FEATURE THE STREET
Got a problem in your neighbourhood? Then Kirsty Young and the team from forthcoming television series The Street are ready to help. Rory Weller joined them in Pilton.
The Street: (left to right) Claire Frankl, Kirsty Young, John Taylor and Dr Stephen Amlel
hings aren’t going terriﬁcally well for the crew of The Street, BBC2’s new programme about real people in real homes in real situations. Kirsty Young and a van full of lawyers, building experts and doctors altruistically cruise up and down the country, generously solving problems as they go. If your baby isn’t eating or the bus route doesn’t go where you want, they’ll be there to put things to rights. Having already ﬁlmed in rural ~ Herefordshire and Walsall, next stop for the Kirtsy-mobile is Pilton in the north of Edinburgh.
After months of careful research they decided on this location for the ‘good broad base of
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stories’ according to production manager Jane Wilson. By sheer coincidence (or is it?), the BBC had already been to this exact spot earlier in the week, ﬁlming one of Irvine Welsh’s Acid House stories. Similarly, i-D magazine had been here the week before for a piece on housing estates.
The inhabitants of Pilton aren’t fazed by the shenanigans of TV companies poking about in their neighbourhood. They’ve quickly become used to looking out their kitchen window and seeing a ﬁlm crew setting up in their back garden. Their media cognizance is both helping and hindering the crew however. The ‘lively characters’ are ‘articulate and entertaining’ and have no problem performing for the cameras,
with Betty from the community centre conﬁding how she’s lived in the area for 46 years. and it’s really not as bad as people make it out to be.
But the group of parents and children at the school assembled for a piece on healthy eating aren’t amused at being asked to wait around for an hour. TV cameras or no TV cameras. Because of Euro96. the crew are down a cameraman and one of the runners is lost in deepest Edinburgh. Walkie-talkie batteries are running low. the hairdresser can’t get the right kind of hairspray and Kirsty’s gone to the toilet with her radio mic on. Things could be better.
The main story on the first day of ﬁlming is about a disabled man in a council ﬂat with a garden. The council says he must keep the garden tidy. but he’s not able to. Thankfully Kirsty and the team source a group of local volunteers to go in and lend a hand. The script is written, everyone knows their words and it’s all taken down on ﬁlm. Kirsty isn’t wearing a lycra jumpsuit and she doesn’t have a Challenge Kirsty buggy. ln bomber jacket and leggings. she’s just like one of us.
Working in conjunction with the national network of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, researchers for the programme were able to locate particular stories they were interested in. They knew that they wanted to do one of the shoots in Scotland. and had initially decided that Kirsty would go rummaging in the streets of Stirling for stories. Then Dunblane happened and they thought the area was too sensitive.
Walkie-talkie batteries are running low, the hairdresser can’t get the right kind of hairspray and Kirsty’s gone to the toilet with her radio mic on. Things could be better.
Pilton generated enough stories to warrant a look, and it fitted in with the balance for the rest of the series, which goes to leafy suburbs, fishing villages and another urban site.
Wilson says they had been told to expect the worst of the area, but claims to have come to Pilton with no preconceptions. No local people were included on the team, except for a clutch of security personnel employed to keep the dear denizens at arm’s length.
Too many real life stories on muggings and rowdy neighbours could have viewers switching over to The Bill for a bit of safe ﬁction, so the producers have unearthed the kind of creature in every community who’s watchedjust a little too much Barrymore and Dale Winton. Top player in Pilton’s crayzee gang is the woman who keeps snakes and Writes poetry, but how herpetology ﬁts in with composing odes is not made entirely clear. There’s also a line dancing society who have no problem getting it together for a bit of a slosh on a wet, windy Wednesday morning. ‘The programme’s not all about problems,’ says Wilson. ‘You’ve got to give a good balance, give the up-side of an area too.’
When the cameras move on to the next part of the country, the local people involved are left with a fact-ﬁle of information on help agencies they can turn to when they’ve next got a problem, but there isn’t a ﬁlm crew on hand to assist. They’ve had their ﬁfteen minutes of fame and their garden’s been dug. What more could they want?
The Street begins on BBC2 at 8pm on Thursday 25 July.