Monday, 21 June 2010

Shed Your Tears And Walk Away

Yesterday Eva-Jane and I paid a visit to the ICA to watch an amazing documentary called "Shed Your Tears And Walk Away" and it is a phenomenal piece of film making, of sheer raw pain and a bleak reflection of the reality of life for large swathes of British people.

I urge you to see it or get on DVD when and if it comes out, it is an outstanding piece of filmmaking that documents a side of British life that is rarely seen. A life of drink, nihilism, drugs, friendship and a loss of a basic survival instinct; a sense of being trapped, of being utterly lost.

It is based in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire but in reality, it could be a documentary of absolutely anywhere in the UK where hope has been lost and there is nothing, seemingly, to lose. One fear is that the situation in Hebden Bridge is seen as unique from this documentary, when it is endemic in the UK.

It reminded me, quite painfully, of elements of my own life, to be clear though, I was always on the periphery of social circles like this but it was, at times, like watching my own friends from the long distant past as they self-destructed and, crippled by fear, kept destroying themselves.

One of the reasons I left Nottingham was to avoid bumping into people from the past, letting me know who else was now dead, mad, locked up, fucked up. Text messages asking if I'd heard that so and so had hung himself or held up another beer-off, old muck-a-bouts begging us for a fiver.

The walking dead. Our British underclass. Nothing to do but shed your tears and walk away.


  1. Also worth considering the millions of Britains who are prescribed anti-depressants to keep them from slipping into that mess.

    "Here, take a tablet, shut the f*ck up, get back to work and keep conforming and consuming"

    I blame capitalism myself.

  2. I suppose, drugs are useful for some to help them get through whatever it is that is making them blue.

    Capitalism is not to blame for everything we have to shoulder responsibility ourselves too.

  3. Hmmm...

    This is Darwinism in full effect, isn't it?

  4. Hebden Bridge is where I Live In & brought my son up .The film is a very accurate portrait of the town.
    The Weirest thing is it goes against the popular view the town has of itself (upwardly mobile: liberal; Hip & trendy.Green;Organic:blah-blah-blah) The strangest thing is that this moral+Spiritual poverty exists,yet is invisible to most of the smug Intelligentsia/The movers&shakers of the town.We have candle-lit vigils & protests for everything but ourselves!
    Bravo to the filmmaker for making it a little bit more visible.

  5. Daniel, indeed we do have to shoulder responsibility and I would argue that the more responsibility we shoulder the better off we are - i.e. no State to tell us what to do OR to fall back on. When you say "whatever is making them blue", what if the status quo made you blue but you weren't aware of it? The pressure to achieve/conform/buy the next big shiny thing was what society would have you aspire to (i.e capitalism) but your material wealth constantly fell short leaving you feeling like a failure? Google 'antidepressant use in Britain' for the figures but clearly there is something wrong.

    Darren, you said it yourself on your own blog but yes that comment does make you sound like "a right-wing, Daily Mail-reading idiot". These are people who, for whatever reason, find themselves unable to cope. There but for the grace of the celestial unicorn go you or I.

  6. Tony:

    Thanks for giving us some genuine Hebden Bridge thoughts mate, much appreciated.


    You'll have to forgive Darren, he's cynicism gets the better of him sometimes but he has a heart of gold. And I'm afraid I like the state to be there when things go wrong because it symbolises all of us looking out for each other. I'm no libertarian.

  7. We are all masters of our own destiny. We all have our own demons, vices and addictions. Some of us choose to fight on, some of us choose to give up and blame the world.

    I am as left as you can get and believe in fair distribution of wealth and the poor getting the help that they need, but as time goes on, you have to ask yourself whether or not this is the right thing to do.

    When I was a lad, the problems of drink and drugs were minimal in my school - but my best mate succumbed to the stupidity of drugs. There was nothing I could do to save this guy from himself and he dropped out. He was from a good family, with two parents, who worked and whenever he headed for the front door they would stuff a £20 note in his pocket(this was back in 1985).

    On the other hand, I was from a broken home, my father left when I was seven and was raised in poverty for those times - though my grandparents helped a lot and took me on holidays every summer. But to his parents I was the bad guy, because I was from the broken home, the single parent bad influence, yet I've never smoked or taken drugs in my life (OK - I hold up my hands to the booze and the prostitutes, etc) but because of that, I was told not to see him anymore. And any chance I had of persuading him to do his exams went out of the window. This was the smartest person I've ever known, the guy with the most talent, a brilliant artist and musician and for all I know he might have died twenty years ago. I search for him, but have never found a trace of him. The optimist tells me is alive and he cleaned himself up.

    But my point is that you can have all the options, all the talent, all the chances, all the money, everything and you can still fall off the path. Why? Is it weakness? Is it the need to fail because you are too scared to confront life head on? I don't know.

    I am the first to admit that I am the world's biggest coward. Life scares me. People scare me. I would happily live in a cave for the rest of my life and be a hermit, but I would never crawl into a botle or destroy myself. And I've had my fair share of bad things happen to me. I've had life knock me down. I've been at the bottom plenty of times.

    But some of us swim (and I include DHG in this because of what I've read on his blog) and some of us sink. Now we can blame this on social deprivation and boredom and lack of jobs and that's fine. But it's like the paedophile who can't be cured - addicts are addicts are addicts.

    My mother's partner is an alcoholic. He always has been and always will be. We've had lots of talks about it and I say: "Jim, the reason your skeleton is crumbling away is because all the alcohol has depleted the calcium in your bones". I say, "Jim, you are going to end up in a wheelchair if you keep on drinking". And he agrees with me and he tries to stay sober and then he fails and sometimes he falls over and has an accident. It wasn't that long ago that he was collapsing and needing blood transfusions.

    When he does give up drinking, he ends up replacing the addiction with cream cakes. I do not joke - he ends up binging on sweet things instead. I ask him why and he replies: "I don't know. I just can't help myself."

    It is sad, but you have to be pragmatic about it. I would wager that if you gave these people a million pounds tomorrow they would drink themselves to death.

    Now where we are in a village north of Norwich, we are in a unique position to see the difference between the successes and failures of this world. The boys who come to us and work daily delivering newspapers are the ones with ambition and drive - they almost all go onto get jobs after their stay with us. While the ones who look for trouble, drink and shoplift, would rather rob their parents than work for us. Human nature is a fascinating thing.

    And I don't read the Daily Mail, I only sell them... ;-)

  8. Top comment Darren, really appreciate it fine words, spot on and well said.

  9. Daniel, thanks very much for this. It will be available on DVD before too long (check the facebook page or

    Darren, in case you haven't seen it the film will be on at Norwich Cinema City on Sunday 25 July (I will be there to do a Q&A). I now live near Diss (perhaps you know it), a town about the same size as Hebden Bridge, and when I go to the park I see an entirely different scene. Of course Diss has its problems, but there simply is nothing like the devastation on a grand scale which has decimated a whole swathe of the community in Hebden Bridge, as Tony confirms. Simply to be on the park in Hebden is to see children drink themselves insensible in the morning, completely openly, while in Diss they play sports; this is not some idealised or fantasised view, it's an absolute fact I have observed closely for three years. So there is something more than some kind of Darwinism or individual choices about ambition, etc; this contrast is as complete as though Hebden Bridge were one individual, Diss another. I'm afraid think there are some very difficult questions here about how Hebden Bridge has ended up this way, and that the answers are more complicated than those your nonetheless admirable effort delivers.

    Best wishes to all,

    Jez Lewis (director of Shed Your Tears And Walk Away)

  10. A real honour to have you stop by Jez, made my day that. I'm sure you're proud of a fine piece of film making and I'll do my best to spread the word and of course, get the DVD.

    Your film will feed into my play that I am re-writing at the moment, it certainly give me a fill-up with regards to what I'm writing and why.

    Thanks again and hope our paths cross.

  11. Daniel--powerful writing! Thanks for that insight. Too often, we forget these types left out on the periphery...good to be reminded that all is not rosy for a large part of Britons...


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