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Shed your tears and walk away

From Mark Piggott
Saturday, 24 October 2009

I'd be interested in people's reaction to Jez Lewis's new film, "Shed your tears and walk away", which I just saw at the NFT and portrays a different aspect of Hebden life?

From Danny Thompson
Saturday, 24 October 2009

Thanks Mark for raising this. I travelled up to London earlier this week to see the film, and found it very powerful and moving. Here’s the review I posted on the Time Out website:

“Shed Your Tears and Walk Away is a funny, moving and sometimes bleak documentary about the fashionable Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge - described by one of the participants as '... a drug town with a tourist problem ...'

Jez Lewis portrays his former classmates with compassion and humanity, allowing them to speak for themselves in describing the problems that they have had to cope with, or have brought upon themselves.

He also depicts the other subject of his film - the town itself - with the same openness and honesty. In doing so he challenges the orthodox view of it as a trendy and accepting bohemian enclave.

There is however no polemic. As death after early death occurs; from addiction, suicide or accident - we are left to ponder for ourselves whether Hebden Bridge is an 'Anytown, UK', or if it has its own unique, darker properties. Whatever the answer, uncomfortable questions are raised for all of us.

This is a hugely thought-provoking documentary which deserves to be widely viewed.”

I left Hebden over 20 years ago, and I now live nearly 300 miles away - though I still have family in the area, and consider it to be the place I’m ‘from’.

As you can see from the review above I think that the film will provide a catalyst and focus for debate wherever in the country you happen to live. But that debate will be sharper, and probably more painful in Hebden Bridge itself.

The film is a significant document of Hebden Bridge, and will come to be viewed as an artistic milestone for the town in the course of time. I hope it gets a showing during the Hebden 500 celebrations. This might seem strange given the subject matter - but I really believe that the ability to confront and address the issues raised in the film will be a measure of the real strength of the community.

I’d like to add that I found the showing of the film that I attended an unexpectedly emotional event in its own right. The packed main auditorium at the National Film Theatre contained many people I shared my form room and the playground at Calder High with in the 1980s. It was a bizarre and poignant school reunion, where we really did find out what had become of some of us since those days - and it didn’t make comfortable viewing.

Disclosure: Jez Lewis is my step-brother, but that’s Hebden Bridge for you. If you want to read impartial reviews try this from The Times and this from Time Out

Danny Thompson

From Mark Piggott
Sunday, 25 October 2009

Hi Danny, thanks for this. Like you I left Hebden many years ago (25, almost) but still go back quite a bit. The film reminded me of why I left. To this day when people say “oh, but you’re from such a pretty little town, why leave?” it’s hard to answer without going into detail. Back in the mid-80s I found Hebden claustrophobic and with limited opportunities and it saddens me that the park scene (which I was involved with) continues.

Anyway it’d be good to hear from people who still live in the area. Jez said he’d like the film screened at HB picture house, now that would be interesting...

From Jonathan Timbers
Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sadly, I haven't seen the film but I agree with the comments. Hebden Bridge has a very dark side and only limited tolerance - particularly around questions such as social class. I don't think that many of the off-comer political chattering classes (I'm not excluding myself from that definition) know how to relate to local identities or really want to understand the lives, ideas, values of 'working class' people hereabouts (for lack of a better label). And I think there's a great deal of bitterness in town because of the 'funky' surface which is so unrepresentative of the substance of the place..... by the way, despite the Jamie Oliver heckling, a surprising number of people in town shop in Lidl in Todmorden.

Having said that, it is relatively crime free, it has lots of clubs and societies and a thriving voluntary sector. There are some wonderful people here, and, despite the tensions, I have always found some of the older local people in town very welcoming. So when my dad died, I moved my mother here and in no time at all, because she's a friendly supportive person from a small town of factory workers and farmers, she built a new life.

So, it's not all Ted Hughes and Heathcliff... it's also a bit Mike Haslam if you've ever read his work (which incorporates the drinkers in the park). If you haven't be prepared for a wild (and sometimes perplexing) journey, from one of Britain's greatest living poets.

I entirely understand why Mike Piggott left - from time to time, I think about leaving-, but staying offers rewards if you're prepared to come to terms with Hebden's problems and issues.

From Colin C
Monday, 26 October 2009

I’d like to see this film shown at the Picture House, however I doubt that will happen. The good people of Hebden Bridge seem to have a blind spot with regard to this aspect of the town.

Despite living in Hebden, I now take my little boy to Todmorden Park, which despite not being in a town that has never (to my knowledge) featured in a ‘groovy list’ is far more welcoming and has a much safer feel than its Hebden Bridge equivalent.

We stopped going to Hebden Park after it became obvious that large groups of drunk young (and not so young) people had completely colonised most of the areas away from the playground and have made it there own with thousands of empty bottles and cans strewn around them. Indeed on our last visit, one bright spark was standing on the perimeter path and was seeing how far onto the football pitch he could throw empty Stella bottles. This was at 10:30 on a Saturday morning!

I suppose the poignant thing is that these are not revellers at the fag end of a night out enjoying themselves but people at various points on the slide towards a sad and premature death. If an area perceived to be more deprived had a proportionally similar problem with drink and drugs I would think there would be some kind of initiative to help these people. I don't see that in Hebden.

Has anyone got any serious ideas about why there is so little debate about this? Surely it can’t just be that the park folk tend to be ‘local’ and the people who do all the debating are ‘offcomers’.

From Gwendoline Goddard
Monday, 26 October 2009

I have asked Johnnie Courtney, manager of the Picture House, to show the film. He said he would research it but we know of course that it will depend at least in part on how many would turn up and pay to see it.

If you think this darker side of our town should be examined then put your view in the comments book on the desk in the foyer.

We know there are problems in Hebden and a showing of this film might raise the real issues and could even lead to some positive action.

From H Gregg
Tuesday, 27 October 2009

From what I've seen on the film trailer and on Youtube, Jez Lewis has taken the time to listen and to give these people a voice. We should listen, not judge, and maybe encourage the local media (ha!) to give them a voice too!

Imagine the park benches occupied by unlikely readers of the HB Times - studying the article (or even a regular feature!!) and planning their response.

It could only happen in Hebden, and it just might make a difference to some very alienated people.

The only question is... would the HB Times have the guts :-) to do it.

From Joanna Beacroft-Mitchell
Tuesday, 27 October 2009

If the Picture House couldn't screen it (and I fully accept they have to take into account commercial considerations) then perhaps some other appropriate community venue could be found - Street Angels exists precisely to address these issues so maybe they could have a screening at Hope Baptists - as a fundraiser and awareness raising event ?

From Kath Powlesland
Saturday, 31 October 2009

I've asked at the Trades about showing this. Dave Boardman is talking to Jonny at the Picture House but apparently there's no decision yet from Jonny. If the Picture House don't show the film, the Trades is happy to do so and to host a discussion afterwards.

From Jill Robinson
Saturday, 31 October 2009

My son tells me that he features in Jez Lewis's new film. He was told by a friend who has seen it that he is clearly identifiable. I asked him whether he had realised he was being filmed, and he replied 'no'- because he was 'off his face' at the time. Could there perhaps be issues of informed consent here? My son is upset to have been filmed while in such a state. (I supose one answer might be that he should not have got himself into that state in the first place - better to behave in case there are documentary film-makers in the offing..)

From Emma S
Sunday, 1 November 2009

This film sounds very interesting and I'd see it if it was shown in Hebden.

I think we need to be careful about not taking the view, however, that Hebden Bridge has more of a problem with drugs and alcohol than anywhere else. As a Social Worker of several years standing who has worked in all the major towns and cities across the region I can assure you that in terms of scale of problem Hebden Bridge is no worse than other places, and better off than many. Agreed, Hebden has some issues specific to its'self e.g. high cost of properties preventing people getting onto the property ladder, but I do think that the drug/drink problems are more visible in Hebden due to its small size compared to larger towns, and that gives the impression that Hebden has a worse problem than other places, which, in my opinion, is not the case.

From Jason Elliott
Sunday, 1 November 2009

I can't help wondering whether this is a bit of a class issue.

A working class town, bruised and battered as industry moves away, gets "regenerated" as first, liberal-minded hippies followed by young middle class professionals, move in bringing money and clever ideas. Except that very little of it gets to the people who've been here for generations. (Sure, a few tradespeople have benefitted, fitting posh kitchens and parquet flooring, but on the whole, not much has filtered through.)

I find it difficult to see how this has brought hope to the original residents. The overwhelming majority of the "oftcumdens" (newcomers) either work in Leeds or Manchester, or are homeworkers in IT or the Arts. They aren't setting up businesses that employ people.

What they are doing however, is pushing up property prices to ridiculous levels, effectively making it impossible for the young people who were born here, in the town that their parents and grandparents were born in too, to get any kind of foot on the property ladder.

I fully expect to get pilloried for this but I do wonder why we're so keen to hold candlelit vigils for people in far off parts of the world, when here, in this very town we call our home, we are turning our backs on our neighbours, just because we don't like what we see.

I don't profess to have any of the answers, but I do think we've got to address the fact that something is going seriously wrong here. It sometimes seems to me that Hebden is home to two entirely seperate societies with different priorities, expectations, earning capacities, interests and yes, lifespans.

From Angus W
Monday, 2 November 2009

I'm with Emma S on this. Let's keep it in perspective. I bet Salford would love some of the problems Hebden Bridge has got, in return for a few of its own. This is not to say Hebden is paradise, but comparisons can be instructive and I think Emma is right to say the nature of the town exaggerates the scale of the problem: what goes on in the park some nights is more visibile to more of the population and it is also more of a contrast with everything else that goes on. In major cities, it would hardly be worthy of comment.

And I have a genuine question. In other places where there is a large or concentrated drug problem, it tends to go hand in hand with a spike in crime. Eleswhere on this forum, someone else (and I think the local police officer for the area) states that Hebden Bridge has the second lowest crime figures in West Yorkshire. Can anyone explain the anomaly?

On another note, I'm wary of the London-centric media leaping on this. I imagine Hampstead Heath is rife with social problems when the sun goes down, but it's not deemed worthy of 2000 words in the Independent. Let's treat the real social problem - politicians who use this forum may like to explain how they'd go about it - without demonising another area of the north of England.

From Paul D
Monday, 2 November 2009

The article also traded on a few tired old cliches, the most annoying being that the town was washed up and deserted before the hippy rescue of the 70s. It wasn't. It was vibrant and employed more people in meaningful work than it has since.

The series of spurious links between tragic individual deaths was also lazy, knowing most cited in the article (but holding judgment on the actual film), I'd point out that the reasons for each were very different, some were around relationship breakdown, some fear, some drugs, some didn't even happen here - putting them all together was just lazy, imposing and quite insulting to their families and those who knew them, many who were right by their side during their distress (not having buggered off).

Finally, finding that a 'close' friend has died over a game of pool says more about the author than the town. Are there no telephones in London? But I guess people who were born here and stay here are used to this - we're just the bloody extras, providing the backdrop for somebody else's sloppy plot.

From Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, 2 November 2009

I've just read the Independent article, and found it very unsatisfying. There are problems, that much is true, but they are connected and analysed in a way which leaves me cold.

For example, the headline talks about suicide, when most of the deaths to which it refers aren't suicides. They are mostly OD's - tragic, unnecessary, a problem certainly, but not the problem which is addressed.

The article suggests that the 'gentrifiers' live on the south-facing side of the valley, and the poor peasants are pushed onto the north-facing side - well, no. I visit on all sides of the valley and all parts of the town, and I just don't recognise that.

The alleged claustrophobia of a valley community may not be entirely due to the valley - although, to be fair, when we first moved in it took a bit of getting used to. I remember the desperate sense of being trapped as a 20-year-old in North Shields, with ambitions and plans but no open door to escape the place and being realising them.

I could go on. Yes, there are problems here. Young deaths by drug or alcohol abuse are deaths that should not happen. The degree of drug use itself is a problem, and may indicate other problems - but they are not unique to Hebden Bridge, and not necessarily caused by Hebden Bridge itself. The same problems exist elsewhere.

If the film and article make people look at the problems in our community and do something about them, fair enough. Looking at problems which don't exist is misleading; I think this article points us in the wrong direction.

From Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, 2 November 2009

I've just read the Independent article, and found it very unsatisfying. There are problems, that much is true, but they are connected and analysed in a way which leaves me cold.

For example, the headline talks about suicide, when most of the deaths to which it refers aren't suicides. They are mostly OD's - tragic, unnecessary, a problem certainly, but not the problem which is addressed.

The article suggests that the 'gentrifiers' live on the south-facing side of the valley, and the poor peasants are pushed onto the north-facing side - well, no. I visit on all sides of the valley and all parts of the town, and I just don't recognise that.

The alleged claustrophobia of a valley community may not be entirely due to the valley - although, to be fair, when we first moved in it took a bit of getting used to. I remember the desperate sense of being trapped as a 20-year-old in North Shields, with ambitions and plans but no open door to escape the place and being realising them.

I could go on. Yes, there are problems here. Young deaths by drug or alcohol abuse are deaths that should not happen. The degree of drug use itself is a problem, and may indicate other problems - but they are not unique to Hebden Bridge, and not necessarily caused by Hebden Bridge itself. The same problems exist elsewhere.

If the film and article make people look at the problems in our community and do something about them, fair enough. Looking at problems which don't exist is misleading; I think this article points us in the wrong direction.

From Anne H
Monday, 2 November 2009

I doubt if the problems facing young people in Hebden Bridge - especially those who feel they are 'stuck' here - are any worse than those facing people in Todmorden or any other small Northern town with very few jobs for unskilled or even skilled workers.
But perhaps it feels worse when you see Hebden Bridge being regularly portrayed in the media as such an attractive place to live, a creative and exciting place, full of tolerant, liberal people. That's very much an 'outside looking in' view and I would imagine one that is resented by some who see things very differently.

From Helen Jones
Monday, 2 November 2009

We are interested to read the comments about Jez Lewis’s recent film ‘Shed your tears and walk away’. Our late sister is one of the people mentioned in the film, and the Independent on Sunday article on 1st November.

Our own understanding is that in any society drink and drugs tend to be symptomatic of something deeper. Emma’s diaries, which came to light after her death, make interesting reading, as she clearly indicates that she suffered child abuse at the hands of the man who should have been in a caring and fatherly role. Certainly it appears the drugs which ultimately lead to Emma’s death were a feature of her desperate need to escape the pain and denial of abuse.

Perhaps families and communities failing to act as a safe place for children to grow up in have as much to do with drink and drug problems as ‘gentrification’ or social class.

As the problems in Hebden Bridge are evident in the whole of society perhaps the thing to do is encourage Hebden Bridge people to lead the way in finding solutions rather than just to, as Jez has put it,‘shed our tears and walk away’.

Previous correspondents have indicated a need to put funds into the support structures which keep a community functioning and safe for its young people, or provide havens for those who are not safe. Surely this is of more value than ‘arty’ winter (!) window dressing, poetry reading and the like. For example, funding was withdrawn from the Alternative Education programme for young people who were struggling to maintain attendance at Calder High School. Where do these young people go now – the park?

We are concerned that focussing only on drink and drugs, or suicide as opposed to overdose, avoids discussion of the real issues which ruin people’s lives, often for generations.

It may be that the bohemian nature of Hebden Bridge, lacks clear boundaries, guidance and messages of right and wrong for our young people. This may be allowing some behaviours to develop into a local culture which really needs to be addressed and other behaviours to go on unchallenged behind closed doors.

Helen Jones
Sarah Hennessy Gray

From Michelle Foster
Wednesday, 4 November 2009

You're comments and evaluation of the situation are spot on.

However, we should not get sucked into the 'hype' around this subject and give a thought to the majority of young people and adults who have grown up in the Calder Valley and are leading happy, successful and secure lives.

We should recognise the work of individuals and groups who support our young people and provide positive opportunities and activities for them to engage in. I for one must thank groups such as the Saints and CVFR for all they do for the kids in the valley. These are the sorts of groups that enagage across class, and these are the groups who are not always flavour of the month when it comes to funding.

If we dwell too much on the negatives and 'shed a tear and walk away', we run the risk of stigmatising the town and its people, and creating further divisions between the 'different' populations.

As a genuine mark of respect to those who are suffering and those who have died, we need practical, accessible solutions by people who can address this situation with honesty and with a positive and realistic approach.

From Jez Lewis
Thursday, 5 November 2009

Hi everyone, as the maker of Shed Your Tears And Walk Away I hope it's okay to say something here. I'm not always sure which comments are about the Independent article and which about the film, but thanks for all those about the film whether critical or supportive. I know that feelings are running high (including my own) but I strongly believe in building bridges, not burning them.

I think that as Paul D, Helen and Sarah have suggested, each person I've sadly known die by their own actions has had very personal and individual experiences, both of Hebden and other aspects of life. But I have personally known about ten people take their own lives (deliberately as opposed to accidental overdoses), and the most obvious thing they have in common is that they are all from Hebden. Why? I don't know. The film started out as an effort to understand it, (and to film it in case it could help anyone) but it snowballed into something much bigger and quite different as events overran me.

I also agree with the comments that these problems exist everywhere, sometimes less severely, sometimes more so, and those about there being individuals and groups already involved in efforts to tackle various issues in the town - I've met some and spoken with others. These are the people that really inspire me the most, including several of the people I filmed with, those who face up to these problems for days without end. I know I can do little more than pointing a camera, but I do feel strongly enough to try to make a contribution, and I've tried to do this by giving a voice to people don't usually feel they have one. As one of the lads on the park said when I asked if he would mind me filming, "course not, anyone who comes round here with a camera normally asks us to get out of their way". The title is a line spoken by someone in the film when I made my first filming trip, and Liam Jones, who tragically died on Friday, was one of the most vociferous supporters of the film.

I totally accept that I am no longer a Hebdenite, but if I didn't love Hebden I wouldn't have made the film. If I thought these problems were unique to Hebden, I wouldn't have done it: and if I believed the situation was helpless I would have given up. I just hope the film can be part of something positive.

From Emma S
Thursday, 5 November 2009

Well, it would certainly help debate on this issue to be able to see the film in question, and sooner rather than later. Any update on this happening? Perhaps Jez as film-maker might feel an obligation to ensure a local screening and could assist it to happen.

From Simon B
Friday, 6 November 2009

I'll also refrain from commenting fully untill I've seen the full documentary but I will ask - Where are the facts and figures? Any documentary worth it's salt is backed up by statistics.

Does Hebden have a problem or has Jez Lewis just made friends with the problem inhabitants?

From Helen Jones
Friday, 6 November 2009

Simon I don't really understand the point of this and similar questions. Drugs and alcohol abuse and all its consequences are present in all towns but if you live in a particular town why not try to understand the local nature of it? Solutions to these problems won't come just from government, they also come from local understanding and initiative.

You're a lucky man if you've managed to avoid having any friends at all whose lives aren't touched by these issues.

From Jonny Courtney
Friday, 6 November 2009

I just wanted to post something regarding the screening of Shed Your Tears at the Picture house.

Jez and I have had very positive discussions about this over the last couple of weeks, and we are both very keen to show the film in Hebden.

Unfortunately this isnt something that can happen straight away for a number of reasons, but we are working on showing the film, hopefully in early 2010.

Jonny Courtney
Manager, Hebden Bridge Picture house

From Simon B
Saturday, 7 November 2009

Helen, I have read the Independant article and the statistics do appear to back up Jez Lewis' docu-film.

I assure you my comments were not intended to stir emotion or insult the memory of anyone.

From Choe D
Saturday, 7 November 2009

As someone who attempted suicide twice whilst living in Hebden, I'd like to contribute the reasons that I feel the town fails it's population (beyond my own internal dilemmas, which in every suicide case, is of course key) and thus add to this discussion.

I grew up in Hebden and lived there for a substantial part of my young adulthood. However, there is a dysfunction to the sense of community that has grown, year on year. The prevalence of cliques, makes one believe (if you are ensconsed within a clique) that you belong to a strong and supportive community. The dispersal of the classes, (there are the rich, there are the poor, there are the educated rich, there are the educated poor, there are the uneducated rich, there are the uneducated poor: people tend to stick within these groupings) further reinforces this as there are cliques that exist across the social spectrum.

There is also so much opportunity to meet new people with a constant influx of off-comeders, that social-butterflies are constructed out of potentially loyal friends. It is easy to not miss a friend slipping away into the nether-reaches of existential angst, because there is always someone new to replace them.

If you are an outsider, or a loner, or just don't fit in in some way, the "community" at large is largely blind to your fate. Or if you are suffering in some way and withdraw, no one notices.

Whether this can be true of anywhere, I don't know. I now live in Sowerby Bridge very happily. The valley is more open, the sense of community is definitely not fake, the "working classes" live in houses designed for "the working classes" whilst the toffs generally reside in bigger houses on the tops. There is no social competition, just people getting on with their lives. (A hell of a lot of drink and drug abuse, foolhardiness, unemployment etc, but it would never be put under the microscope here. It's just a "normal", destitute, former mill town).

I agree with the assessment that people in Hebden are almost oblivious to the rest of the world. It is a "trip" to the outside world (apart from the commuters, obviously) which is so close to hand and filled with wonder and chaos.

Whenever I visit Hebden I see the many cliches and paradoxes and the caricature that this lovely town has become.

An interesting point, though that someone made earlier. The "fear of crime" in the town is very low. I don't feel afraid of the drunks or the kids high on something or other, like I would in - for example - Halifax. Perhaps again, it is the false sense of community that the town embues. Perhaps it is this lack of fear that makes people blind to the faults of the town, ignorant to the suffering.

I hope I haven't offended anyone. I only wished to convey my own sentiments about perhaps a different but related subject - how Hebden Bridge can make ordinarily cheerful people miserable.

From Kate Sweeny
Sunday, 8 November 2009

I've been following this thread closely, but have been reluctant to comment before now. This has been out of respect for the feelings of everyone who has been personally affected by the tragic death of Liam Jones. Despite being excoriated on Facebook by Jason, I'd hate to make political capital out of this. I'm posting now to ask if anyone knows how Liam's family, and other bereaved families, feel? Would they welcome a wider discussion of the issues, or is this a time for quiet reflection?

From Helen Jones
Sunday, 8 November 2009

Having seen the film I am left with mixed feelings (as you might expect). We have to accept that adults make their own choices. However we can choose to influence and support our young people.

If there is any action directly in Hebden to come out of the film I would suggest lobbying Calderdale Council for detached youth workers and a connexions service in Hebden. I say detached youth workers because although a youth club etc is useful it only reaches young people who choose to go there. Youth work needs to start where vulnerable young people are choosing to be, ie on the park!

I hope that in time the film becomes available as a DVD because I think it could be used as a cautionary tale for young people all over the country. How desperate it is that choices you made as a teenager can haunt you for so long.

I went through school with Cass and remember when he was what I would have described at the time as a 'straight' local kid who was rejecting of 'hippies' and the culture associated with them. At the time Cass had more sense than I did. It took a long time (20 years) but in the end I came out of it better than he did. Is that because I left Hebden? I don't know because I certainly found drugs and alternative culture elsewhere, and so did my late sister.

A bit of self-censorship among adults could make a difference. It sure as hell isn't 'cool' to give young people easy access to drugs. If the film can lead some adults to consider the influence their behaviour and actions have on vulnerable young people around them that is a good thing.

From Michelle O
Monday, 9 November 2009

There is an excellent website which discusses substance and alcohol misuse: Wired In

It is predominantly about Recovery, but there is a good forum for parents/carers/families which will illustrate the impact of both death and recovery from substance misuse.

From Sara R
Monday, 9 November 2009

Read the Facebook comments, read this Hebweb thread and read the Independent article. Lots of very mixed up and conflicting thoughts as someone who has made this my long term home. So have decided that rather than try and find something to blame, lets look at what we can do for ourselves.

It's the valley's fault for being too high; no it's the drugs and alcohol culture thanks to the self centred hippies who took over the entire place in the 70's; no, actually, its the unemployment rate and the demise of an industry; no you know what, it's this kind of foggy, unique 'mystique' about the place which we can't quite put our finger on but which drove some of us to far away places never to return; nope - its definitely the middle class who say no to everything and rule HB with their haughty, arty, champagne socialist ways; and so on etc.

So what could we do?

1) We need more quality stuff to do for young people in the evenings - and we need to not give up trying this at the first hurdle.

2) We need more affordable housing schemes.

3) We need honest and challenging debate about parenting our teenagers - and how we can support one another in being clear about what is acceptable and what is not.

4) Decision making groups across Hebden, in whatever venture, need to work harder at involving a wider range of people so its not the usual suspects.

5) Not sure about quality support for persistent drug and alcohol users of all ages - assuming it could be much much better?

6) We need to keep bigging up the stuff that is good about living here (and my God the list is very long), as well as being bold enough to confront the difficult truths.

It's a good town all in all and clearly it could be better. I lived in Suffolk as a child (the county Jez lives in now) and I know where I'd rather be.

Right. When and how shall we start?

From Helen Jones
Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hi Sara

When I first read your posting a couple of hours ago, I found it a bit sarky and high handed. My experience is that the internet can be a dodgy form of communication because when you write something you hear it in your own voice in your head but someone reading it might hear it in a very different voice and tone. It’s got potential for misunderstanding both as reader and read.
I’m still struggling with the first couple of paragraphs but the suggestions below are practical and something to think about. I don’t live in Hebden so some of it doesn’t apply. I know a little bit about youth work so I can respond to the first suggestion.

My feeling is that there is quality things to do, plenty of young people in Hebden spend time doing quality things. It’s those young people who for whatever reason can’t access it and are drawn into doing destructive things who need really good mentors going to where they are. Good youth work can help vulnerable young people to access a better range of life choices and provide a chance to talk about the consequences, and reasons for, poor life choices. This is why I have suggested lobbying for detached youth workers, preferably with a base in the town also.

There has been good youth work done in Hebden. I personally know young people who have been helped considerably to move towards good choices (thanks Lynne and Patty!). My guess is that it is lost due to short term and vulnerable funding, especially now when councils are drawing up the purse strings. I know it also isn’t helped by the perception that Hebden is affluent, that is just the excuse that councils need to avoid putting resources in.

There is also charitable funding out there. The film could provide a powerful resource to support a funding bid to Children in Need or one of the other youth funders. It needs a lead organisation to put the bid in, I don’t know what community sector organisations there are in Hebden?

As to when will we start and how, I think many of us have started and are keeping on trying to do the right thing. The how is in our own families and with our own children, if we don’t start there we are missing first base. I think we all need a bit of help with that sometimes. If we’re lucky it comes from within our own families but lots of us have times when it can’t and then it is wonderful when something from outside does just what you, as a parent, need it to.

(hope all that sounds the same to the reader as it did in my head!)

From Ian Davies
Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Part of the problem is the state of denial that seems to be rife when discussing this subject. I'm sick of hearing "Its a lot worse in other places" etc. The fact is that although it may be worse in other places at least there the problem is recognised.

In places like Salford or any inner city for that matter there are schemes in place to try and tackle the problems. We can argue the toss about how successful these initiatives are but the point is that at least the problems are not swept under the rug.

Here people are happy to hold a candlelight vigil for people thousands of miles away or bring out the flaming torches and pitchforks when somebody proposes a new carpark. In the meantime my friends are dying and nobody raises an eyebrow! Open your eyes and Don't walk away!

From Susan Burns
Friday, 13 November 2009

I agree with Sara R - let's think about what we can do, rather than beating ourselves up.

The film should be screened at HBPH - I'm sure that will happen. It should also be shown at Calder High School and Jez Lewis invited into school to do a project/discussions/workshops around it with the young people who are at risk themselves. Assuming he wants to do that. I will write to Mr Ball to suggest it.

Jez or another filmmaker/artist could be commissioned by the Council or the Arts Festival to make another film about the responses to the film.

Hebden Bridge 500 should think about commemorating (some of) those who have died in tragic circumstances - whether from asbestosis, war, murder, addiction, suicide - let us not forget the dead. They are part of our story.

Chaterati incomers should learn some local history - there's some shocking misconceptions about. The valley and this area in general has always been a place for visionaries, artists and non-conformists. Something about the hills... Read a book about the Cragg Coiners or about Billy Holt! The Brontes were creating enduring works of genius just 10 miles from here - and Branwell - a famous drinker - working up the road. Creativity in Hebden didn't start in the 1970s when some artists moved in to Hebden because local people were abandoning the valley because of the asbestos tragedy..and sub-standard housing. These artists definitely made Hebden a more exciting place to be at that time but they were simply continuing a long and honorable tradition of piece workers, small traders, artisans and craftspeople in the Pennines...

And they should know that a lot of what makes Hebden creative and a great place in which to live is a result of local people from long standing Calderdale families - whether David Pease and Ted Hughes setting up Arvon at Lumb Bank; David Fletcher regenerating the mills or the local families who run the amateur societies, bonfire night. Anne Bridges - a local stalwart - has run the junior band for 30 years and I could go on..Brilliant 'newer' people like Andrew Bibby are just taking on their baton.. and partnership has got to be the way forward.

Rambling now..Better stop!

From Julie C
Sunday, 29 November 2009

I believe a fundamental cause of the problems is down to failures of local educational provision.

Riverside School was finally named as a failing school by OFSTED, in I think 1997, a situation that had in fact existed for years. There were some inspirational individuals working in the school, but as an institution it failed to respond to the variety of families it served.

Many children left for High School with a feeling of failure, without the confidence and self-esteem needed to make a success of life. Those who entered High School not already academic achievers, were left with nothing on which to build a life and a future, and found amongst many of their fellow pupils a destructive attitude that working hard was pointless.

To compound the problems this generation also hit the time when changes to GCSE were coming in, the launch of the National Curriculum and the impact of the Teachers strikes. Schoolchildren turned up for lessons, and were sent home after half a day, left to hang around with no educational or social provision made for them. It was easy in these circumstances to slip into drug and drink misuse.

Many of these young people left school with no useful skills or qualifications. I first met Cass at the YOP project to fix up the Ground Floor of the Trades Club in 1981/2. He and a group of other young men and women all capable of achievement arrived on the scheme having left High School with virtually nothing. Some of these folk did carry on to make a success of their lives, but others who perhaps had deeper troubles weren't able to make a future
for themselves.

I hope that now we can be confident that local schools are offering our young people the education and the opportunities they deserve.

From B Jones
Thursday, 17 December 2009

Maybe as a community, instead of denial and looking to lay blame, it would be more beneficial to look at what we can do. Of course these social problems exist hugely within other areas of the Country, but we live in Hebden Bridge.

From Belinda Jones
Sunday, 20 December 2009

‘Let us not walk away, let us walk together’
Join us on
Saturday 06th March.....

on a fundraising walk! In the memory of Liam and Sam Jones, and the other young lives that Hebden Bridge has lost in recent years. Let us make that start and come together and show our support, raise awareness and funds for ‘Lifeline’ who do the invaluable and essential work in the Calder Valley with people struggling with both drug and alcohol addiction.

Meeting at Mytholmroyd playing fields at 11am, onto Mytholmroyd, up Midgley road, along Heights Road and down Wadsworth Lanes finishing in Hebden Bridge

The number of deaths in recent years has prompted some of us to use our initiative and ability to confront and address these issues, we should come together as a community and walk together, lets not ‘Shed our tears and walk away’ lets ‘Wipe our tears and come together’

Registration fee of £7.50 for adults, children attend free. Get your Sponsorship forms and ticket now from Oasis Stores, Marshall’s bar and William Holts, Hebden Bridge, or Mytholmroyd Working Mens club. Alternatively, register on the day or contact us directly by e.mail at werenotwalkingaway@live.co.uk.

See also

Hebweb news

Listen now to Jez Lewis being interviewed at the beginning of this Guardian Film podcast.

Independent on Sunday: Why has Hebden Bridge become suicide central?

Older Forum topics where some of the discussion might have some relevance to this thread

Teenager in Hebden (Nov 2008)

The Seamy Side of Town (Oct 2008)

Under the Bridge (May 2008)

Hebden Bridge is out of control (Oct 07 - Feb 08)

Anti social behaviour (April to September 2007)

Thinking you are in Paris (August 2007)