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Sarah Ferguson promises to persevere on controversial housing estate mission

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Before the screening of her documentary, The Duchess OnThe Estate, Sarah came under fire from local residents unhappy with her portrayal of their area. But she is standing by her intervention, which included opening a community centre
 

19 AUGUST 2009

"This is a dream for me; this is not (just) a TV show. In one year's time we will again be back up there with a film crew and we'll be showing success."

This was how Sarah Ferguson explained the passion behind her latest, and somewhat controversial, project, The Duchess On The Estate.

Ahead of Tuesday's screening of the documentary - which showed Sarah tackling problems of "drugs, crime and a lack of community spirit" on Manchester's Northern Moor estate - the former royal was keen to answer critics who described the programme as a publicity stunt.

"I'll be up and down on my train – I always get the train – to Manchester.... and I will always be there. And that is without the camera. And that is true to my word," she told the Manchester Evening News.

But some Northern Moor residents took to the streets to protest after trailers showed the mum-of-two saying their estate has an "air of misery".

Meanwhile former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Glynn Evans, said he didn't see the Duchess once during her 10-day stay. "How can she have given a true reflection of the community when she was only here for such a short space of time?" he asked.

But the flame-haired charity patron also has local supporters. Mother Dawn McGeown, who teamed up with Sarah to open the Woodville Community centre during the documentary, has spoken out to defend her.

"I didn't find her patronising and I thought she was very down to earth," said Dawn, whom Prince Andrew's former wife now regards as a valued friend.

"The Duchess has been phoning and texting me on and off all the way through this. She’s employed me and she’s not going to disappear. It’s not a flying visit. She has promised me faithfully she will be back and it’s an ongoing project."

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