Yesterday I attended the NFT to view a screening of a film called "shed your tears and walk away". Made by Jez Lewis, who comes from my home town, Hebden Bridge, the film follows an alcoholic (Graham Cassidy) and group of his friends who spend much of their time drinking and taking drugs on the local park. During the course of filming, eleven young people died in the town from accident, suicide, booze and drugs.
In places Shed your Tears is painful to watch; I grew up with Cass and several of the suicides and overdoses referred to were friends of mine. Watching this powerful film brought home yet again how lucky I was to have an escape route at eighteen. If I'd stayed in HB where would I be now? Floating in some parallel universe, isolated, adrift, and/or dead, if not physically then spiritually, moribund, swimming in that bitter soup.
The day I left Hebden in 1985 I took a series of photos of the kids I hung round with on that same bench in that same park. Of those friends, at least three are dead and two seriously ill. One of these pictures was used in the film, and my step-brother appears on several occasions. This made the film difficult to watch with any degree of objectivity, but it is beautifully shot and has some moments of real intensity. Jez has done a fine job.
It?s extraordinary how often people ask where I'm from and when I say Hebden they say "oh, how beautiful! Why would you ever leave?" without ever pausing to wonder if my reasons might be good ones, and that beneath the surface of this pretty Yorkshire town there is a grim, depressing subculture of which I was a part. Next time someone asks I'll point them in the direction of Jez's film and say: "that's why".