Earlier this summer, a private charity screening was arranged of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake, in order to increase awareness of the Chalk Farm Foodbank. The film highlights the human trials and difficulties in gaining support from the state in modern-day Britain and the real stark issue of food poverty.
Daniel Blake (played by Dave Johns) is a 59-year-old widowed carpenter who must rely on welfare after a heart attack leaves him unable to work. Despite his doctor’s diagnosis, the authorities deny Blake’s benefits and tell him to return to his job. As Daniel navigates his way through an agonising appeal process, he develops a strong bond with a destitute, single mother (played by Hayley Squires), who is struggling to take care of her two children.
The screening was organised by BSBP Partnerships, a global consultancy specialising in creating strategic partnerships between luxury brands and the film industry. It was founded by Bethani Stainfield-Bruce Pearmine in October 2016, and is run by Bethani and her sister, Ruari. After watching I, Daniel Blake, BSBP Partnerships was inspired to reach out to their local foodbank to discuss ways in which they could help, in addition to making donations.
The Chalk Farm Foodbank opened in 2012 and is part of a nationwide network of foodbanks supported by the Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger. They are constantly in need of donations, volunteers and financial support.
The Foodbank doesn’t just strive to help people gain access to food; it also offers services such as CAP debt money services, and an ‘eat well, spend less’ cooking course to educate its patrons in making the most (nutritionally) of the items they receive from the foodbank. In the near future, the foodbank hopes to introduce a lunch club and a clothes bank.
The long-term objective is not only to provide families and individuals with food and other essentials, but to become a resource that will help them obtain the life-skills and support they need to engage better with all aspects of their lives.
Bethani and Ruari arranged the screening at the Soho Screening Rooms and asked Hayley Squires, the lead actress, if she would be willing to hold a Q&A session afterwards. Hayley Squires was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs for her role as Katie in I, Daniel Blake, and the film won the Palme d’Or Award. Other key guests invited included Jack O’Connell, Daniel Kaluuya and Laura Carmichael.
After the screening, Hayley spoke to the audience about her involvement with the film, working with Ken Loach and how the film has opened her eyes to what’s going on within the benefits system and beyond. Hayley researched the film by working closely with Shelter. Her character Katie was a single mother with two children living in London, but the family was moved to Newcastle. This shift of responsibility from the benefits office is common and uproots people from their families and support networks. If people refuse to go, they are declared voluntarily homeless.
Hayley said she had met people on the verge of deep breakdown and now finds it hard not to want to speak about it. She claims that the system has become more rigorous since the Tories have been in power and is organised deliberately to trip you up until you give up and go away.
Looking at the statistics on the Chalk Farm Foodbank’s website, they confirm Hayley’s bleak findings. One in five of the UK population live below the poverty line, and last year 1,356 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis.
There are links on the website to how to get help, and how to give help. Please check it out: chalkfarm.foodbank.org.uk
They need our support.
Article by Maggie Chambers