OUR LIFE IN FERGIE'S TV HELL; Brave Families Tell REAL Story of Battle to Survive on Grim Estate

The People (London, England), January 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

OUR LIFE IN FERGIE'S TV HELL; Brave Families Tell REAL Story of Battle to Survive on Grim Estate


ONE of Britain's poorest estates hit the headlines last week when it emerged the Duchess of York has secretly lived there for a TV documentary. Fergie, 48, stayed at a pounds 20-a-night B&B on Hull's notorious Preston Road Estate while helping a couple improve their life.

The Royal visitor is not the only boost for the area which has higher unemployment, higher crime, more teen pregnancies and lower life expectancy than most parts of the UK. The estate is in the midst of a pounds 55million regeneration scheme and the worst slums are boarded up ready for demolition.

But the 6,500 residents fear that when Fergie's TV show is aired it will not show the true fighting spirit of their lives. We sent JESSICA BOULTON to the estate to uncover the REAL picture. Today we tell the remarkable story of families who - despite grinding poverty and the curse of drugs - are surviving against all the odds...

MUM-of-four Jolene Brady lives with the constant fear that her three-year-old son Billy will grow up "to be a criminal".

The stark words are ones a mother should never say, especially about a sweet-faced tot contentedly crawling across bare floorboards playing with his Christmas toy.

But for years she's watched through her window as kids on Preston Road Estate fall foul of the curses of poverty - crime and accidental teen pregnancies.

So when Billy looked up with his bright eyes, tugged on her jumper and said his first swear word, she could see a grim future.

Jolene, 24, said: "He's picked up swear words and he fights. I hoped he'd be a nice little quiet boy.

"But he probably will grow up to be a criminal if we stay here. I would like to get off the estate but how can I? I can't afford it. We'll never get away."

Jolene lives just a few doors down from where Fergie visited.

"If Fergie had come in my house she wouldn't have wanted to come back again," she laughed.

"I was proud to be born and bred on here. But I haven't got two pennies to rub together.

"Four years ago, when my first daughter was one I was pounds 35,000 in debt. I'd been on benefits because I was looking after my baby.

"I was desperate for money and a rep from a loan company came to the door offering me cash. Of course you are going to say yes. That was 2003.

"They kept coming back and offering me more and I fell into the trap of taking it. I have no idea what I owe now. I don't want to know."

Jolene survives off pounds 169 a week in benefits to feed and clothe Chardonnay, five, Courteney, five, Billy, three, and MJ, nine months.

They live off beans on toast and Jolene goes without new clothes to afford enough essentials for the kids to prevent them getting picked on at school.

The family live in the shadow of a multi-million regeneration centre while on the other side of the street are flash new four-bed homes built by Hull City Council.

But despite Jolene's claims that her 1930s terrace house is overrun by rats, and its unpainted walls and poky, ageing rooms, she has been told she is not eligible for a new home. So she battles on, hoping Billy will not grow up to be a bad boy as the face of the estate changes. A massive demolition and building scheme is underway, ripping the estate in two.

One side of a street is boarded up for demolition but on the other side people whose houses are staying live in a growing ghost town.

But Sybil and David Stainforth, both 75, who have been on the prewar council estate for 33 years, soldier on with a spirit that can't be dimmed. Millions of regeneration money is being spent on an Expressive Arts Centre and a Horticulture Centre, but they only got double glazing put in by the council last year and are still waiting for central heating.

"We get by with an electric fire," said David, whose wife has severe arthritis and needs a wheelchair. …

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