paper roses



yeah i'm angry... you may or may not be familiar with the scheme.
it has become a massive hit, despite being shown late at night on bbc scotland... somehow the stories of the people on it have grabbed the national attention, and the bbc are planning to show it across the whole of this tiny little island we live on(with subtitles of course).
it got as far as two episodes, before being shelved temporarily for legal reasons, but now a local SNP politician has decided to try and ban this documentary for good.

first of all, i don't agree at all with the way the headline in local esteemed newspaper the standard reports this article... it all seems a bit too much like telling anyone who disagrees, that the battle has already been won.
so no points for unbiased reporting there, boys.
but the point of the article is what really got me mad... that SNP politician willie coffey should feel he speaks for most of kilmarnock, when he says that the town is "shocked and saddened" by what goes on in the programme.
i think that a little walk down the reality of living in kilmarnock is possibly in order, to gain some insight into what is really going on behind the headlines.
i grew up in kilmarnock, it's a neglected little town, that used to have industry/factories/commerce/trade/brewery... all of these are gone now.
i moved away to get work elsewhere, and every time i return, it seems a little more soul has left the town.
there is a town centre webcam, literally covered in cobwebs, where you watch nothing happen, except for locals drifting aimlessly around... i should know, i used to wander about dreaming of getting away from the place...
when a small town like this loses it's industrial usefullness, there will be a lot of blue collar workers out of a job, a lot of people who if they had a steady income/routine are quite happy... give them hard work and a regular income, all will be well, it's in the blood, generations of men and women who shouldered the industrial revolution, and carried scotland to the forefront of industry.
you get the picture, it's hard-wired into their dna to be busy and to celebrate.
take away the jobs and any hope of finding work locally, and you will have a lot of frustrated people with time on their hands.
successive councils have pissed away all of the great companies who helped fund those big white mansions on the hills, being fooled into thinking that a quick buck was better than pennies now and then.
ok, so far, so kilmarnock.
there are a few people in kilmarnock, who hold onto the town's wealth, and they couldn't give the slightest fuck about what happens to the people who live on the estates featured in the scheme.
i know, from growing up in the town, that these areas were mostly no-go, they were prowled by hard-bitten old men and snarling unrealistically angry young men with fists always ready.
rough housing, cars falling to ruin in the garden, wild dogs, wild kids... at one point the council tried to plaster over the cracks, taking down all the garden fences and turning swathes of back greens into one vast free-for-all.
i had relatives who lived in altonhill, i got mugged there aged 11, my american cousin got mugged there too, my mate had his chopper knicked, but i also grew up around those streets as i saw another side to life different to my cossetted existence on a shiny new estate...
the last time i visited, whole streets had been flattened(like i'd seen in toxteth), there was an air of desperate fin-de-siecle about the place, as if a bomb had gone off...
these estates are on the edge of town, are just like the one i grew up in, but they are mostly ignored by the councillors as well as the majority of people who live in kilmarnock... it's the familiar postcode apartheid - if you come from there, you are instantly stereotyped and doors close in your face.
i know someone who lives in the area: this has in itself become a "some of my best friends are" cliche... as most of the detractors of the documentary are quick to point out some spurious involvement in onthank, altonhill, knockinlaw.
but my own impression of the place, was that it was always a bit tatty, the local kids weren't too nice to soft little oiks like me, and that there were an awful lot of old people living there.
so there.
but what's bugging the good burgers of kilmarnock is that they are having to face up to something they have been ignoring for decades.


these are sink estates.

the most famous historically being townholm, where no one dared to walk as people would come out their houses if you were spotted strolling through the area, they had horses in the street, the locals would push visitors cars into the river for kicks... i went to school with some of the people from there, who were shunned by mostly everyone(they built the prison near where it used to be).
you can apply all the rhetoric you want to the situation, but this is where the council would dump people in order to forget about them.
and that's just what they have been doing up until now.

i've said from the very start of the scheme, the exposure will be good for the people there... and by that i mean the majority, not just the tv-friendly junkies and alcohol dependant residents.
there's a mindset in kilmarnock that likes to turn it's back on those of a lesser standing, to keep your own house in order, and bollocks to the neighbour who hasn't got the wherewithall to keep nice clean windows and a front door step with a weekly layer of paint on it.
but this documentary will highlight the level to which the deprived areas have been allowed to sink.
it's not damningly indicative of the assumed low morals of the maladjusted or vulnerable people who feature in the programme... it's a mirror being held up to a town that has let this happen in it's own midst.
kilmarnock grandees love to bask in whiskey-tinged past of industrial glories and landed lorded auld money, people with long proud sounding scottish names and immaculate wedding attire, living it up in big sandstone houses, sporrans the size of dinnerplates, throwing buns to the local serfs... but that's all history now.

one story on the scheme that doesn't get talked about so much, is of the family who blighted by ill-health, are campaigning to re-open a local community centre, where presumably(if it was organised) they could have medical advice, a social focal point to meet and put the world to rights(in order to maintain a sense of community), debt-advice, tax advice, local fund raising... all the sort of life-improving things the local council clearly want to put a stop to(i expect the land was quietly being gerrymandered for luxury flats, in the same way that the burns monument was allowed to fall to ruin, and was initially going to be replaced by luxury flats... until the local people stepped in with howls of indignation - that something so important to kilmarnock and the world of literature, was going to become another faceless yuppie development, which would exclude locals).
yes, the programme is poverty porn, just like the output on most satellite channels, showing round the clock images of the social underclass being chased by the police in one location or another.
yes, the people featured in it are entertainment fodder.
yes, there are young people with old heads on their shoulders.
yes, none of the content of the scheme will come as any revelation to the people of kilmarnock.
and yes it says a lot about the cognitive thinking skills of the subjects that none of them were actually paid to appear in something which is on the verge of becoming a national phenomenon... it says a lot for the film-makers who i felt were quite impartial, but obviously schooled in the louis theroux method of distancing themselves from the participants in a semi-ironic manner and it says a lot about the town that is suddenly going to have to deal with a problem that been ongoing for more than half a century.
is life really so grim, or are the needs of the people not being met, in favour of new money being drafted in to take up housing and to put up walls and fences to keep the local people out?
this time the red-faced local councillors have fumed and blustered in their ivory towers like never before.
maybe it's time to embrace the problem, and not ignore it any longer.



addendum
now, to be fair, to willie coffy, i contacted him with this blog, and he graciously agreed to talk to me in person about it, regarding some of the participants who felt they had been duped.
so welcome to the world of documentary filming then, personally - i've never really been a fan of photographers who take images of people in some form of discomfort or distress, for the very reason that i feel it is exploitative... and having had a camera pointed at me(by channel four, no less) in such situations without my permission, i roundly told them to f-off(which they did, as you cannot film someone once they have asked you to stop... sort-of).
and yes, there is a lot of criminal behaviour exhibited in the scheme: that's how some people live, what a surprise, would anyone want to watch a documentary about someone who doesn't live out of the norm... and i don't suppose for a minute that seeing the impoverished lifestyle of a heroin addict is going to appeal to anyone, except maybe someone with an existing self-harm problem.
if anything - watching the scheme is as probably a good a deterrent as it gets!

and of course, some political parties have a shortbreadtin view of scotland, which of course is far removed from the reality of life in a struggling country which is slowing slipping out of the view of the rest of europe, as seen in the scheme.

i'm pro-scotland y'know... love the place, love the people. i was born there, and it's in my blood.

visit the country, it really is a beautifull place.

but it has it's problems, just like everywhere else.

and it's time we all woke up to them, instead of trying to sweep them under an immaculately hoovered tartan carpet, in a council office reception area.

file under "filmed as is".

this programme is kilmarnock's wake-up call.
maybe i feel a touch sensitive, as i only recently found out that someone i used to hang out with and look up to, is now living the life of a heroin addict, just out of town.
what a waste.

and if you want to see the filmic equivalent of what happens when middle-class film-makers approach the residents of a deprived area, then have a look here... and decide if the scheme represents inescapable reality.

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