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Sarah Ferguson learns about life on a Manchester estate for her latest TV outing

August 11, 2009
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By her own admission, "most people don't go hoodie hunting late at night" - but then Sarah Ferguson is not most people. The Duchess of York has just spent ten days on the outskirts of Manchester's Northern Moor housing estate in Wythenshawe – the setting for the Shameless series – talking to the people living there in an attempt to improve community relations.

As well as taking time to get to know some of the 66,000 locals, the mum-of-two spent an evening down the local pub playing pool as she tried to discover the problems facing residents for her new two-part series, The Duchess On The Estate.

"The hoodies I spoke to thought I was a toffee-nosed git and were effing and blinding. But that's fine. I wanted them to realise that not everybody is automatically going to think they are bad," the 49-year-old said. In her quest to bring mothers together to help transform the area into a thriving community, Sarah helped to makeover a council-owned building, turning it into a community centre for local people.

And while the experience was not without incident – a man shot out the windows of the facility one night – the Duchess was particularly impressed by the efforts of one lifelong resident, 42-year-old mum Dawn McGeown. "I recruited a mums army to find an old building to transform into a community centre. And I found Dawn, this wonderful, strong, special woman who knew everyone, and made her my colonel-in-chief," Sarah explains. "She's now on my payroll."

The flame-haired campaigner's latest project follows her TV appearance on The Duchess In Hull, in which she attempted to persuade a local family to adopt a healthier lifestyle. She also travelled to Romania with her girls, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, to film a Tonight special on the conditions of state-run institutions there for orphans and disabled children.

Asked what her daughters think of her new project, Sarah said: "They're very proud of everything I do. So is Prince Andrew. I don’t do anything without the blessing of my family." The Duchess On The Estate can be seen on ITV1 on August 18 at 9pm.

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