Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Juvenile Liaison 2

In 1990, Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill returned to Blackburn to find out what had happened to some of people they had filmed for 'Juvenile Liaison' fifteen years earlier.

Blackburn was much the same - grey, wet - but many of the protagonists had moved, although only one had actually moved away. Perhaps the most important change was that Nick Broomfield had now become a character in his own documentaries, and that he had begun to weave a layer of mythology around himself and his work.

Broomfield makes much of the fact that Lancashire Police didn't like the original film much, and put pressure on the participants to withdraw their consent for it to be shown. As a result of this, none of the police officers appear in the sequel, including the central protagonist Sergeant George Ray.

In the aftermath of the original documentary it seems that questions were asked about Sergeant Ray's methods, and an inquiry was held. Ray was cleared of any wrongdoing, but he retired shortly afterwards on a 'point of principle'. Reading between the lines, Lancashire Police weren't pleased at seeing a serving officer seemingly bullying kids, not because they disapproved of his methods in private, but could not endorse them in public. George was scapegoated for doing what police officers did (and were expected to do) at the time, and was left disenchanted and ready to go, not exactly ruined, but not exactly elevated by the experience.   

In a phone call with Broomfield, Ray points out that the film was edited to only show the shouting and the threats, and that many of the gentler elements of his job were ignored. He details conversations which didn't make it into the final edit, including one where he says that having put the fear of God into one kid (George) by physically intimidating him, he will now befriend him and get him involved in activities that will give him opportunities he could not get from his harrassed parents and his chaotic home environment. Broomfield doesn't really respond to this or, indeed, try to persuade Ray to give more of his side of the story, as, I suspect, it suits him better to have Ray not appear because it boosts the conspiracy angle and, in turn, casts Broomfield in his favoured role, a crusader who is fighting against the odds to find the truth.

Sadly, crafty Rashida, the Raffles of felt tip theft, also declines to appear, although Broomfield is able to reveal that she has had a troubled life, and has been up in court on several occasions. After an arranged marriage, however, she appears to have settled down into domesticity and motherhood, although she still lives in the same (presumably tight for space) house with her parents. It's a shame, as I would have liked to have seen her again.

On the plus side, we are able to reacquaint ourselves with a number of no longer juveniles first seen in 1975. Let's start off with Craig --




Craig was the seven year old who stole a cowboy outfit and ended up in a police cell quietly falling apart as Juvenile Liaison Officer George Ray told him that this is where he'd end up if he didn't watch his step. The twenty two year old Craig says that Ray's treatment worked 'for a bit' and that he subsequently stayed out of trouble 'for a bit'. Craig now lives in London, working as a shelf stacker in Safeway.  

His parents look marginally less scary with age, and their wallpaper has certainly been toned down a lot. Loving Craig's attempted moustache. Craig works hard and he has ambition: he hopes to be made foreman next year, then manager, then he wants to go to America for all the 'razzamatazz and whatnot'. These aren't dreams, he says, because they will happen.   

Denim sandwich.


'Am I bothered?'

Yep, he's still full of it.
Bernard was the insouciant urchin who had been caught shoplifting ladies gloves and didn't really give a toss. Fifteen years on, he still doesn't really give one, but is a sort of moderately lovable scallywag, the type of person you can't help liking but would soon get sick of when money and fags started to go missing. He's been in and out of trouble since the first film was made, and was put into care as a teenager. Right now he has plenty of money and is buying a house. His favourite pastimes include 'getting stoned out of his mind' on ale and - well, actually, that's his only pastime. His haircut reflects the era perfectly, part Inspiral Carpets, part 'The Name Of The Rose'. 

His father has mellowed and got cuddlier with age, or perhaps simply realised that his threats of a 'belting' no longer carry any currency with a grown up. He's still fond of knitwear. His Mum has a new housecoat, though, so that's something positive.

Married strife.

Married life. Same shit, different tunic.




Olwyn also got nicked for shoplifting and, in the subsequent interview / interrogation / confrontation, revealed that she loved her Mum but hated her Dad who was always 'going on' at her. Olwyn is now a life guard at the local leisure centre and has some great glasses. Relatively well adjusted, she is now apparently estranged from both of her parents, discussion of whom, now old and ill and fiddling benefits, give her and her sister some amusement. She's never had a boyfriend, she can't be bothered. There's plenty of time for all that.

Incidentally, the name 'Olwyn' is Welsh and means 'white footprint'. It is is not to be confused with Alwyn, which is a boys name meaning 'friend of Elves' or, indeed, Tomjones which means 'friend of Elvis'.


George in the hands of Sergeant Ray.

George in the arms of the Lord.

George was infamously dragged out of bed by Sergeant Ray by his hair and pushed downstairs to face punishment for hitting his Aunt. It comes as a shock to realise that George is learning disabled and struggles to write his own name and, more than in any other case, you begin to wonder what Ray was doing and whether he fully understood who he was dealing with.

George left his ridiculously crowded home as quickly as he could, and became a newspaper vendor, but bouts of drunkeness, bad behaviour and simply not being able to cope left him on the streets. Eventually, he was 'saved' by the Sally Army, and 'adopted' by a nice couple who look after him and try to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Largely self-sufficient (within their care) he doesn't have a social worker or health visitor anymore, although he was visited last year by an official who asked him if he'd 'raped some girls' (he hadn't). George used to be frightened of radiators, which would tell him 'this and that, and to go and have sex and that', but he has seemingly got that under control now. Broomfield doesn't ask him whether he feels he was mistreated, presumably because he isn't sure George could answer the question - perhaps because George has been mistreated more or less his whole life, so might not be able to recall a specific instance.    




Russell and Mark were caught truanting, with WPC Lillian Brooks suggesting that although they hadn't shoplifted anything this time, merely being in Woolworths was bound to lead to crime. Mark's brother argued that WPC Brooks had better go back to the shop and arrest everyone, lest they be overcome by temptation too. Mark has turned out okay. He's steady, married, and works nights in a carpet factory. Russell, however, is a disaster.

Sipping from a can of bitter, Russell tells us how he was okay up until the age of 21, when he first went to prison. After that, he got into the 'drugs scene' and crime, and now has a reputation as an accomplished factory burglar. He's currently facing twelve counts and another custodial sentence. Russell enjoys crime, he likes the feeling of being in an empty factory and knowing that 'you're in the place and it's yours' - it's probably one of the few times in his life he feels in control.   

Russell, who has perhaps changed the least in appearance of any of the subjects, is horribly frank about his life and his prospects. When Broomfield asks if anyone could have helped him, he says 'I can't even help myself. Beyond help. Beyond help'. Russell's final words are, like Craig's, on dreams, but without a scrap of Craig's optimism:

'I'm a loser. I know that for a fact. I have plenty of dreams like the next man but I know they won't come true. I'm a loser, and that's where I'll go - down and down and down'.

Christ, Russell, I hope you've been proven wrong. Oh, and Mr. Broomfield - 'Juvenile Liaison 3' is long overdue, just try and stop yourself from starring in it this time.

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