities? Prior to the screening of the documentary, protesters gathered at Wythenshawe Park to dispute what they feel is an unfair singling out of Northern Moor.

Resident John Donaghey said: “The publicity surrounding this programme has made this area look like Beirut. I’m not saying Northern Moor is perfect, but I’m proud to live here and there is a very strong community.”

Former Lord Mayor of Manchester and local councillor Glynn Evans added, "I did not see the Duchess once during her short stay. How can she have given a true reflection of the community when she was only here for such a short space of time?”

But whilst Fergie may be receiving the brunt of the blame for this negativity, it’s important to remember that much of what was said about the area came directly from residents’ mouths. So perhaps the argument is that the programme makers didn’t choose a fair cross-section of residents or show the positive areas which local people are adamant do exist.

Carole Carter, another long-term resident of Northern Moor, said: “The publicity around this programme is having a very detrimental effect on Wythenshawe. I don’t feel that the programme makers are going to show the whole area, with its quality housing, green spaces and community spirit. It’s all been very stereotyped and hyped.”

A disgruntled Dawn however, went on to point out a shopping area that she has witnessed decline over the years and turn into a sea of solicitors and takeaways. She said, “I know there’s a lot of crime but we don’t need all those solicitors.”

Fergie stopped to speak to an elderly lady who had been the victim of a crime in her own home. There was also much talk with locals about the apathy of young men in the area. Minutes later and Fergie ‘the TV personality’ was posing with police on the streets as they took it in turns with their camera phones. The people’s patron she claimed to be would surely have fired questions about their role in the supposed decline of Wythenshawe. Frustratingly for viewers, this wasn’t to be.

The first part of the documentary ended with Fergie hatching up a positive plan to create a community hub for residents after seeing a similar scheme work in Blackpool. She enlisted the help of local mums and spoke to the chair of the Residents’ Association, who went on to find her a building. Fergie described her hopes for Northern Moor as “a big project” several times throughout the programme and as she took a “sinister” walk through the estate, alone (with the camera crew), at night, she pondered whether “I’ve taken on too big a task.”

The second part of the programme is to be shown on ITV1 next Tuesday, 25 August at 9pm, but in the meantime Fergie faces even more backlash in what, for her, has become a nightmare response to her good will. But is Fergie right to feel disheartened in a case of 'damned if you do, damned if you don’t?' Or is it ill-portrayed Wythenshawe residents we should feel sorry for? Vote on the homepage.

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49 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

shhh!August 19th 2009.

By making such a song and dance about a show that, probably, very few people watched, the residents are making the situation worse by affording Fergie the oxygen of publicity. I doubt that Manchester confidential would have given two hoots about the show had the residents not kicked off so much. And, let's be honest, if you've ever been to Northern Moor, I think you'd recognise Fergie's portrayal of it.

to be fairAugust 19th 2009.

I tell you what though, there's some seriously unhealthy & unkempt folk in those pics!

that isn't fairAugust 19th 2009.

Is there? How many? Which ones? One or two from twenty? You do get fat people in Hale you know.

to be fairAugust 19th 2009.

I'm sorry but you do see some genuine horrors in less affluent areas. It's not unique to Northern Moor tho. Look at the pic bottom-left, over the shoulder of the (quite pretty) ginger lass.... EUUUUGH! How can anybody think that's a good look?

ELAugust 19th 2009.

I can't be the only who reckons Dawn was playing it up for some kind of agenda of her own? Maybe 'cos she can't find work as she beats up random kids?

that isn't fairAugust 19th 2009.

So from 'there's some seriously unhealthy & unkempt folk in those pics' you go to one person over the shoulder of a redhead?!

fairs fairAugust 19th 2009.

Not just her, look at the other pic which has the heart sigend by "Mad Mary"....I'll bet shes a barrel of laughs !

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

If people are going to start commenting on how attractive, or not, they think others are - can I request that they upload their own photos, so we can all judge how hot they look?

lucky-chrisAugust 19th 2009.

you couldn't handle it ;-)

solomonAugust 19th 2009.

Not sure money and less affluence areas has all that much to do with it. look at fergie !!

Mick M22August 19th 2009.

Thought I would visit this site to view the opinions of Manchester confidential's readers regarding the Northern Moor programme. I was looking for insight and intelligent debate. Perhaps as has been commented on other forums on this site unless it is Didsbury or Chorlton it is not relevant!

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

Manchester Confidential is the city’s independent online magazine - owned by Mancunians for Mancunians. Anchored by food reviews and issue-based or campaigning articles, it offers readers a distinctive and brave view of the city " Yeah right!

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

I think Mick makes a valid point about this, we all ( I certainly include myself in this) discuss chorlton/didsbury/city centre and other areas with impunity. A 'less fashionable area' gets prime time media coverage and we ridicule it. For what its worth I often drive through the area TBH have no real reason to stop, and I believe there was selective editing to make the place look worse than it is. Of course that is the nature of the program - how the landed gentry can teach us proles how to have better lives if we trust in them. Also there is a ghetto mindset amongst a lot of teenagers whereby they almost long to live in 'da hood', so i wouldnt rely too much on the responses HRH got from the kids on the precinct.

ELAugust 19th 2009.

I'm just trying to work out how covering this story reflect badly on ManCon. Baffled... can one of you brave anonymous souls perhaps explain?

M23August 19th 2009.

I live in Northern Moor. I am a home owner, my partner and I are fit, healthy and working full time. Some of our neighbours are noisy, some of them are exemplary - just as you'd find every where in the world. I have lived in far worse places in Manchester such as Whalley Range where I was propositioned as a potential prostitute and a young man was shot on my road, Fallowfield where every night an alarm was ringing, the lights from the police helicopters woke me up, my mother was carjacked and my handbag stolen, and Chorlton on Medlock where people set fire to anything and everything and all the pubs were closed down for security reasons. I feel I have moved up in the world by moving to Northern Moor! I see green trees and park land, there is a great community centre already (why do people never really ask what people need?) there is a horticultural society, and lots of community activity in the area. Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect, but I can think of literally HUNDREDS of places in Manchester, never mind Greater Manchester that have bigger problems to work on. Credit to the Duchess for wanting to help. Shame on her and the production company for not doing thier research properly.

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

EL, I agree, how does this make this website bad? By putting this up, they have allowed us to voice our opinions if we want to. No harm in that.

M30August 19th 2009.

Right with M23 there - if the Dutchess had really wanted to see genuine areas of multiple social deprivation, sink estates, and a growing underclass, she would have been better advised to go to Gorton, Openshaw etc. The only difference is that the people of Wythenshawe by and large have a respect for the (unfairly maligned) area in which they live. The dwellers of Gorton, Openshaw etc are the "Shameless style" underclass that the production company so obviously wanted.

ELAugust 19th 2009.

I think it's shocking they showed the shops that are closed in the circle, yet didn't pan their cameras 180 to show all the bustling OPEN shops. Also amazed no NM residents aren't considering legal action given the effect this will have on house prices.

qwertyAugust 19th 2009.

I was a previous poster and as the beautiful 'El' requests, I have removed my cloak of anonymity.I would like to say that I dont believe the issue is with mancon reporting it, more to do with the debate surrounding the report. If deansgate, castlefield, didsbury, hale and god forbid 'Chorlton' were reflected in a bad light on prime time television, I think the ongoing debate would be different.

qwertyAugust 19th 2009.

I was a previous poster and as the beautiful 'El' requests, I have removed my cloak of anonymity.I would like to say that I dont believe the issue is with mancon reporting it, more to do with the debate surrounding the report. If deansgate, castlefield, didsbury, hale and god forbid 'Chorlton' were reflected in a bad light on prime time television, I think the ongoing debate would take a very different tone.

Manchester is goodAugust 19th 2009.

The Noonans have featured in plenty "isn't society awful" programmes and they live in Chorlton... I think one of the problems is that Greater Manchester in its entirety is represented in quite a bad light on TV, I can think of recent programmes which focused of social problems in Rochdale (The Trouble with Girls BBC2) and Wigan (CCTV Cities C5) to name but a few. Of course there are problems in Manchester, but there are similar issues all round the country – even down south! I’m all for opening up a debate about the issues and challenges faced by those less fortunate individuals in society, but I think this could be assuaged by making programmes about the success stories in city regions – it gives a much more rounded picture.

KieranAugust 19th 2009.

What a load of crap this programme was. Firstly, yes there are poor, run down areas in Manchester... so why focus on Northern Moor? OK it might not be the glitzyest part of south Manchester, but its hardly a worthy depiction of 'broken britain'.Secondly, was it me or was Fergie calling a spade a 'potentially lethal weapon' - angling for negative answers with every probing question. 'Resident - last year my neighbour had a stone thrown at their window - Fergie - Are you sure it was a stone and not a molotov cocktail, or perhaps a ground to air missile?'. And as for asking some lazy gets about why they aren't in work, its hardly going to elicit an Obama style response which evokes images of hope.Thirdly, what is this obsession with showing kids in tracksuits and making out that it is a sign of a broken society? Most of these kids were probably just getting loafs of bread for their Nana! The fact that they had to show that skinny kid with the long hair and wooly hat (possibly the least intimidating person I have ever seen) proved that they were struggling for material that fitted in with a 'pre-scripted' programme. KIDS WHERE SPORTSWEAR, and funny enough they also have too get from A to B, sometimes stopping to chat with their mates. Hopefully anybody with an ounce of nouce would have seen through this aweful attempt at social commentry.

KieranAugust 19th 2009.

sorry, just read my post back and must say sorry for the poor grammar

MissBoobyAugust 19th 2009.

All these people who are classing Didsbury in the upper echalons of Manchester suburbia - have you ever walked past the Hogshead on Saturday night?! And before everyone starts ranting and raving, I live in Didsbury and I love it, although I am scared of the Hogs Head. And Varsity.

east lancsAugust 19th 2009.

Miss B, that really is a feeble argument to put forth. Step a street or two back, you've got some rather lovely little lanes and whatnot. Don't argue, I lived around Dids Village and Westside for YEARS. That said, much friendlier neighbours where I am now in Rusholme.

AvoAugust 19th 2009.

You on the bus tonight east lancs???

MissBoobyAugust 19th 2009.

I love the little cobbled streets! My point is, all of these so called 'nice' areas have their own little nasty passages or times of the week whereby they are not such a desirable place to be. I think thats a fair point....

BAugust 19th 2009.

Well shes got everyone talking about Northen Moor its put you on the mapshe did not put anyone down she is wanting to HELP to get the repect back so come on people work with her if you really want to live in a safe comunity So maybe be Mancester council will get off there backsides and help to improve the area this can only be a good thing Also there are places all over the country like this so they are not on there own Its got to start somewhereBut what our country needs to do is get back to the community spirtand put the PROUD back into Britianand we can only do that by working together Give it a chance

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

There is the cake. It is their cake. They're going to share the cake.

zeenaAugust 19th 2009.

fergie should have come to the worst part of wythenshawe - benchill,northernmoor isnt that bad

Ali McGowanAugust 19th 2009.

East Lancs, any need to be so nasty to Zeena?!

east lancsAugust 19th 2009.

An irreverant nobbing is hardly nasty ;o)

Prestwich ManAugust 19th 2009.

I went to Northern Moor once and my car was broken into. After ten minutes!

east lancsAugust 19th 2009.

I've parked in Northern Moor countless times, even my shiny new Alfa. Never got so much as a scratch.

Councillor Sue MurphyAugust 19th 2009.

We've made a film with local residents talking about the real Northern Moor (with the help of the BBC). You can see it here - http://tinyurl.com/luylnb

CasAugust 19th 2009.

Seems Manchester area Labour and the BBC are a bit cosy. Copy and paste the link at the end of my 'rant' and see how the BBC simply refer to the Conservative Party as the Tory Party throughout. Bias? news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/8221231.stm…

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

Throughout?

CasAugust 19th 2009.

The article

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

Once, by my reckoning.

CasAugust 19th 2009.

Well you can't count. They shouldn't do it at all.

AnonymousAugust 19th 2009.

There is but a single reference to the 'Tory Party' in that article. Just goes to show how tricky the reporting of facts can be, don't it, Cas?

CasAugust 19th 2009.

Anon, let me make my point clearer. The BBC, in my eyes, should be the most impartial media body there is. They should not be referring to The Conservative Party as The Tory party or Tory's. This is outdated and as many know brings connotations of the very right of the party. When a left of Labour politician is speaking about the Conservatives they will refer to them as Torys a lot of the time, this is fine - it's party politics. However it's certainly not for the BBC to do this. Yes I said 'throughout', the word Tory is mentioned in the lead in, title and in the article twice, the word Conservative is not mentioned once. I think this justifies me saying the reporter referred to the Conservative Party as Tories throughout. We should be having a general election soon (unless Brown picks up mor election tricks from Mugabe!) and the media will all take their sides, we should be able to trust that the BBC remain strictly impartial. However their local media reporting of late seems to be showing bias, not simply in the name picking, and I think anyone would want that to stop.

DescartesAugust 19th 2009.

Cas, the days of BBC impartiality were short lived at best. They were (and are) littler more than a propaganda engine for whichever political party happens to be in power whilst they broadcast.

JinkiesAugust 19th 2009.

Exactly, anyone that thinks the BBC is offering something akin to untainted 'truth' needs their heads checking.

CasAugust 19th 2009.

Descartes, Jinkies, I know what you're both saying and agree to some extent but it's so bloody blatant at the moment!

lucky-chrisAugust 19th 2009.

BBC? Impartial? If that were true then we'd have long seen the last of Alan Greene.

CasAugust 19th 2009.

Chris, that's very true!

lucky-chrisAugust 19th 2009.

Did anyone see it last night? Anyone else get the impression Fergie wanted a little bit of that ex-dealer bloke? She just doesn't quit ;-)

CasAugust 19th 2009.

BBC changed that article now. Methinks Anon is the reporter in question.

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