Raised By Wolves: New Channel 4 series depicts family life in Wolverhampton

JUST moments into Caitlin Moran’s guided tour of her home town, and the popular columnist and author is dangling a lacy black bra in the air.

Don’t panic — it’s not hers. The item belongs to one of the stars of her new sitcom, who’s removed it for comfort as we head off on a no-holds-barred bus trip around Wolverhampton, along with show co-creator, Moran’s sister Caroline (Caz).

Raised By Wolves is a six-part Channel 4 series, following a successful pilot episode that aired in 2013. It’s a modern-day re-imagining of the pair’s wonderfully chaotic teenage years in a large and unconventional working class ‘Wolvo’ family.

The action focuses on “verbally incontinent” home-schooled Germaine, her introverted sister Aretha (based respectively on Caitlin and Caz, played by Helen Monks and Alexa Davies) and their siblings, as they deal with hormones, boredom and underage drinking in a roost ruled by single mother Della (Rebekah Staton).

“This was the place where my very first period started as I was walking around with my dad,” Caitlin recalls at the Central Library. “I had to hide behind a rotating rack of Ruth Rendell paperbacks and tell him I had stomach ache.”

After passing some other notable attractions — the local skate park, a Hells Angels’ club, and the school Monty Python’s Eric Idle attended — we approach the three-bedroom council house Caitlin and Caz shared with their parents (who stayed together, unlike the family depicted in the series) and six siblings. The family relied on benefits and, like their Raised By Wolves characters, were home-schooled — which mainly consisted of “watching classic MGM musicals whilst eating lumps of cheese on a stick,” Caitlin says.

As the coach pulls up outside the house, Moran explains her parents shared one particular belief — “that people might try and come and get us. So we had very large rose bushes planted on the outside to stop people getting in.”

She points to the porch. “When I heard my grandmother had died, I was very upset, and I ate a whole Soreen malt loaf. Then I vomited out of the upper window while singing ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles in a very sad voice...”

Funny anecdotes aside, it’s clear the Morans have a deep-seated affection for the city.“It may not have looked glamorous, but it was a place where you could live and grow and pursue your interests,” says London-based Caitlin, who became a columnist for The Times at the age of 18.

Raised By Wolves gave the sisters the chance not only to celebrate Wolverhampton, but to challenge the representation of the working class on shows such as Benefits Street and Shameless.

“You never see the working classes turning inwards and having a rich inner life on TV,” says Moran. “You saw what our council estate was like, and there aren’t mad, feral rat children parading around setting fire to cars, screaming and shouting and dealing drugs off tiny bicycles, and having sex with each other around the back of nightclubs. Although that stuff happens, that’s not how most working class people are.”

“Our experience growing up on the estate was that it was mainly quite boring,” Caz adds. “I would have loved for someone to be burning a mattress on the street corner. We used to watch Crimewatch to get a bit of drama in our lives.”

The pair also want the show to be an antidote to TV crime shows where a woman’s only purpose is to be bludgeoned to death.

“I’m just so bored of seeing dead women,” says Caitlin. “You just realise how rarely you watch something where you see women getting on with their lives, having a really nice time, being funny and literate and just enjoying being themselves.”

  • Raised By Wolves begins on Channel 4 on Monday
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