The housing estate ‘even rougher than on TV show’ with ‘no-go areas after dark’

Residents of the housing estate where the BBC’s ‘This Town’ was filmed have claimed that the reality is even more brutal than what’s portrayed in the popular drama. The gritty series, set against a backdrop of political and social unrest in 1980s Birmingham and Coventry, features scenes of riots, pub brawls, knife fights, IRA bombings and the general struggles of working-class life at the time.

Key locations include the Druids Heath high rises of Saxelby House, Kingswood House and Barratts House – now lying empty and neglected.

However, locals argue that their community is far less romanticised than the show suggests, describing the creator’s comments as ‘a bit of an insult’. They claim that the inner-city suburb can be a no-go area after dark, with problems persisting since the 1980s when the series is set.

In recent years, incidents such as cats being thrown to their deaths from Kingswood House and a taxi driver being assaulted by a passenger outside the flats have occurred.

Locals have criticised the depiction of their estate in the TV series This Town, arguing it “almost glamorises” the poverty they have been enduring for four decades. Hotel porter David Palmer, 49, shared his thoughts: “The show hits the nail on the head in some regards but doesn’t scratch the surface of working class life in others.”, reports the Daily Star.

He further added: “I think it’s rougher here than the show makes out to be honest and has been since the 80s.”

Palmer voiced his dissatisfaction, stating: “People here were left to suffer and crime has been rife for as long as I’ve known. You do feel quite exploited when your area is used for entertainment.”

He recognised the show’s authenticity in parts: “I believe it is a fair reflection of the city though, it doesn’t try to sugar-coat the problems of the day, and it feels authentic in some parts.”

However, he had reservations: “But to almost glamorise the issues we’ve had and that doesn’t quite sit right with me.”

Palmer appreciated the portrayal of community spirit: “I like how it highlights the multicultural relationships that developed and how working-class communities pull together in tough times. Its got that bang on.”

He commented on the nature of the characters: “You get both the best and the worst of people in these places and every possible character in between.”

However, he felt the violence was downplayed: “But the violence is tame in comparison to what I’ve seen on these streets on an almost weekly basis.”

He understood the limitations of television: “Again I suppose its a TV show on the BBC so can’t be too gratuitous. But for Knight to say its beautiful for the people who live there is a bit of an insult.”

Palmer concluded with a jab at the creator’s perspective: “It’s good he is advocating for the city but if he still lived amongst it instead of being a big-shot movie maker, I think he would feel different.

“I’ve seen it go from fist fights in the pubs, to then knives and guns being used that’s the reality of living in these parts of Birmingham these days I’m afraid.”

Meanwhile, fans of the show and YouTube urban explorers have been visiting the site to capture selfies inside and out of the derelict tower blocks.

“I think it paints a fair picture of the time and place. I remember the Handsworth riots and the Zulus running the doors up town.

“Racism isn’t as widespread as it was back then but there’s new problems now with knife crime and gangs.

“The ska/two-tone music scene was more of a Coventry thing but the racial and political tensions that existed struck a chord with people my age and ethnicity. But you wouldn’t be walking around canals and motorway bridges around here after dark, that’s for sure. Certain parts were, and still are, no-go zones at night.”

The upcoming episode of This Town, starring Levi Brown, Jordan Bolger, Ben Rose, Eve Austin and Michelle Dockery, is set to air tonight (Sun) on BBC One at 9pm.

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