Thursday, 26 January 2012


Ballysally estate is where I grew up from age 5 and now has become the subject of the a BBC documentary.

Ballysally always had a 'bad' reputation often with little justification (and I must admit I'd never heard the term 'Ballyscally' before in my life until this programme).  This 'bad' needs seen through the prism of Coleraine which is a small Northern Ireland town.  It is not Compton, Brixton or the Falls or anything close to that.  Also as my sister would comment everywhere needs somewhere to look down upon and Ballysally happens to be the area chosen in Coleraine. 

However, if you grew up there it allowed you to appreciate the difference in perception and reality.  I had a normal Northern Ireland childhood with loving parents who both worked hard to give my sister and I a better life than they had. In terms of education the local primary school was a good one and started me on the road to educational success.  Many in the broader area would have perceived this as not the norm of the area but it was.

Watching the programme there was the usual trying to identify the streets or parts of the estate.  There was the personal sadness of seeing Philip, a former next door neighbour, who featured briefly at the start of the programme.  I witnessed his descent into alcoholism as a youth and it was sad to see 20 years later drink still has its hold on him.

As with all programing the producers have been trying to infuse it with some deeper meaning.  Whatever they may claim on Nolan this is not brave programming and neither is it about challenging politicians.  It has been done numerous times before and with all such programmes it runs the risk of becoming poverty porn.  The trailer seemed to indicate this is what it would be but the first programme managed to avoid that trap.  Yet the question remains will the avoid it in the remaining episodes?

The big test for me is whether the remaining episodes manage to capture the warmth and connectedness of the estate that has helped it live with and through the problems it has and some of its residents have.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the view that this program is voyeuristic. It could be any estate in Northern Ireland. I lived in Ballysally from when it was built through the seventies when it was a refuge for the Londonderry displaced protestants. It was a great place to grow up!!