Is this Britain's worst estate? Neighborhood which was setting for 1980s cult film Rita, Sue and Bob Too now so violent families fear going out at night

It has been nearly forty years since Rita, Sue and Bob Too shocked Margaret Thatcher's Britain with its sordid depiction of life on Bradford's notorious Buttershaw estate.

Life Jun 26, 2024 IDOPRESS

It has been nearly forty years since Rita,Sue and Bob Too shocked Margaret Thatcher's Britain with its sordid depiction of life on Bradford's notorious Buttershaw estate.

Decades later,little has changed with new figures showing it is not only one of the most deprived residential areas in the UK but one of Yorkshire's most violent neighbourhoods.

Rita,Sue and Bob Too - written by the gifted but troubled local playwright Andrea Dunbar - was a no-holds-barred comedy drama directed by Alan Clarke about two 15-year-old girls.

Seduced jointly and effortlessly by an older married man Bob (George Costigan) as he drives them home from babysitting his kids in the suburbs,both embark on an affair with him.

Billed as 'Thatcher's Britain with her knickers down',it also starred Siobhan Finneran as Rita,and Michelle Holmes as Sue.

There were 383 violent and sexual offences reported between Feb 2023 and Jan 2024

What makes the 1987 drama all the more shocking now is the underage girls joyously welcome Bob's attentions - and the film ends with them enjoying a three-in-the-bed romp.

Today Buttershaw languishes in the bottom ten of most deprived areas in the UK according to new figures by the English Indices of Deprivation.

There were 383 violent and sexual offences reported among its hulking tower blocks and 1940s council houses between February 1 2023 and January 31 2024 alone.

Local Sandra Smith,26,said: 'I saw the film when I was younger but I don't like to watch it now. It paints a bad picture of the estate.'

Asked if she thought things had got better or worse since the 1980s crime and grime which featured in the film,she shrugs: 'It's Buttershaw. It's never really changed.'

Across the road lies a patch of overgrown waste ground strewn with litter and rubbish and a set of steps - all that remains of the notorious Beacon pub.

The pub features in the opening shot of the film as one of the character's fathers staggers home in a drunken stupor.

It was also the same pub where Andrea Dunbar's life was cut tragically short at the age of 29 after she suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage on the premises in 1990.

The pub shut in 2016 and was flattened in 2019 but Andrea's friend David Wrightson,now 55,remembers it well.

Sitting near the rubble,he recalled: 'Some hard men went in that pub. But when they fought they fought with fists not knives like the kids around here do today.

'I took my disabled brother in there once and he spilled someone's pint. I thought "oh my God - we are dead"

'But one of the hard man said "It is not his fault" because they could see he was disabled. They even bought him a pint.

'In my mind,Buttershaw was a beautiful area then. Of course,you had the odd fist fight. But now it has got worse and worse. Now a lot of the crime is knife crime.'

In Dunbar's day a lot of the problems on the estate were alcohol driven. Now many local families cannot even afford to buy bread let alone the price of a pint.

Just a few hundred yards from the rubble of The Beacon,today's main social hub is the Sandale Trust Social Supermarket.

The Trust are careful not to refer to it as a food bank. Many of the customers are proud to pay although prices are massively discounted due to supermarket donations.

Manager Marie Doherty,34,said: 'Our stuff is still fresh when we get it. Often it is well within its sell-by date and only the packaging is damaged.

'It is only when it gets old the bread is stuck outside to be given away. Then you get kids coming up to eat it straight out the bins. Some of them don't even have shoes.

'The poverty is shocking. We have not suffered too badly around here from crime. It is mainly anti social behaviour.

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'But some of the pensioners leaving nearby a constantly tormented by teenagers and further on the estate there have been people shot and stabbed.'

Waiting for a bus with her tot in a pram,Eliza Fleming,18,said: 'I have lived on the estate since I was three or four and will be 19 soon.

'Crime is bad. I have seen everything - and the reason I have seen everything was I did half of it myself when I was young - but you grow up and your learn.'

Anne Newsome,now 71,who has lived on the estate for 40 years,described crime on the estate as 'a nightmare'.

She said: 'My daughter had her car completely smashed up with baseball bats and sledge hammers. It has got worse since Covid.

'You have got kids on motorbikes and cars racing around. Sometimes they are wearing balaclavas. It is horrific the number of thefts and break-ins.

'It is absolutely everywhere. You just don't know what is going to happen when you see these people on motorbikes in balaclavas and look at them in the wrong way.

'It is a nightmare. But there is also a lot of good people on the estate - fabulous neighbours who would do anything for you.

'A lot of the young mums if they see me out will insist on walking me. home to make sure I am safe.'

Sandra Smith,dubbed Godmother of Buttershaw by her family and friends,said: 'I have had my car pinched from outside my house at at least I got it back.

'You see the kids riding around all over the place with no helmets around the shops and on the green spaces.

'You get a lot of bad kids but I blame the parents. I have got eight kids. None of them have ever been trouble with the police and one of them is 60 now.

'But if I was young now I would not bother having any children because the country is so sh*t.'

Johnny Keswick,73,has lived on the estate for 40 years,bringing up his kids behind garden walls topped with metal spikes.

The windows of the house he bought for cash for £11k he says are 'more or less bullet proof'. He says no one bothers him.

But by his own admission has 'spent 23 years inside' due to a wild youth. Now he too is planning to move out but only because his family have grown up the three bedroom home is too big for him and his wife.

He said: 'I have done 23 years in jail. I used to rob for a living. I am so well known here that no one bothers me.

'Buttershaw was like that in the days of Rita Sue and Bob Too - girls getting drunk and having sex all over the place. Now it is just idiots on motorbikes who think they are Evel Knievel.

'We are looking to move out to a little cottage but only because the house is too big. Otherwise,I love it here.'

Siobhan Finneran

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