Frances Perraudin writes in the Guardian about the media's negative portrayal of housing estates.
Ann Doherty moved into her three-bedroom flat on Rochdale’s Lower Falinge estate in 1970, when it was built. Then aged 23 with a three-year-old son, she had been forced to leave her two-up two-down house on the other side of the town centre when it was condemned as unsafe.
Doherty is now 72 and she’s still there. “It was heaven coming here,” she says, sitting in her sunny front room. “It felt brilliant because we didn’t have a bath in the old house or an inside toilet. Everything here was perfectly decorated. It was so lovely.”
There are housing estates like the one Doherty has called home for nearly half a century all over the country: the same pebble-dashed walls, paved paths and neat lawns. But somehow, over the years, Lower Falinge has come to represent something much more complicated.
The piece goes on to describe how the media have used photographs of Lower Falinge to portray poverty, unemployment and for making a case for knocking down "sink estates" to rebuild new homes.
But for many residents, these depictions do not fit with the image they have of where they live. “Every estate has its problems, no matter where you go, but they always seem to pick on us,” says Doherty. “We’re just normal people, wanting to get on with each other.”
Andy Littlewood was chair of the Lower Falinge tenants and residents association when the media frenzy hit in 2016. “We’ve had to put in a lot of work to undo the harm that the press has done to us,” he says.
The effect of the estate’s reputation on residents is wide-ranging, he says. Many will not tell potential employers where they live for fear it will put them off.
“They just say they live in Rochdale because they’ve been turned down from jobs that they thought they had a good chance of getting when they’ve written Lower Falinge as their address.”
Littlewood says the impact on younger people growing up on the estate is particularly potent. “The kids are fed up of being told they’re nothing,” he says. “If you tell a vulnerable person enough times that they’re scum, that they live on a sink estate and that they’re thick, eventually it’ll mess with their heads and they’ll start to believe it.”
Littlewood does not dispute that many people on the estate are out of work – he is unable to work because of epilepsy – but is studying part-time for a degree in maths and computing from the Open University.
You can read the whole piece here.
This is a theme that comes up time and time again with the work I am doing in East Brighton. On one hand, I have people who have never set foot in East Brighton talking to me about how scary the area is, on the other hand, I am spending time with residents who talk about community, respect and looking out for each other. I'm not so naive to suggest East Brighton doesn't have its issues, but, it is worth questioning the stories that are prevalent about places like East Brighton.