Hartlepool, actors and singers, and the bedroom tax

These are the latest excerpts from recorded interviews I’m publishing as I talk to people around the country who are dealing with fallout from public sector cuts, welfare reform and the recession. These transcripts are from interviews with actors, singers and writers at Shoot Your Mouth Off films – a filmmaking project in Hartlepool for people with learning disabilities.

In the transcripts, people talk about their work as actors, singers and writers.

The people who spoke for the interviews were David Miller, Carole Gill, David Lodge, Daniel Judge, Liz Yeats, Graeme Booth and Wendy Elsley.

Photos by @skinnyvoice at deptfordvisions.com.

People here are dealing with many issues: Karen Sheader, the disability rights activist who set SYMO up, says, for example, that two people in the group are worried that they will be affected by the proposed bedroom tax. The two people live by themselves in two-bedroom flats and are concerned that they will either have to move to one-bedroom flats (if they’re available) or lose part of their benefits. There’s a lot of confusion and worry:

“It does make you wonder where they think people are going to to get the money from, especially those people who are already on benefits. There are a couple of people in our group who live in two bedroom flats who were allocated the flats by the local authority who are now being told that they might have to be moved to a one bedroom flat because of the changes to housing benefit.

“Peter (one of the people who is in a two-bedroom flat) came in (one day) with a letter and he didn’t understand it, because he can’t read. It was about his council tax benefit and his housing benefit and he was panicking. When he got this letter, I rang [the council officer] and she offered to see Peter to reassure him. She was saying this is not going to happen in the immediate future – this (the letter) was just saying that it might happen at some point in the future.”

Some people in the group are on benefits, while others work in other jobs, too: Wendy Elsley and Graeme Booth, for example, both work part-time at Asda.

I’ll be posting more on this soon. In the meantime, here are some thoughts from people involved in Shoot Your Mouth Off films. Videos to follow.

Graeme Booth
“I’ve got to work two days a week (at Asda), so I’m here on a Monday now. I swapped days over, so I could come back and make films. The best film I’ve done is Dr Why with Wendy. It was just a Dr Who spoof, really. We did it all in front of a green screen. [In the end], I got done in by a big plastic dinosaur.”

David Miller
“I’ve been at Shoot Your Mouth Off films from the start, for five years. When we first came, there were no tables, no chairs – just boxes to sit on. Some of us have got bands in it as well. I’ve got a band called Friends Forever and my friend Daniel Judge over there, he does rapping. He’s going solo now as well. Hope Springs [a soap] is the film I enjoyed the most. The other one I love is called Maniac Mum. It’ll be done for the Christmas show.

Daniel Judge
My name is Daniel Judge, but really my name is… Dr Judge. I’m a musician…and with a good friend of mine. Coming into SYMO has changed my life. All my friends are in here. My heroes too. I’ve been coming here quite a long time. By 2007 – that’s the year when I did a new group with a certain guy called Mr Miller over here – Big Daddy Cool. And I produced the album called Rise to Fame and I was on the radio, Radio Hartlepool.

David Lodge
My name is David Lodge and I’ve been coming to SYMO for just over a year. Acting’s been part of my life [since I was young]. I went to college for four years and did drama and got qualifications. The best way to describe myself is as an all rounder – acting singing as well. I’ve just played the devil in Nuts To You. A couple of weeks ago, it was on Northeast Tonight, which is our local news for the region. Everybody – from my girlfriend to my Mum and Dad and other people have said I’ve seen you on the TV. Even people are coming up three weeks on have seen it. Acting’s been my passion.

Carole Gill
I’ve only been coming here for seven months, since Easter. I like singing and acting and I like to come here, because everybody’s friendly and made me welcome when I came in. I’m in Maniac Mum. I love singing.

I do get nervous…[before our last show] it was terrible. I couldn’t eat nowt. I did it, though. I wouldn’t let them down anyway. When I heard that there was a group called SYMO, I came with one of our staff members. I thought it would be the right thing for me to do and so I wanted to join. Everybody made me welcome and they give us a cup of tea and made me feel that I felt was at home. My best part was when I was singing live music. We had about 150 people in the room. I sang One Moment In Time and Karen was playing it on the synthesiser.

Wendy Elsley
I used to come here on a Friday, but I stopped coming in on a Friday, because I’m working in Asda now and they swapped my days. So I had to finish this film off – otherwise they would have been up the creek without a paddle. I’d worked really hard with it and finished it off. [That was] Nuts To You.

I do adult literacy [classes]. In Asda, I’m doing all the clothes work in the clothes department. We start round about nine o’clock and then we have our dinners around about 12 o’clock and then we have two breaks between ten and three, so it’s been a long day but it goes very quick. I’ve been there quite a while now – 20 years now in Asda. I just get on with what I’ve been told to get on with.

With the [adult literacy classes] – Karen helped me [find one]. I met this new tutor and she is dead lovely. She said – what do you want to do? and I said – I want to learn to read. I want to read and write, because if I don’t read and write, that’s it – my brain is totally switched off. I love reading and writing. My Mum says my reading has improved a lot from what is used to be and it’s helped me with my acting as well because I can read scripts as well.

I just love coming here. If I wasn’t coming here now, I’d just be sitting at home 24-7, so I’m looking for something else to do on a Tuesday. I like art, making cards and stuff.

Liz Yeats
I come here on a Monday. I prefer Mondays than Fridays, because I seem to get on better on on a Monday. I’ve got lots of friends on a Monday, because I love everybody. That’s why I’m here for. And I’m best at drama and I’m a good comedian. I just like to join in.

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