BALLYSALLY has twice the national average of people on unemployment benefit, is one of the biggest housing estates in Northern Ireland and is the setting for an ambitious new fly-on-the-wall documentary series from BBC Northern Ireland.
In The Estate cameras went behind closed doors on Coleraine’s Ballysally Estate, to follow the lives of some of the residents across 12 months - when money’s tight and times are tough.
Series producer and director, Natalie Maynes, explained: “The Estate is an intimate and ambitious series. It does not flinch from difficult issues: poverty, the benefits trap, alcohol addiction, disability, relationships and more, are all tackled frankly across the eight parts.
“We wanted to tell the untold stories of ordinary people living in Ballysally in an extraordinarily tough year of cutbacks, unemployment and recession.
“Because we spent a year with families and individuals, The Estate gets under the skin of the place and its residents. It was a privilege to be welcomed into the homes of our contributors; to share their real life dramas; their hopes and fears - in good times and in bad.”
“We set out to make a series of films that reflect the lives of people in a particular place. The Estate is a window into a place shared by men, women and children, young and old, who tell it like it is - in their own words.”
The first programme on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday, January 23 at 10.35pm spends time with Louise, a single mum of five, who believes it would not pay her to go to work. Never having had a job, she finds it a struggle to survive on state benefits. She is also in trouble with the authorities because of her daughter Kelly-Anne’s truancy from school. The fifteen-year-old just can’t get up in the mornings.
The programme also follows Martin, an alcoholic who has just moved into The Estate after nine years on the streets. The series tracks his battle with alcohol, with the help of his charity support worker, Emma who is on hand when Martin gets a benefits back payment and needs help to budget for his fines and other expenses.
The Dohertys are a hard working family who have been hit by the downturn in the housing market. They urgently need to sell their home in favour of a bungalow for nine-year-old Lauren.
She has spina bifida and her disability means climbing the stairs is increasingly difficult. We join them as Jimmy heads out to work and Denise, a classroom assistant, plays with her son Dylan. It’s an everyday story of working parents with time for the kids but none for themselves.
During the series, viewers will be introduced to other residents sharing their own stories.
The Estate is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, January 23 at 10,35pm and will be shown again on BBC Two Northern Ireland on Thursday, January 26 at 10pm.