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Residents of Blackburn estate outraged by portrayal in BBC documentary
A TV documentary which portrays a Blackburn estate as crime and problem-ridden has been branded outrageous and scandalous by residents.
The BBC TV Panorama film ‘Trouble on the Estate’ was filmed over four months in Shadsworth.
But one horrified coun-cillor said he feared the programme looked more like an episode of Shameless than a true depiction of the estate.
The documentary shows the estate to be riddled with:
- Street corner drug dealers
- Broken families needing help
- Teenage yobs destined prison
- Gangs causing mayhem for a few respectable residents
- Hard-pressed police struggling to cope
- Boarded up houses and shops linked by rubbish-strewn alleys
Just a few positives are mentioned in the course of the documentary.
The area was chosen as it is one of the most deprived in the country. However nearby Mill Hill and Wensleyfold, and Trinity in Burnley, were ranked even lower in the tables.
Mary Anderson and Alison Critchley, from the Shadsworth Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said they were ‘outraged’ the documentary had concentrated on problems involving the estate.
Secretary Mrs Anderson said: “The film makers asked me for help. I was concerned but they promised they would highlight the positives and give a fair picture. When I saw the title I felt I had been misled and the estate was being misrepresented.”
“There are lots of good things in Shadsworth, investment and many good people. We run many clubs and events at the community centre - jobs clubs, breakfast clubs for older people, support for those with mental, drug and alcohol problems.”
Mrs Critchley said: “We are deprived but our crime rate has fallen for three years running. If it shows us as bad people, locals start to believe it and we lose jobs and investment. They have scandalised our home.”
Coun Jim Shorrock said the documentary could set back efforts to revive the community by decades.
He said: “As someone who has lived in Shadsworth for the past fourteen years, I am horrified. They chose Shadsworth as an easy target.
“Constituents tell me of young lads being asked to pull their hoods up ‘for effect’, and working people, including a nurse, being edited out simply because they work. I despair if this is true.
“I sincerely hope this doesn't look like an episode of Shameless, because it could set my ward back twenty years.
“It could lead to lower house prices, derail investment, lower morale, and potentially turn it in to a sink estate, undoing all the investment and hard work of the community, Twin Valley Homes, essential services, and the police.”
Council leader Kate Hollern said she was extremely concerned about the contents of the programme.
She said: “I fear local people have been misled and the estate misrepresented.”
And MP Jack Straw said: “Shadsworth is improving and I have visited far, far worse estates elsewhere in the country.”
A BBC spokesman said: "Panorama spent four months filming with families who shared their views about life on the estate. According to the 2010 Indices of Deprivation, Shadsworth is one of the most deprived places in the country.
"We were clear our intention was to show a true picture of life on the estate and while the programme shows the difficulties that some of the residents face, we believe it is a fair portrayal. We encourage people to watch the programme before making judgement.”
“In response to Councillor Jim Shorrock’s comments, it is categorically untrue that the programme team sought to influence the behaviour of anyone they filmed and certainly didn’t ask them to put up hoods, as is evident from the youngsters featured in the film.
"We didn’t edit out anybody on the basis that they worked – indeed working people are featured in the film – and we never interviewed anyone who identified themselves to us as a nurse.”
'Street drug dealing is not rife'
IT’S not quite an episode of Shameless, but it’s not far off.
Unlike the Chatsworth Estate, there is no humour in a grim picture of unrelenting doom and gloom portrayed in the lives of the people of Shadsworth.
The Panorama documentary ‘Trouble on the Estate’ concentrates on why people want to leave, with little mention of efforts to make the estate pleasanter to live in.
Shadsworth was chosen because it came 17th worst out of 32,783 wards in the government’s indices of deprivation in 2010, based on statistics for homelessness, crime, cold homes, street-dwellers, benefit claimants, and disabled residents.
Watching a preview of the film, the only question is why didn’t it come top.
The programme’s trailer states: “Drugs, anti-social behaviour, family break-ups and joblessness: all part of life on Britain’s poorest housing estates. Filming with families, kids and police, as well as undercover with drug dealers, Panorama spent months on one estate in Blackburn finding out what it’s like to live and grow up there.
“There’s eight-year-old Oshi who is desperate to see his dad after a two-year absence.
“Jordan, who at only 15, is threatening to leave his family because of the trouble, and 20-year-old Jessie, whose behaviour frightens other residents and keeps landing him in prison. Is this really a picture of ‘Broken Britain’ – a place at the edge of where the state can make a difference?”
On the plus side, presenter Richard Bilton does mention the local people saved their swimming pool, that Fernhurst School for children excluded from mainstream education did some valuable work, and that local schools are “good”.
Everything is summed up by one single mother at the end of the film, saying: “I’m stuck here. I’ve got nothing to look forward to.” One young boy tells the camera that children on the estate are “being brought up between drugs and hate”.
Blackburn police Chief Superintendent Bob Eastwood tells the team that street corner drug dealing is not rife, and the cameras then cut straight to youths selling ‘bubble’ for a tenner a bag, and ‘whizz” (amphetamines) for a fiver.
The only couple with someone in work have £2-a-week left after bills, and look at holiday brochures, instead of taking a much-needed break.