26 December 2010

Jez Lewis's Shed Your Tears and Walk Away (2010) and Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England: 'A Drug Town with a Tourist Problem'

While out of the country this year, I evidently missed an important documentary movie on the plight of one of England's most beautiful spots, and one I visited briefly in 2009, when I also visited Ted Hughes's town of birth 1.5 miles away: Mytholmroyd. Shed your tears and Walk Away is about the present state of former mill town Hebden Bridge, which was severely affected by Thatcher's cuts in the 1980s, and which has continued to be affected by similar - indeed probably in many ways worse - abuse by succeeding governments. It has serious unemployment, drug, and alcohol problems. Jez Lewis took 18 months to make the film, during which 11 young people died in the small town.

We are talking about a beautiful tourist town, but one which one of the young residents in the documentary calls 'a drug town with a tourist problem'. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lewis had many problems while attempting to make the film: the M.P. for the area and the mayor (although co-operative) refused to acknowledge that the situation existed, as did people in the street, while others, such as the local school, refused to talk to him, the police pestered him, and people threatened to call a public meeting if he began filming: it appears that many people were (and no doubt still are) just in denial.

Suicide figures in Hebden Bridge, according to Jez Lewis, are included in Halifax suicide figures - that is, of a much larger area, so the high rate of suicide in Hebden Bridge gets lost.

I can't yet comment on the film itself, as I have to wait for the release of the DVD on 17 January 2011. I wonder if I'm correct in thinking that the Hebden Bridge Visitor and Canal Centre won't be selling it, though?


Garbo said...

Hi Tony, thanks very much for this mention. The very first thing I filmed for Shed Your Tears was Ted Hughes' birth house on Aspinall Street (it didn't make it into the final film though), and the opening chapter on the DVD is named from one of his poems - 'A graveyard for homeland' from 'For Billy Holt'. Best wishes for Christmas and the new year, Jez

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Hi Jez

Thanks a lot for this comment. What you say about Ted Hughes is very interesting, and I look forward to seeing Shed Your Tears in Januuary.

Best wishes to you too over this holiday period, and for the future also.