A BBC documentary fronted by author Darren McGarvey and focusing on the “rampant rise of poverty and inequality” across Scotland will air its Dundee-focused episode tomorrow.
The Glasgow-born rapper and social commentator, also known as Loki, visited the city to explore the drugs death crisis.
His 2018 Orwell prize-winning book Poverty Safari chronicled his childhood and teen years in Pollok in Glasgow and the issues he saw around him.
In the six-part series, Darren gives a personal take on the ground level reality of poverty in Scotland and how the effects play out and impact on so many lives.
The first episode of the series, centering on Dundee, sees the 35-year-old meet Jamie who has lost more than 20 people within her close relatives and friends, including her sister, mum, dad, stepdad and uncles, to drugs.
Taking a tour of Birkhill Cemetery, Darren says: “The statistics around drug related deaths are shocking enough but like many statistics they don’t really convey the human cost, not just for the people who die, but for the people that are left behind that have to live with the grief.”
He also meets publican Karen whose brother was fatally stabbed in 2011 by an addict and finds hope in a locally-driven project, with a support group of individuals helping each other towards recovery from their drug addiction.
Speaking to The Big issue, the classicist said austerity is pushing people into illness
Famed scholar Mary Beard is clear on how we should tackle what she calls an “anxiety epidemic” in the UK.
Speaking to The Big Issue ahead of the return of pop culture show Front Row Late, she pointed out that spiralling mental illness figures must be considered alongside austerity and underfunded services in order to see the full picture.
The classicist asked if “you can talk about anxiety and mental health issues without thinking about all the other things people are suffering”.
She continued: “We have an anxiety epidemic and talk about those things very differently now, but it is not that anxiety didn’t exist.
“There is a rather basic, self-evident point, which is that people who haven’t got enough money to live on are anxious. I can remember what it is like if you put your card into the machine and it says, “Bugger off, you haven’t got any money.”
She also gently warned against placing all responsibility for the planet’s future on young environmental activists.
“It is very easy to think that the next generation will do it,” she said.” I remember one Cambridge meeting where we were choosing an early-career candidate and they all looked brilliant. The chair wisely said, don’t worry, we all looked like that once.
“There is a lot about the way this country is heading that worries me a great deal. But we are a collaborative species. Some of the things we are seeing at the moment I hope are a blip.”
Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, available from your local vendor or in the Big Issue shop.
Fears have been raised over the welfare of vulnerable young people in Angus after new figures revealed more than a thousand under 18s have been forced to wait longer than three months for mental health treatment.
More than 2,157 young people in the county have been referred for mental health conditions since 2016, with 1,053 waiting longer than 12 weeks to receive care for a range of potentially life-threatening conditions such as a depression, eating disorders and anxiety.
Fewer than one in five of the Angus patients were treated inside the county, with more than 1,637 of the young patients asked to travel to other parts of Tayside for treatment.
The figures, released after a Freedom of Information request, do not include data for 2019, meaning the total is likely to be higher.
Kirstene Hair, Conservative MP for Angus, said the figures highlighted the “failings” in mental health treatment for young people locally.
Ms Hair has campaigned on improving treatment for eating disorders and other mental health issues.
She said: “These figures expose the failings in mental health treatment for young people here in Angus.
“The families affected are very often waiting for months on end for treatment, while patients routinely have to travel outside of Angus to get the help they need.
“It is not good enough. Waiting times must be addressed urgently if these young people are to get the immediate support and treatment they need,” she added.
The national target waiting time for treatment to begin is 18 weeks. Separate figures recently published by the Scottish Government for the first quarter of 2019 show only 57.9% of young NHS Tayside patients started treatment within that window. The national standard is 90%.
The Angus statistics, however, show some improvement locally. A total of 383 young people waited more than 12 weeks in 2016, 403 in 2017 and 267 in 2018.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) clinics are available in three locations in Angus: Whitehills Health and Community Care Centre in Forfar, Carnoustie Health Centre and Links Health Centre, Montrose.
Children and young people in Angus who need specialist care are assessed and treated in the main Child Health Outpatient unit at Dudhope Terrace in Dundee.
An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: “There has been a lot of work undertaken by staff to improve access to services for young people in Tayside over the past 12 months.
“We have been working closely with a Healthcare Improvement Scotland team to deliver an improvement plan which will reduce waiting times. This includes a full CAMHS service workforce review and recruitment drive to key posts, to ensure that the team are fully equipped to manage the service demand and enhance the experience for children and their families.
“We are determined to continue making improvements to ensure all our children and young people receive the best quality care without delays and we hope to reach the national standard in the near future,” she added.
The This Is England actor on reliving his colourful youth for his new comedy series Brassic, being diagnosed bipolar and why it’s hard to find love in a derelict house in the woods
Only a minute after meeting Joseph Gilgun, he starts to tell me about his Grandma Sadie. He says my Dictaphone looks like a beard trimmer and it reminds him of Sadie because she used to shave her beard with one. “I loved my Grandma Sadie, she were amazing. I think she was quite a tough old bird, really.” He conjures up a memory of his grandparents’ council house in Chorley. “It always smelled of stale Superkings, because she smoked in the house, and this strong smell of tea, because she used to reuse her tea bags.” He goes back to being eight years old, in trouble, with his cousin, shut in the bedroom. “I think we were being bollocked, me and our Carl. And we check the drawer, and for whatever reason, there’s a fucking machete in it. Like, a huge machete! You could chop a child’s head off with it. And me and Carl were at an age where one of us might actually use it on the other,” he grins. He sits back in his chair, his tattooed legs stretching out. “Anyway!”
This is a typical Gilgun yarn. He is a warm and vivid storyteller who could chat for England, all packaged up in puppyish enthusiasm. Whether he’s explaining the difficulties of sourcing an antique, Grecian-style dildo that a canine co-star could wrap its jaws around – a saga that turned out to be far more fraught than you might expect – or speaking frankly about his bipolar diagnosis, he is never lost for words, which is how he ended up creating Brassic, a loose and fond reimagining of some of the adventures he got up to as a teenager in Lancashire.
Back in 2014, when he was shooting the film Pride, he started to tell his co-star Dominic West about the attempted theft of a Shetland pony. West wisely suggested Gilgun turn it into television, so he did. He paired up with Shameless and Clocking Off writer Danny Brocklehurst, who gave the ideas some shape. At Gilgun’s insistence, West appears in the show as a terrible, self-involved GP.
Gilgun is 35, but he’s been acting since he was a child, when an educational psychologist suggested he should take part in drama workshops. He joined Coronation Street at 10, and then Emmerdale in his early 20s, but it was his turn as Woody in This Is England that made him into a star, of which that familiar “Lol” tattoo is a reminder, spelling out the name of his character’s true love.
For the past few years, he’s been spending time in the States, playing Cassidy, the alcoholic Irish vampire in the big-budget comic-book adaptation Preacher, but the fourth and final season has finished shooting. Brassic, then, is a return of sorts for Gilgun. “It’s pretty autobiographical,” he nods. “I can’t go into the criminality. I’ll leave that to the viewers to decide what’s real from what isn’t,” he says, smiling, “but a lot of that shit has gone down.”
Gilgun grew up with his two sisters in Rivington, a few miles north of Wigan, where his dad worked in a metalworking factory that made parts for boilers. “He was a fucking hero. He’d cycle to work, all the way to Wigan. He was a strong man and he’d work these long hours at the foundry, cycle back, play for hours with us kids. He was a brilliant dad. And my mum was a very sensitive, liberal lady, always has been. Puts on a posh voice, depending on what company she’s in.”
When he was 11, his parents split up, and around that same time, his dad was made redundant. “Tough age, you know. Couldn’t figure it out. I really struggled and I was very angry for a long time, but my job has afforded me the opportunity to do a bit of therapy, and that’s just been fucking huge.” The trouble with therapy, he says, is that it’s not nearly as accessible as it needs to be. “There’s not that many therapists and there’s so many people with mental health issues. You need talking therapy, but it’s just not available. If I go to my doctor and say, ‘I’m having suicidal thoughts’, they’ll go, ‘Right, well, I can give you some therapy… there’s a three-month waiting list’.” Gilgun wrote this into Brassic; its funniest moments are often its blackest.
When he was a teenager, Gilgun was prescribed antidepressants. “I’d been a difficult child, a very emotional young man, kicking off about something, or fucking bawling my eyes out, heartbroken.” His mother told him that the family had come to expect these “catastrophes”, as he calls them, once a month or so. “We’d always talk like: Joseph’s due one of his meltdowns.” But by 17, the situation had become untenable. “Mum and Dad had separated, life was starting to really change. I was in the process of going off the fucking rails, deeply unhappy.” He’d heard that the GP would hand out pills that could make him happy, so he made an appointment. At first, the doctor did offer him counselling. “But it was a long wait and I needed help there and then.” He took the antidepressants instead. “I ended up on these drugs for years. They’d put me on one, I’d go all the way up to the highest dose, then it’d stop working again and I’d go on to another, go all the way up to the highest dose, taken off that, go on to another. I’ve been on everything, dude.”
At 26, Gilgun had been cast in Misfits as Rudy, a character split into two versions of himself – one upbeat, confident and gregarious, the other melancholy, insecure and uncertain. It was a demanding role, because he was playing two people. “And I have this colossal fucking meltdown: I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping… all this shit that I go through every time.” He starts to choke up when he remembers the kindness of the show’s producer, Matt Strevens, who got him to a private doctor (“posh, he looked like the fucking lion out of Narnia”), who told him that the medication he’d been on for years had been damaging his mental health. “He said, ‘Everything you’ve taken on the list I can see in front of me is detrimental to someone who suffers with bipolar – which, by the way, you have’.” Up until that point, Gilgun had no idea. It was the first time he’d been given a proper diagnosis.
Gilgun is extraordinarily open about his mental health. “I mean, I understand that it makes me vulnerable, but I’m prepared to go to that place for the sake of anyone who’s suffered like I have.” If anyone recognises something in themselves from him talking about it publicly, he says, he’d like them to know they could speak to their doctor about it. “Go and ask, go and fill out the form, go through the bullshit system they have in place.” He catches himself; he is insistent that he’s not criticising the NHS. They simply need more money, to allow them to take better, less catch-all approaches to complex disorders. “You know, we slag off our NHS like there’s no tomorrow, but they’re not sitting there with their thumbs up their arse, they’re genuinely trying to fix shit. I think our NHS is incredible. We’re so lucky to have them and they work as hard as they possibly can. But the system ain’t right and it is failing people everywhere. I’m one of them. It’s taken me until 35 to be on the right medicine.”
Working as an actor, then, has been a double-edged sword for Gilgun. On the one hand, it’s given him access to healthcare that he would not have had otherwise. He has weekly therapy now, and the environment he works in provides him with discipline. He is strict about being on set on time, and always knowing his lines. “It’s fucking hard up here, like, super hard,” he says, tapping his head. “This head of mine never rests. Do not make the assumption that because somebody has got mental health issues they are weak-minded. That person is terrified, anxious. Getting out of bed alone has been a huge, monumental task. Getting in that shower, brushing the teeth, somehow managing to eat their breakfast… Some will have children, and they have to go and do exactly the same thing you do at work, only they’re suffering like that. Now that to me is a fucking hard dude or gal.”
On the other hand, there are some parts of his job, and some roles in particular, that have taken it out of him. “I almost enjoy the fact, in a sadistic way, that a part is going to damage me a little bit,” he explains. This Is England was one of those roles. When Woody found himself cut off from the gang, Gilgun cut himself off from the cast, who are his close friends in real life. “That was a difficult thing to do.” They filmed in Sheffield, where he didn’t know anyone else. “Essentially I’m on my own in a flat, locked away. The lines get very, very blurred.”
Though it borrows from Gilgun’s youth, there is a sense that Brassic shows a parallel life for Gilgun, a what-could-have-been, had his acting career not taken off. “Definitely,” he agrees. “I mean, I was a bad kid, but I wasn’t El Chapo. I’d sell a bit of weed and I’d shift a bit of gear. I’ll not go into details. But I think [Gilgun’s character] Vinnie is someone I could have ended up being.” He points out that in a lot of his roles, his character has been surrounded by a close group of friends: Misfits, This Is England and even Preacher are about tight friendships. “And I’m not very social. I spend a lot of time on my own. The few friends I do have, I rarely see, and I keep them at a distance. I think I feel guilty for doing well.” Vinnie, meanwhile, is always there for his mates, and rarely alone. “It’s a version [of me] that I’d like to be, you know. I’d love to be that guy who’s not a flakey friend, who does turn up to weddings and parties, but I’m not him. I don’t know if I ever will be.”
In the core Brassic gang, one of the characters, Tommo, is a committed lothario who has sex with men and women, while hardman Ash is an Irish Traveller who happens to be gay. “We’re not making a fucking comment,” says Gilgun, shrugging. “It makes no difference. In a working-class community, often you are accepted for the oddball you’ve become. The working classes go through a very specific filtration system that’s different to the middle and upper classes, and a lot of that is based around survival. As a result of that, you get these huge personalities – they’re fucking nuts, you know – and you just accept them.” He fondly mentions local characters from his home town, eccentrics who nobody would dare mess with. “You know, the show is an unapologetic comment on what it is to be working-class,” says Gilgun. “We’re not all miserable. Some of the happiest people I know have got fuck all.”
One of the more surprising truthful elements of Brassic is that, like Vinnie, Gilgun does actually live out in the woods, in a derelict house in the north west, that he’s slowly doing up, with the help of his mum and his sisters. He broke in through a skylight one day, he says, and just started living there. “When I first moved in, I lived in a tent in the house because there was this big hole in the ceiling.” When he was filming Preacher, the American network would put him up in “these multimillion-dollar eco houses”, so it was quite the contrast. “I go straight back into the derelict house where there’s no hot water and I can’t really flush the toilet properly without throwing a bucket down it.”
He’s never been the kind of person who hankers for material stuff. “I don’t have a nice car. I have two bikes, I like trainers, I like tattoos, quite like gold teeth.” He flashes a gold-free smile. “I might get some of them made.” He was talking to his therapist about all of this recently. “I had a bit of a breakthrough. She was saying, ‘Why don’t you have a girlfriend? Why don’t you have a house? You’ve got all this money. Do something with it.’” He says that, partly, he doesn’t feel worthy of it. “But the other aspect is, once I’ve got a girl that I know I can love and she loves me, that’s when I’ll do it. I’ll get a house and I’ll learn to drive and I’ll become a normal human being, get a golden retriever and a fucking dishwasher and all that. I’ll give it everything I have. I’ve never really had that love, being in love like that.” He says it’s hard, because of his bipolar, but also because of his work, which means he’s away a lot. “I can’t meet anyone. I’m nice, as well!” So he’s just put himself on Tinder. “But it’s difficult. No one’s in the market for a bipolar squatter who lives in the fucking woods, do you know what I mean?”
Gilgun has already got his next project lined up. It’s early days, so he’s not allowed to say what it is, but Brassic has given him a taste for the creative side. “I’ve got loads of ideas and for the first time in my life, I’ve got the confidence to be able to sit up and go, hey, they’re fucking brilliant.” I tell him I loved Brassic. By the end of it, I cared deeply about all of the characters, especially Vinnie. He looks pleased. “Some of it is real, so you’re watching someone’s life. There’s a truth to all of it. Even though we’re doing crazy things like robbing horses.” He mentions a rule that they would never play a scene for laughs. If he caught an actor doing it, he’d immediately stop them. “Because what we’re doing is mad enough. You don’t have to add to that,” he smiles. “It’s already fucking mental.”
All episodes of Brassic will be available on Sky One and Now TV from 22 August
Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for action to make the Tay Road Bridge safer for people who are thinking of ending their lives.
An online petition demanding measures are put in place to make it harder for people to consider using the bridge to take their own lives.
The Change.org petition has amassed nearly 400 signatures at time of writing, with a target of 500.
It calls for measures such as barriers to be installed in protect vulnerable people.
Michael Low started the petition after a friend took their own life.
He said: “My personal mission is to take this to the authorities.
“The fact is there needs to be higher fencing or other materials or methods to ensure that the Tay Road Bridge is no longer available in a person’s hour of distress.”
The petition has been backed by Phil Welsh, who lost his son Lee to suicide in August 2017.
Phil said: “The bridge needs to be looked at with the evidence that things like barriers can’t be put in place.
“As well as supporting the petition, I have sent a letter to the bridge board asking about protections on the bridge. I haven’t heard anything back yet.
“We’re just trying to keep the conversation going as much as we can because there’s a lot more that can be done to help people in need.
“We’ve also been campaigning for a 24-hour crisis centre, like in Edinburgh.
“I do think they should look at what can be done at the bridge, with barriers being a big one. If it is the case that they can’t put barriers in place then that’s fine, but I would like to see evidence supporting that.
“All routes should be followed before making a decision.
“The grassroots support should be there to help people before they get to that stage, but there should still be something at the bridge.”
Officials from the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board have examined such measures and ultimately decided it was not feasible to make any substantial changes to the bridge’s structure.
The bridge deck cantilevers — long beams or girders commonly used in bridge construction — would be unable to support additional barriers because of the strain windy weather would put on them, it has been claimed.
Board vice-chairman Jonny Tepp said the bridge management are actively looking at ways to make the bridge safe.
“They do their best to make themselves aware of what action can be taken,” the Liberal Democrat councillor for Tay Bridgehead said.
Dundee City Council also launched an online campaign last month highlighting where people can go for support if they are having suicidal thoughts.
If you need help, or need someone to talk to, a Samaritans volunteers can help.
Contact them on 116 123, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.