WE'RE ALL GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY
Every Liverpool supporter has, at some point, dreamed of being Steven Gerrard - especially those living over the water from the Anfield Stadium, around Birkenhead’s abandoned and derelict docks. Eleven year old Harvey is no exception. Even his best friend Cian, also 11, admits, as they hammer a ball towards an undersized 5-a-side goal, that Harvey is the better of them at football. But that’s okay for Cian. His ambitions are more humble. He wants to grow up to be a mechanic. His step-dad was a mechanic, and he helped him fix his bike once - a skill he found amazing. Neither his mum or stepdad work now, and nor does Harvey’s mum, so inspiration for what to do when they grow up is thin on the ground. In Birkenhead North, where they both live, kids have few places to look for inspiration, and even fewer to look for support. Those that do exist are slowly being taken away.
Nationally, child poverty has been increasing since 2010. Today, 26% of children on the Wirral grow up in poverty. While some areas of the Wirral are very affluent, in Birkenhead and the surrounding areas, where Harvey and Cian live, it is closer to 40%. One need only look around at the shuttered shops and deserted youth centres to see that this area is stagnant and depressed. This makes it highly vulnerable to changes in the national economy - as the credit crunch hit in 2008, child poverty in Birkenhead soared to 86%. Research has shown that children growing up in poverty face a higher chance of poor educational outcomes, and of becoming poor adults, an entrenched cycle of deprivation that Cian and Harvey want to break. That can be hard to do, since both their families struggle to make ends meet. Harvey’s dad works, but money is still extremely tight - and Cian’s mum and stepdad sometimes don’t have enough to put food on the table.
This documentary will be a moving and personal look into the lives of two young boys living in Birkenhead North, over their first summer break from secondary school. Along with all of the stresses of being on the cusp of adolescence and wondering how to fill the long, empty days of summer, Harvey and Cian face challenges that many their age would never have to consider. Where will they be fed? How will they they stay away from the temptation of crime? How will they achieve their dreams? Through the eyes of these two children, we will see the services that help answer these questions even as they operate under the constant threat of closure. Harvey and Cian rely on a local youth centre, where they get hot, healthy food and pass the time under the supervision of caring adults, with much needed structure that can sometimes be lacking at home. This is one of a dwindling number of these youth centres in the area, there used to be 8. Now there are 3.
Harvey and Cian are articulate and charming boys, best friends who bicker, joke, and dream about the future. The documentary will be a profile of poverty through their eyes. It will follow a linear timeline, with narrative structure coming from the progression of their summer holidays, from the moment they leave school to the moment they return. The viewer will see actuality of Harvey and Cian going on adventures around Birkenhead and doing all the things that children do - playing football, messing around, and creating elaborate fantasies to distract them from their sometimes difficult day-to-day lives. We will see them at home with their parents and siblings, getting up, being fed - or not. Both live in loving homes that operate under the intense stress felt by millions of families struggling to provide for their children - Cian’s due to unemployment, Harvey’s because of in-work poverty. This actuality, much of which will shot from the children’s eye level, will be interspersed with pressure points: contextualising interviews with key adults, such as their parents, support workers at the youth centre, and staff at the food bank. These interviews will provide context and commentary on the aspects of Harvey and Cian’s lives that they experience but can’t fully understand themselves.
In this film, we will see at first hand child poverty and the accompanying stress on families. Although this is a challenging situation, hope for solutions will come from two places. The first is the services that are still available like food banks and youth centres which provide a lifeline to Cian and Harvey. The importance of these services will be highlighted by the contextualising interviews with authority figures, and through filmed actuality of Harvey and Cian using the centres and getting some structure in their otherwise formless summer break. The second source of hope is the inherent optimism and resilience of children. This will be brought to life on screen through a series of bespoke, light touch animations that bring to life the childish yet hopeful ambitions of these children, who are trapped in a sometimes bleak environment.
When Harvey and Cian are playing football and imagining they are Steven Gerrard and Mo Salah, or when Cian dreams of fixing bikes as well as his dad can (as outlined above), there will be animations to bring these fantasies out of their heads and onto the screen. Interspersing this use of animation with a more traditional documentary style will highlight the energy and imagination of these children, emphasising that they are individuals rather than statistics.
“We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday”: will be an intimate portrait of two best friends, highly specific yet reflective of a situation experienced by hundreds of thousands of children around the UK. Although the statistics on the outcomes for children living in poverty suggest that the odds are stacked against Harvey and Cian, we will emerge hopeful, given the power of the magical imaginative world they inhabit, and the lifeline thrown to them and their struggling families by the youth centre.