Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to Tickets in Newcastle. Under the current circumstances we are doing this interview over email, but it’s so great to speak to you!
You starred in the film I, Daniel Blake, which was released in 2016 and received an incredible response, even winning the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year. The film, directed by Ken Loach, focussed on poverty in the North East of England as well the benefits system, class and empathy.
The first time I saw I, Daniel Blake, I was left feeling heartbroken. Particularly at one scene that was filmed in Newcastle’s West End Foodbank, which highlights how food banks work and the desperation that a lot of people who need to use them are driven to. Even since the films release, poverty in Newcastle is still high. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK live below the poverty line, and in 2018 the West End Food Bank donated 38,881 three-day emergency food supplies to people in the local area.
With the current situation surrounding the lockdown due to Corona Virus, food banks are under even more pressure to provide food for those who are struggling in the present environment.
You’re currently working closely with the West End Food Bank, to help raise awareness of how people can support their amazing work.
Could you please tell us a bit about how you first became involved with The West End Food Bank?
I first came into contact with West End Food back when I filmed I, Daniel Blake. It was the compassions of the volunteers that struck me.How much care they took helping the clients that use the foodbank, it was very moving. So whenever I can help, I do.
I have been on celebrity chase twice and got them £2,000. I nearly had them £68,000 but failed right at the end!
Before you starred in I, Daniel Blake, were you aware of how much organisations like food banks were needed in the North East?
I never knew food banks existed before I Daniel Blake. As Ken Loach doesn’t give you a script, you get a few pages the night before to learn. So when Dan, my character, turns up at the food bank with the other characters, Katie and the kids, and I turned up on set at the West End Foodbank, it’s the first time for me also. Not just the characters on screen. It was a shock and an eye opener I can tell you.
Why is the West End Food Bank so crucial to the North East?
It’s a place where if you’re in need you know you’ll get help. In the fifth richest country in the world there should be no need for food banks. And with the coronavirus the focus on help is more important, many people need help now.
To be hungry in England in 2020 is a national disgrace.
Did you ever dream that I, Daniel Blake would have such an impact on raising awareness of what people who rely on the benefits system go through every day?
No I didn’t. I was so happy to be working with Ken loach, I never thought it would have the impact it had. It’s because it had truth and honesty and dignity. People for the first time thought ‘That could be my dad, my grandad, or Katie could be my daughter’.
How do you feel that the current situation regarding Covid-19 is going to affect food banks in the UK?
A lot of people now with the coronavirus lockdown, who have lost work, will sadly get to see first hand how hard it is being on benefits and not having food. I hope people will see our video and do something, however small, and donate food, donate a fiver or whatever you can do. It all counts.
How are you coping with the current lockdown, and what advice would you give to anyone finding it difficult?
Me, I’m writing a few scripts so I’ve got work to do from home. Keeping a routine, going for a walk, cooking, watching movies. I’ve been by myself for 3 weeks now, it’s a bit weird. But we’ll get through this crazy time. I still think some people don’t really get it.
Lastly, how can people access support from food banks, and how can we help to support local food banks?
You can watch the video that I have made with the West End Food Bank, it’s all on there, or you can donate, here;
You can also follow Dave Johns on Twitter @davejohnscomic to see his latest projects and updates.