A Writer's Process: Rachel Contini

When my beloved childhood neighbourhood was demolished I found a story. 

It was a small run of streets in the north of Liverpool, I loved growing up there, it was a place where everybody knew everybody and you could leave your front door open.  The houses were small but warm and friendly and the people the salt of the earth.  

The demolition project was called Pathways and it would become notorious thanks to George Clarke questioning the need to rip communities apart when the existing houses could be refurbished for a fraction of the cost.  Thus began the empty houses scandal. 

The personal stories behind my old neighbourhood were heart-breaking.  People were lied to from the start. 

They were promised like for like housing which never materialised, they were given less than the value of their homes which left them financially stretched when it came to buy a new one, and when the Pathfinder scheme ran out of money mid project some residents were left adrift in the middle of derelict streets, flanked by run down houses infested with rats and a target for vandals and arsonists.

I decided their story needed to be told.

That was the easy part.  The difficult part was finding out details.  I contacted a few former residents and asked for their story but they were not really forthcoming, they were probably a bit suspicious of this lunatic who’d suddenly appeared in their inboxes asking them to relive their heart-ache. 

So, with an absence of facts I did the next best thing – I made it up and bashed out a first draft.   Then I received some good fortune – I always believe if you get down to working the universe will help and that’s exactly what happened.  Somebody set up a Facebook group for former residents to share memories, I shared mine and suddenly a host of people I’d grown up with contacted me, and they all had the back story. 

I re-wrote and re-wrote filling in the blanks and fleshing out the story until I felt like I had something with real heart. 

I doesn’t have a happy ending, real life often doesn’t, but it has a hopeful ending.  People always have an amazing ability to pick themselves up and carry on; I wrote the ending I wished for these incredible people.

It’s now being considered by BBC Writersroom.  Watch this space!