We hear of the city’s finest eccentrics— the hermit who lived on the roundabout for 20 years and eventually the local council wired him up to a generator so he would have a fridge and television. There was also Barry the God, a man who had a huge gold cup on a chain around his neck.
Caz chips in here with an anecdote, one of the few times she takes the microphone. It’s clear that the sisters are very different species, with Caz as the introverted, thoughtful sibling who Caitlin credits with having really written Raised by Wolves. “She gives it character depth and structure, I’m just like ‘blahhhh’, coming in for lunch and going out for cigarettes”.
Now we’re passing Charlie’s Fish bar, the main chippie in Wolvo, where people used to go and get all manner of things dipped in batter. “The day Charlie knew he’d have to draw a line under this,” Caitlin says, “was when a panicky man came on Christmas eve with a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and asked him to dip them in batter and put them back in the box because he needed a Christmas present for his wife.”
Of course, most people have similar stories about their home towns and cities— weird locals, first kisses, drunken mishaps— but the way Caitlin turns them into fairy-tale like stories is entirely absorbing.
Then again, eight home-schooled children on a Midlands council estate is an unusual situation, and its oddness provides the basis of almost all Caitlin’s writing. She’s chosen to write a TV series about her youth not only because it’s ripe for funny stories, but because she’s incensed about the way working class life is represented on the small-screen. “It’s so often Shameless or Benefits street, sinkhole places where troubled people’s lives have been frittered away. Wolvo was not like that at all, there were lots of social provisions and we were happy and healthy kids”
When Caitlin, Caz and some of the Raised by Wolves cast get out of the coach to have a photograph taken outside 72 Enville Road, the three-bedroom house the writing duo grew up in, the neighbours open their curtains in amazement and probably wonder if a German tourist bus has taken a wrong turn off the M40.
Now on the other side of town, near the CineWorld cinema where we’ll be watching a few episodes of the sitcom, we’re all so into the Wolvo experience that I’m certain I’ve acquired a slight Midlands twang. Yet the sitcom was actually filmed in Manchester, which Caitlin and Caz are sad about. They tried hard to film nearby, but that there simply wasn’t the space or the facilities.
“When the pilot went out,” Caitlin says. “We were sitting there on Twitter, all nervous, and the feedback was very positive apart from the very small but strong contingent of people going, ‘it’s the wrong bins!’. Since that fiasco, they’ve had Wolverhampton Council stickers mocked up to appease eagle-eyed locals.
We’re now at Cineworld and we rather reluctantly put down our crisp packets and get off the coach, with Caitlin leading the way through the vast car park, and past the Hollywood Bowl and the Pizza Hut.
Later, when we discuss filming, she says, “We were a very tightly bonded group making episodes about masturbation, periods, sex. And everyone would be talking about these issues in a very frank, open conversation. People had never talked about this stuff before and it become a great big episode of Ricki Lake.”
And that’s what today has felt like. A bizarre, funny and fascinating episode of Ricki Lake. If Ricki Lake was set on a coach in Wolverhampton.
The first episode of Raised by Wolves will air on Channel 4 in March 2015