When the nation’s media turned Dewsbury Moor’s Moorside estate upside down in the wake of the Shannon Matthews episode, even the then-future Prime Minister waded into the debate about what was the country’s most infamous council estate.
David Cameron branded the local community as “having pillars which are crime, unemployment and addiction” in a newspaper column after the conviction of Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan.
But walk around Moorside on any given weekday and it’s surprisingly quiet. That’s not because, as George Osborne might have it, residents are sleeping in with the blinds closed – but because most people are at work.
It’s an area Shane Hussain knows well. He was born and brought up here and still does a lot of work in Dewsbury Moor. When Shane’s family moved to Moorside 40 years ago, they were one of the first mixed race families on the estate. “The demographic is very different now,” he said. “We’ve had years of cultural mixing. But it’s been done slowly, so it’s allowed everyone to integrate better.”
He has fond memories of growing up on the 220 house estate, which was built under the Homes Fit For Heroes scheme in the 1930s. When Shane’s dad Wadi, 59, moved to England from Pakistan aged 10, he spoke no English. He took a job as a textile worker and married his wife Margaret. They were one of the first mixed-race families on the estate but now he couldn’t look more at home. With a flat cap on his head, he looks more like a stereotypical Yorkshireman than anyone else on the estate.
Wadi recounts hearing a man shouting racial abuse at some else on the estate some years ago. “I said to this lad ‘Hey! You shouldn’t say that’ – and he turned round and said ‘Oh no, not you, you’re one of us.’”
Maxine Polak, 48, has also spent most of her life on Moorside. “You’ve got Kurdish and Pakistanis living here now. The adults get on well – I know a lot of people round here.”
But not everyone would agree with such a rosy view of racial harmony. Jeanette Yeoman is walking through Moorside with her son Ashton, three. She recently moved from Westtown – why? “The houses are bigger up here,” she said. “But I don’t like it – it’s a bit wild. I want to move back.” She said Ashton, who is mixed race, is subjected to racist name calling on the estate.
Life on Moorside is not without its challenges – it is still a relatively deprived area. Wadi was a forklift truck driver but is unable to work due to back problems. The family’s finances took a further hit with the cut to the spare room subsidy earlier this year. Their semi-detached house has a spare room so they took a cut in housing benefit. So would he move to avoid the so-called ‘bedroom tax’? “We use it for when family come round,” Wadi said. “If we didn’t have it then Shane’s kids wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep when they come.”
Besides, Wadi said, “I get along with everybody here, everyone knows me. It’s so full of memories. Everything is here for us.”