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Award Nominations, Film Screenings and Walking 21 miles for Nacoa

Reading the reports of the massive 32.8% increase in alcohol related deaths in the UK and that the UK has the worst underage drinking and smoking rates across the world has saddened me, but unfortunately I’m not shocked.

 

As a country we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, where it’s more difficult to say you’re not drinking then it is to be drunk. And when someone is seen as a ‘problem drinker’ they are cast aside, overlooked and shrouded in shame. The UK loves a drink, but don’t show us up old chap!

 

That shame and stigma pushes it further away from the perception of ‘normal.’ ‘Normal’ is getting completely ‘blottoed’ most nights of the week – worse on weekends – and still carrying on with life. But when that problem drinking turns to physical dependency and then addiction no one wants to know. That charming, happy-go-lucky, life and soul of the party is now alone. Often with a partner and children that are now alone too.

 

In the UK, it's estimated 2.6 million children have one or more alcoholic parents, that’s roughly 1 in 5. Personally, I think the number is much higher because I know I wouldn’t have been counted. My dad didn’t seek help for his addition, and I know countless parents who haven’t either.

 

That’s why I’m walking 21 miles with Nacoa on Saturday 4 May 2024. It’s never been more important to raise awareness for the charity and spread the word that they exist. I only found them just over 12 months ago whilst in pre-production for my film Changing Tides, 16 years after my dad died. If I had known about them when I was struggling at secondary school and drama school, I think things could have been different.



Nacoa logo in blue with a bright yellow sunshine for the letter O
Nacoa logo

 

For years I grappled with the crushing worry that I wasn’t good enough for anyone because I had never been enough for my dad. Of course that’s not true, alcoholism is a disease. Once you’re in the addiction phase you physically and psychologically need it. It’s not about pleasure anymore, you’re powerless to resist and so lost you don’t know the damage you’re causing. I know that now, but it’s been a long and painful journey getting there. Nacoa’s free helpline, message boards, research and advocacy could have helped me get there a lot sooner.

 

That’s why it’s important to spread the word. You might not need them but you probably know someone who does.

 

Another thing that helped was writing and directing my short film Changing Tides. It made me see the situation with fresh, unwounded eyes. For the first time, I could see my dad as a troubled and flawed man, and that’s hard to admit. We all think our parents are some sort of superior humans, until we realise, they’re just like us, stumbling through life figuring it out as we go.



Changing Tides behind the scenes still with Wolverhampton Film Festival Laural
Aiden and Bea in Changing Tides


 

Working with Rowe Dave McClelland on the characterisation of Aiden, I could see the daily torment my dad must have been living with. He must have known he was too far gone to stop, and he must have known everything he lost. That’s got to be a dark place for anyone. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it makes me understand it.

 

And working with Natasha Cottriall, who played domestic carer Bea, I saw sides of myself I didn’t know existed. Bea is a portrayal of my younger self and those who care for end-of-life alcoholics. I changed the father/daughter relationship to that of a carer and her patient because I didn’t think I could show all the multitude of layers that push, pull and fracture family bonds in a short film. Plus, it’s an angle that’s rarely seen on screen.

 

Through all the hurt there was also hope. Hope for a future that’s more caring and understanding of people with alcohol addiction. And hope for my own future, knowing that my younger self's relationship with my father is now at peace.




Woman with curly hair smiling with the street with a man holding a camera facing her
A happy director on Day 1 of filming Changing Tides

 

Changing Tides is screening at the Wolverhampton Film Festival on Sunday 5 May 2024, and I will be there with my aching legs, coming the day after the 21-mile Nacoa walk. It seems fitting (and potentially exhausting) that both should fall on the same weekend.

 

Changing Tides is up for an award too, Best New Filmmaker. The nomination blew me away and made my mum incredibly proud (she’s my number one fan). And I’d like to think somewhere my dad is seeing all this. His pain gone, he can smile and see that all the turmoil has brought about some good. I hope I’ve made him proud.

 

If you would like to sponsor my Nacoa walk you can using this Just Giving link: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/bignacoawalk2024 or directly on my Instagram posts with the ‘donate’ tag (they’re all clearly marked): https://www.instagram.com/thisishouseoftales

 

And if you would like to watch Changing Tides at the Wolverhampton Film Festival you can get free tickets here. It’s showing on Sunday 5 May between 12pm-1pm, which is Day 3 Slot 8 on the ticket link: https://filmfreeway.com/Wolverhamptonfilmfestival/tickets

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