As a multi award winning international Christian filmmaker, Jeremy Higham’s career has had its high points and low points. 53 year old Jeremy has been to over 25 different countries and filmed in most of them. There have been times that he’s felt broken, tackling subjects like suicide, terrorism, and one film he made was about an orphanage where young girls were regularly dying of starvation.
Jeremy has also made many feature length documentaries about celebrities, including world boxing champion Prince Naseem, presenter Ulrika Johnson, and racing driver Eddie Irvine, and whilst he was making this film he got to stay on Eddie’s multi million pound yacht.
Jeremy, known as Jez to his friends, had quite a privileged upbringing. He was the son of millionaire parents who ran a business making sheets for the NHS, and his family employed four-thousand people. He grew up in a very large country house in Lancashire, with a five acre garden with a tennis court and swimming pool. Although Jez’s parents were wealthy though, he sensed an unhappiness between them.
At the age of seven Jez had been sent to a private boarding school. He found this estrangement from his family upsetting but was glad that the headmaster there, Mr Molloy, was a loving father figure, who took Jez under his wing. Jez stayed in contact with him as friends for nearly four decades, until Mr Molloy sadly died last year.
At the age of 14 Jez started going off the rails a bit, rebelling and getting very much into heavy metal music and drinking and as he got older he experimented with soft to medium strength drugs.
Jez got into filmmaking in an unplanned way. He’d failed a module of his degree course at Aberdeen university, then a friend of his suggested that they buy a video camera and make sporting videos, approaching places like ski resorts and gold clubs. Jez says that his friends enthusiasm for these ventures was contagious and really motivated him to get involved.
Jez and his friend got their first break when they were offered freelance work, making films for North Sea oil companies. They then found themselves flown out in helicopters to oil rigs, where they stayed for up to a week and Jez found this exciting, even though they were often just filming things like pipes being welded together. It felt glamorous though to be travelling and working with cameras. Jez’s passion for documentary was then born.
Jez then decided to go to London, as most media breaks happen there. He got offered a job with a company called Black Rod, which was ran by Michael Rod, who was a famous TV presenter on shows like Tomorrows World. He then made high budget videos for various companies. Budgets of up to quarter of a million pounds, for just ten minute videos. It was a chance for Jez to further learn his craft, firstly as an assistant producer and then as a director.
Break followed break, and Jez ended up in Northern Ireland, working as a director for Ulster Television. He was then responsible for making three minute productions which were screened as features after the news.
Jez was then offered a commission to make a feature length production for Channel 4, as part of The Lonely Planet series. He set off for Vietnam with four-thousand pounds in his pocket, the petty cash for the production. He was told by the producer to not come back without something special. He went on to direct a total of five Lonely Planet programs and the series was a great success.
At Channel 4 Jez later found himself working with the likes of Chris Evans, Rory Bremner and Joe Brand, to mention a few. He went on to make single documentaries where he would live with famous people and Jez had once had to wake up racing driver Eddie Irvine when he’d overslept and he’d almost been late for a Grand Prix in Malta.
The documentary about Eddie Irvine brought Jez acclaim at national level and the heads of many TV companies started bombarding him with numerous offers of work. One day he got so many offers and contacts on his pager that he had a panic attack. He was unable to go into the production office where he was working and he asked a colleague if she would come out onto the street and walk around the block with him whilst he calmed down.
The most significant film of Jez’s life was soon about to happen. A phone call from the Belfast production company he’d previously worked for introduced him to an orphanage in Moldova, in Russia. He’d been sent photos of emaciated children. When he got there he witnessed first hand that the girls were starving and dying at a rate of one a week. The girls were often in the dark and some of them were sleeping on bin liners, laying in their own faeces.
Jez then became personally involved, which he feels is always a mistake for a filmmaker. He remembers going to the house of the director of the orphanage and nearly physically assaulting him and Jez begged him to open up the food stores that the production crew had brought for the children. Moldovan law had required that every tin first be counted and labelled by officials before the starving children could actually eat it. Jez was so overwhelmed with anger that he felt like he was ready to shoot someone.
When the children of the orphanage were finally able to eat, Jez describes it as a memory he’ll never forget. The joy on the children’s faces as they stuffed themselves with fresh cabbages and baked beans.
The completed film called Convoy to Moldova was bought by the BBC and won three awards at the Monti Carlo film festival. During the making of the orphanage film Jez also had another powerful experience that would change his life for ever. He became a born again Christian.
Jez had came back to England for a while and had been to a party with a group of Christians and Jez had been intrigued by them and instantly saw them as a group of amazing people who were somehow different. He’d asked to meet them again and went to their church that was running Alpha meetings. On about the fourth week, they asked the people on the Alpha course is anyone wanted to receive Jesus in to their hearts, and though Jez felt a bit resistant to the idea he thought he’d give it a try. A young guy then stood next to him and asked Jez if he’d like to be prayed for, and Jez said yes. The man then said, “Jesus come to Jeremy.”
Jeremy then felt a weight and peace come into his body. It was so overpowering that he couldn’t stand up so he laid on the floor feeling wonderful. After a while he got up again and he went to the gents and looked in the mirror and saw that his whole face was kind of shining bright and he knew something very profound had happened. Jez later prayed the salvation prayer.
As a new Christian Jez now had a passion for God and now had the desire to create films that revealed the life changing and saving power of Jesus, but frustratingly this kind of thing was of little interest to mainstream secular television.
Because Jez wanted to tell Christian stories now though, he set up Cornerstone films with two church friends. Even though the TV world was mainly secular, he managed to get commissioned and make a feature length documentary called God bless Ibiza. The film was about a group of Christians, many of whom were ex drug users and drinkers who’d been into the rave scene, but now as Christians had a ministry evangelising to night clubbers in Spain. God bless Ibiza was shown by Channel 4 at a peak time audience slot.
Another film Jez made was called Exodus, which was a 15 minute film about a group of Russian Christian pastors who had once been drug addicts, bank robbers and gangsters, but were then saved and born again. It’s an extremely powerful film, but it was seen as something outside of mainstream television interest, even though the film was extraordinary.
Some years later Jez then decided that he wanted to be an ordained Christian minister, but was turned down by the Church of England who felt that he would bring too much creativity and spontaneity to the role. It was quite a blow to Jez to have been rejected and he spent a year after licking his wounds.
10 years ago Jez then set up his currant venture with his wife Esther, a business called J & E Higham, where they make short corporate videos for the websites of organisations, businesses and charities. Jez’s business employs 10 people.
Jeremy had become a Christian 18 years ago now and a couple of years after this he married his beautiful wife Esther. When Jez first saw Esther in a crowd of 500 people, he thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be married to a women like that.”
Before Jeremy had become a Christian he’d had dozens of sexual relationships and described himself as a bit of romance addict. He never thought he’d find fulfilment settling down with one person. Not only are Jeremy and Esther married, but they’ve also spent many years working together. Esther has often been the producer behind Jez’s film productions and Esther has also worked at times as a presenter on Premier Christian radio and also on their internet TV site.
Jeremy now humbly describes himself as having been a bit of a nightmare sometimes to live and work with, but over a period of time their marriage has gone from strength to strength and got stronger and Jeremy says that him and Esther are very much in love and they are both parents to their 13 year old son Asher and their 11 year old daughter Daisyella, both of whom they love to bits.
As a filmmaker, Jez has been on a steep learning curve. Not only has he had to learn the practicalities of filmmaking, but he’s also had to learn to cope with the emotional side. He’s had to deal with some harrowing subjects and at the end of the day he’d sometimes went home emotionally drained and exhausted and sometimes he’d just cried. As a filmmaker, Jez gained a passionate heart and an empathy for human suffering and he’d wanted to use his talent to help, educate and make better in some way some of the things he was seeing.
Jez has also experienced extreme highs as a filmmaker. He’s travelled all round the world to some amazing places, worked with celebrities and other extraordinary people. He’s had experiences that will stay with him forever. But for Jez, the greatest thing he’s experienced was becoming a born again Christian.
Another significant thing that happened in Jez’s life, was 11 years ago when he moved from his house in built up urban area of Brixton, South West London, to a semi rural area of Edenbridge in Kent, and Jez describes the move as, “like being let out of jail.” They’d moved to a modest semi-detached ex council house, and they were later able to get a loan and buy the 14 acres of field land that their house backs onto, after the land came up at auction.
When I interviewed Jeremy for this article, I asked him if there was anything he’d like to say to anyone reading it. He replied these exact words.
“What I’d like to say as a closing thought will sound strange to anyone who has not experienced what I’ve experienced, but I can honestly say, the most essential part of my life now is my relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything good and worth having in it, has come from that. I can’t put it more simply.”
PABLO. FROM ARMED ROBBER TO CHRISTIAN
By Paul Warwick
“Gimme the money,” Pablo said to the building society cashier while he pointed the gun at her, wearing a menacing balaclava.
Pablo was surprised when she answered him sarcastically and he felt she was being deliberately slow while she put the money in the bag, so Pablo then pointed the gun at another cashier and told the sarcastic one that if she didn’t hurry up he would shoot her colleague.
Pablo didn’t enjoy doing armed robberies, and says that doing them made him feel fearful. But he was driven to do them by his addiction to heroin, and he also sometimes took cannabis, methadone, speed, Valium, ecstasy and LSD.
Pablo ended up getting arrested by The Flying Squad and was found guilty of six armed robberies, three attempted robberies and nine counts of possessing a firearm. The crimes were committed against building societies, post offices and shops.
Pablo was sentenced to a total of 67 years, though thankfully the sentences were to run concurrently, which meant he was serving a sentence of 12 years. It was 1990 and he was 24. A year later at the court of appeal, he’s sentence was reduced to 10 years.
Pablo served two thirds of his sentence, as a third came off as remission for good behaviour. Towards the end of his sentence a woman started writing to him and they started a relationship. When he got released on a short home-leave, he failed to return to the prison and went on the run with his girlfriend. He was captured 11 months later and returned to jail, where he completed the rest of his 10 year sentence. During this time he married his girlfriend whilst he was still in prison. And he got released in the late 90s.
Pablo says about his marriage, “The pressures were very great on myself, and I ruined the marriage. It was completely my fault and we divorced three years later.”
Pablo hadn’t had a good start in life and had a very unhappy childhood. He says, “At the age of five I was put into a salvation army children’s home ( Along with his sister ) which I stayed at for three years the first time. I was returned to my home, but roughly a year later we were both put back in the children’s home in Whitstable, and I stayed there till I was 12 and returned home and stayed home until I was 15 and I was put in a children’s home yet again, in Croydon. When I turned 16 I was put in hostel, which I left on my own accord and started a long road of bed and breakfast’s and little bedsits, which was a nice time until I reached 18. Things started going wrong then. A succession of girlfriends that went wrong, and I got in with the wrong crowds, doing wrong things.”
“After some years of testing the police and system,” says Pablo, “I was arrested for armed robbery when I was 24. There were nicking’s before that. I was arrested quite a few times, but when I went to court I always managed to get out of it, but obviously on the charges I was brought up on ( Armed robbery ) there was no getting out of them.”
When Pablo got out of jail he took drugs again for many years. A couple of times he overdosed and ended up in hospital, during which times the nurses looked down on him and weren’t that sympathetic, as overdoses by drug addicts are seen as self inflicted. He did later though go into Warlingham Park hospital to do a drugs detox and he says that it was a completely different and therapeutic place, where the nurses and other staff were supportive, kind and helpful.
Drugs though eventually led Pablo to have a mental breakdown about six years ago and since then he’s had a schizotypal illness and Pablo explained how the illness started.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing on a lot of occasions. I thought that people were spraying me with chemicals. And I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I wouldn’t have anything to do. I used to tie my windows up and put extra locks on the door. I didn’t trust anyone. I had a mental health nurse but she couldn’t get close to me, and I was put in The Bethlem ( A psychiatric hospital ) for three months. I was particularly ill, but after a couple of months of taking the medication I got better.”
Pablo was then discharged from hospital and agreed to continue taking antipsychotic medication, which he has by depot injection every four weeks. He’s stopped taking medication a few times since then, but became ill, and he’s taken about 6 different antipsychotic drugs, to see what works best for him, and now he’s currently on a medication called Abilify. Soon after he got released from hospital he moved to Canterbury House, a large hostel in Upper Norwood, South East London, that houses mainly people with mental illnesses. The residents have their own independent living facilities within the hostel, such as large self-contained living rooms with their own kitchen area and toilet and bathroom.
Pablo started coming to church about a year ago, after being invited by Daz to The Freedom Forum, an award winning bible study and social group at Christ Church Anerley, South East London. The group is run by Daz, an ex criminal himself, who’d spent time in prison and hospital, before committing his life to Jesus, and Daz now has a small team who help him run the group.
The social group starts at 12 midday and runs for two hours on a Thursday. This is followed by the bible study group at 2pm, which usually lasts between 60 to 90 minutes. There are sometimes up to 20 people who attend the group, many of whom have been in prison, hospitals, and have mental illnesses. Pablo said he started attending the group at first, because he was curious.
After a year of attending The Freedom Forum, Daz was bringing Pablo to the group in his car, and he asked Pablo if he’d like to become a Christian, and Pablo said, “Yes.” When they got to the church, Pablo said the salvation prayer with Daz and gave his life to The Lord.
Pablo feels that he’s changed a lot since he’s been coming to church and now he’s a Christian and says, “I used to argue and fight with people, but now I’m much less likely to. In fact, since I’ve been coming to church I’ve walked away a couple of times ( From arguments ) which is something I’d never have done years ago.”
And Pablo added that its not easy living with 70 people who have mental illnesses, and says there’s bound to be problems sometimes, but Pablo handles it better now, and says that since he’s been attending church, he’s more humble, calm and at peace.
Paul, one of the people who help lead The Freedom Forum, says about Pablo. “like all new Christians, Pablo is in a transitionary period. I’ve seen a real change in him since he started coming to the group. When he first used to come he would often fall asleep during the bible study, because he regularly gets insomnia. Gradually though he’s seemed to start having more energy and now sometimes helps in the kitchen, making teas and coffees for the group and putting away chairs after. He was also very quiet when he first started attending, but has gradually started to open up more in conversations with people.”
Paul added, “Tara my wife, who also helps lead the group, usually buys snacks for the group each week, like sandwich stuff, sausage rolls, crisps and cakes etc, and now Pablo sometimes insists of paying for the snacks for the group and has also given Tara money for petrol, as she’s the main person who picks people up from Canterbury House to bring people to the group and she drops them home after.”
Paul also says, “When I found out that Pablo was an ex armed robber I was stunned and so surprised. As though Pablo is quite a cool character, he is also very softly spoken and comes across as very gentle in spirit. He is also very likeable and I’m sure God has got good plans for his future.”
Pablo is hoping to do some voluntary work soon and has recently had a couple of interviews with an organisation about doing some volunteering to help people with mental illness.
I asked Pablo if there was anything he’d like to say to anyone reading this article and he replied, “I would tell them not to get into a situation where they turn into someone they’re not, cos its so easy. It only takes one or two problems, and that will happen. Especially people that are really young. I’d tell them not to take drugs. Its true what everyone says to you that it only ends one way. It does. So other than that, just take life as it comes, don’t strive for what you can’t get, just be happy with what you’ve got, and try to do it legally, and maybe with The Lords help as well.
FROM DRUG ADDICT TO EVANGELIST
By Paul Warwick
God not only saved Julies soul, but also saved her and her husband Malcom from being possibly killed by gangsters. Malcom was a large scale drug dealer at the time and had fifty-eight-thousand pounds worth of cocaine stolen from his car. This meant that he was in debt to the gangsters, and to show they meant business about what was owed to them, they murdered one of Malcom’s friends.
Julie and Malcom were terrified, and as a new Christian, Julie helped with one last drug transaction, leaving Twelve-thousand pounds worth of cannabis in a bin for the gangsters to pick up. And Malcom had also done a few other deals to pay them, but this still left them in thirty-thousand pounds of debt.
About this time, Malcom went into Yeldall Manor, a Christian drugs rehab, but mainly to hide in there and get away from the gangsters. And Malcom later became Christian in there. God also worked out a quick housing transfer for Julie and her three children to make a fresh start in a new area, where they were safe. Regarding the move, Julie says, “I needed a housing transfer and I said to The Lord in prayer that I wanted it to be in South Croydon and that I wanted it to be in a proper road, perhaps by the end of a cul-de-sac. I asked for it to be semidetached. I wanted three bedrooms. I wanted a bathroom bigger than the average size bathroom. And I asked for a garden six times the size ( Of her old tiny garden). And I said I wanted curtains up at all the windows ( Because she was still scared of the gangsters looking for her ).
Amazingly, God answered Julies prayer and the house was exactly all the those things that she specifically asked for. It was all spot on. Julie and Malcom were later able to buy the property and get a mortgage.
Julie hadn’t had a good start in life and she’d had an unhappy childhood. She says, “When I was born I was number five of six children. I was very uncertain about why I was here and what was my purpose. I didn’t feel like my parents wanted me around and my dad told me that my mum only wanted four children, and I was number five. And my dad hadn’t had any sisters or anything and he was not really very good with girls and he didn’t seem to like me being around very much, and I think I grew up with that being upon me, thinking that I was in the way. I started taking drugs when I was 12 years old and I think my searching back to wondering why, leads me that, that I just didn’t feel that I should have been here. I started taking cannabis and glue sniffing, and that lead on to amphetamines and by the time I was 15 I was injecting heroin.”
Julie says that she sought her acceptance by being seen as cool. As a teenager she hung around with older people, and while people her own age often stayed at home, she was out all the time taking drugs and being daring, doing things like watching horror films at the cinema while tripping on LSD. She felt this made her friends look up to her.
One day though she injected an elephant tranquillizer, and ended up seriously ill in hospital with hepatitis B. Her liver swelled up to three times its size, and for three months she was so drained and incapacitated that she could barely lift her arms. It was then that she had a vision of Christ, which at the time she put down to delirium, due to all the drugs she’d taken for years.
Julie says, “I actually I saw a vision of Jesus, or it may have been an angel, but this Jesus or an angel said, are you ready to come now? And I was saying, no, no, no, no, no, I’m not ready to come and if you make me well I’ll work for you and I’ll this and that. And the next day I began to get well.”
In hindsight Julie now believes that this was a real spiritual experience of an encounter with God. She was 19 at this time. Julie says though that having taken drugs for years had started to affect her mental health, the initial things like having extreme paranoia and a distrust of people.
Later Julie began regularly using cocaine and ended up in hospital as a result of becoming psychotic. But despite all the problems that drugs had caused her, she still felt a pull and an attraction to taking drugs.
At the same time Julie was also searching spiritually. She’d read the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, and also mixed with witches and dabbled in the occult, reading tarot cards to people, and going to parties where people would hang cross’s upside down. She’d actually said the Christian salvation prayer at the age of 16, when her older brother Steve had become a Christian and told Julie that if she gave her life to Jesus it would make her life better. But though she prayed the salvation prayer, she didn’t feel any different, and automatically dismissed the Christian faith as not being real.
Years later when Julie had by now had three young children and was pregnant with her fourth, she started attending a mother and toddlers group at a church and met Maureen, who was also a friend of Julies brother Steve.
Julie says, “Maureen was a Christian, and I was anti Christian and I was anti Jesus, because I didn’t see if there was a God I’d have been not wanted. So I didn’t believe there was a loving God. And this Christian was kind of hounding me and hanging out with me and I was trying my best not to like her, but actually she was quite an attractive personality and she would make me laugh and she was just really nice. She came round and we’d do things in my house, like her helping me with curtains or doing a bit of washing up.”
Julie added, “Maureen was ok, and was probably the only person I’d let in my house who wasn’t a drug user, because I didn’t want people to kind of tell on me for taking drugs when I was supposed to be looking after my children.”
“Maureen also used to read pieces of bible to me and I would put up with it. One day I went round her house having tea and her husband said, look I’m fed up with all the conversations we’ve had, basically you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to hell and that’s that. So I was furious with that and swore at him and I went to leave the house. So Maureen gave me a book and said, could you just read this page, and the book was Basic Christianity by John Stott. And I took the book from her because I felt a bit guilty actually because I’d just sworn at her husband, and she had always been so nice to me, and I left and went home.”
When Julie got home she saw that Malcolm had kicked in her letter box, smashed up her phone and done things to the house. Malcolm wasn’t a Christian at this point, and like Julie had been, he was very anti Christian and hated Maureen and the fact that Julie was spending time with her.
Julie then decided that she was going to end her life by committing suicide. She planned though to make it look like she’d died from an accident, as she didn’t want the children to think that she didn’t love them.
When she was thinking about all this she was sitting up on her bed and her hand suddenly flopped down to the side and touched the book that Maureen had given her and as an automatic reaction she picked up the book and opened it to the page Maureen had asked her to read, and it was the Christian salvation prayer, which she repeated. Unlike the first time though when she’d said the salvation prayer, this time was different.
Julie says, “When I said the prayer the room suddenly became light. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of being loved, of security. I was kind of stoned in a way, but it was like a stoned that was really pure. But here I was, not having taken anything, but feeling completely right.”
Julie was four months pregnant at the time and because she’d been taking drugs through her pregnancy, she feared her baby had died because she hadn’t felt it move and she said to Jesus, “I think my baby’s dead so if you are there please make my baby move. And the next moment the baby moved from one side of the womb to the other.” And Julie unmistakably felt this. And she just knew that Jesus was real.
From that moment Julie never took drugs again. And she never had any withdrawal symptoms, even though she’d also been taking Valium daily for a long time, she just stopped taking all drugs instantly and felt well. She’s now been clean for more than 20 years.
Julie and Malcom got married after they’d become Christians. And Malcom started his own painting and decorating business and Julie has worked for The London City Mission, Christ Central Church as an outreach worker, and later trained to work there as a pregnancy crisis counsellor. She now works in mental health for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, and is also employed as an outreach worker for The Jericho Road Project at King Church in Catford.
Will is addicted to crack and taking ecstasy at raves. To fund his habit he does aggravated burglaries, robbing rich people.
Peter is an ex-prisoner who’s going straight and studying filmmaking at college, hoping to become a music video director.
Will asks Peter to commit a crime with him and Peter reluctantly agrees. They break into a mansion in Richmond in the early hours of the morning. Then a series of events happen that will change their lives forever.
About the author
Paul Warwick is a 51-year-old Christian who suffers from schizophrenia. He became ill after spending many years of his youth in prison. ‘Creepers’ is Paul’s fourth book to be published. He is also a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. And he’s an award-winning short film maker. Paul is married and has two grown up step-children and two daughters. You can see more of his work at www.paul-warwick.co.uk.
When Mr Vile tries to steal the magic fidget spinner and use it for evil, will SuperJade be able to save the world?
People with mental illness are often referred to as survivors, and indeed this is often an
appropriate label, as a lot of mentally ill people struggle to cope with their illness and day to
day living. This isn’t always the case though, and a lot of mentally ill people slowly get out of
their survival mode and over a period of time, sometimes many years, they get more on top
of their illness and no longer function in a barely coping state and go on to lead lives that
are flourishing, as a lot of people do get better.
Bobby ( Not his real name ) is 49. He was first diagnosed with having a chemical
imbalance, then about fifteen years ago, shortly after his mother died he was diagnosed
with schizophrenia, and he spent a short period of time in hospital and his medication was
changed to Olanzapine.
Bobby has been a keen photographer for many years, and as he gradually got better he
gained a City in Guilds qualification in photography, then in 2004 he graduated from
Croydon college with a BA in photo media.
Whilst studying for his degree, Bobby worked occasional shifts in an after school club for
young children, then after he got his degree he began to work at the club each weekday
from 3.30 to 6 Pm.
Bobby is also a Christian and he feels that going to church really helps him with his illness,
as worship, praise and praying lifts his spirits and helps him to feel peace. A peace that
counteracts some of the negative and oppressive thoughts he experiences due to illness.
At the start of January 2011, Bobby secured a full time work placement at a large
insurance company, where he works in the post room. He was initially employed on a one
year contract, but since then he’s now been employed permanently and has been enrolled
by the company into a pension plan.
Bobby also has a passion for music, and having a full time job has helped him to purchase
an upright piano costing two and a half thousand pounds. He also recently invested in
expensive camera equipment, is a member of his local camera club, and he has teamed up
with a filmmaker friend and will be the cameraman on a short film soon, and its likely he
may team up to be the cameraman to make longer films with his friend in the future.
Bobby is an inspiration, especially to mentally ill people, as his life demonstrates that its
possible to achieve high goals and lead a happy, thriving life, despite schizophrenic illness.
I was 12 years old when I first started sniffing glue, gas and solvents. These things made me
feel high and made me have hallucinations, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
By the age of 14 I also started smoking cannabis and taking LSD, and again, sometimes I
had good trips and sometimes bad ones, a bit like horror films. By this time I’d also been
regularly involved in crime for a few years or more and I’d do things like steal cars,
burglaries and even Creeping, where we would break into houses whilst the owners were in
In my experience drug taking and crime often go hand in hand, and if you’re mixing in
circles where people take drugs, its likely that some of those people will also be committing
crime. And if its your mates that are doing this, chances are you’ll get influenced to join in.
And if you commit crimes it’s likely you’ll end up getting arrested. In my own case I started
having regular court cases from the age of 13.
By the age of 14 I was put in a children’s home by a court, and at this age I finally got
excluded from school and instead I had to start attending an intermediate treatment centre,
which was like a unit for young offenders. And I remember at the children’s home that we
would sometimes lock ourselves in the bathroom and smoke joints.
By the age of 15 I also started doing violent street robberies, and aggravated burglaries
where we would force ourselves into peoples houses and confront the owners with knives
and other weapons. At this time I also started taking the drug Speed as well, and nearly
every day I’d also be drinking in pubs. I also started selling Speed. And me and my friends
would often take it to stay awake at night so we could go Creeping.
One night we went Creeping and got chased by the police, then later arrested by them,
and my best friend Wayne stabbed a police women twice in the arm when she tried to
arrest him. He got an eighteen month sentence for this, and would have got a lot longer,
but he was only 14 at the time of the crime.
After we’d got arrested I was sent to Latchmere House remand centre, which was a
prison for young people between the age of 15 and 21. And I was surprised that even in
prison there were people taking drugs, with inmates smuggling in cannabis and even drugs
like heroin. Inmates smuggled drugs in by pushing the cling film wrapped drugs into their
anus or by swallowing them and then sifting through their excrement. And by keeping the
drugs in their anus’s they could avoid them being discovered in cell and strip searches.
I was in the remand centre for about five weeks, then I was sent to another open unit at
Red Hill in surrey, and they prepared reports on me for the judge, who was to sentence me
for crimes like burglary. The judge then sentenced me to another intermediate treatment
centre, but this one I’d live at for several weeks for the first part of it, and later that year I’d
be back there for another two weeks to complete the program.
The I.T centre was in Harpendon, in Hertfordshire, and I completed the three weeks then
came home, but shortly after I appeared in court for an old burglary charge and I was
sentenced to three months in a detention centre.
Send detention centre in surrey was known as the short sharp shock. It was a military
style regime and we had to march everywhere, do outside farm type work, and we had to
do intense physical exercise twice daily, that included field runs and circuit training.
I got released from D.C after six and a half weeks, and I was extremely fit. And I went
back to crime straight away. Then I did the last two weeks of the Harpendon I.T program,
but it wasn’t rehabilitating me as I took cannabis back there and smoked it with the other
kids on the program and one night I sneaked out in the early hours of the morning and went
One of the reasons why young people commit crime is because they’re bored and crime
is exciting. People often commit crime as well due to peer group pressure. They want to be
accepted by their friends, so they join in with them. And the reasons why young people
often take drugs, is for the same reasons, but also because drugs provide escapism and
initially taking drugs make you feel good.
Another thing that negatively affected me when I was growing up was the fact that my
dad was an alcoholic, who sometimes hit my mum, and I can remember seeing my dad
punch my mum in the face on two different occasions, the first time when I was only six
years old. I can also remember once being in bed at night frightened as I listened to my
mum screaming and crying whilst my dad attacked her after he’d came home drunk. My
dad eventually stopped being violent when he was older, but the damage was already done.
And in defence of my dad, I can honestly say that most of the time my dad was colourful
character, very funny, kind and generous. He also worked hard to provide for my mum, me
and my two younger brothers. And when he was violent, it was usually when he was under
the influence of alcohol.
I remember years later one of my friends I was in prison with said, “When you were a kid,
you always looked so serious, like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Several months after I was released from detention centre I was arrested for three
robberies and sentenced to ten months youth custody. I spent most of this sentence in
Rochester Youth Custody Centre in Kent, and whilst there I regularly smoked cannabis,
firstly when I was in a dormitory, then when I was moved to a cell on B Wing after me and
several friends had tried to start a riot.
I got into quite a few fights when I was in Rochester, mainly because I was only a 15 year
old, little skinny kid, and people tried to bully me, but after a while when people realised I’d
stand up for myself and fight back, not many people tried to bully me anymore.
I had a six day home-leave from Rochester shortly before my release date, and on home
leave I met up with my friend David and we committed various crimes. I also came back
from home leave with cannabis on me.
I completed my sentence on 6 th July 1984, and the next day I was arrested for stabbing a
man in an attempted street robbery. I was remanded in custody and on the 14 th December
that year, whilst I was still 16, I was sentenced to be detained for eight years.
I started my sentence on the convicted wing at Latchmere House, then after a couple of
months I was sent to Aylesbury Youth Custody Centre. The minimum sentence in Aylesbury
was three and a half years, and the longest sentences were things like double life, and some
inmates there were serving recommended sentences of over twenty years. There were a lot
of murderers there, bank robbers and rapists etc.
Later that year I went to the court of appeal in The Strand in London, and I smuggled a bit
of cannabis in there and I smoked a couple of joints there with people in the cells. I then
went into the dock stoned and the three high judges there reduced my eight year sentence
to six years. I was a bit disappointed as I’d hoped to get my sentence reduced on appeal to
at least five years, but I quickly recovered. I even said thank you to the judges after they’d
reduced it, and they looked at me a bit shocked, as you’re not supposed to talk to them.
When I’d got eight years just before Christmas the year before, after the judge had
sentenced me I gave him a little wave from the dock and wished him a happy Christmas. I
remember that a lot of people in the court started laughing. I was just being defiant and
cocky and wanted the judge to know that he hadn’t broken me.
By the end of 1985 I was growing angrier and more defiant. I started assaulting and
attacking prison officers, was shipped out to different prisons, and was often put in the
solitary confinement block as punishment. I was also often restrained by gangs of prison
officers and sometimes I was stripped naked and beaten up by them. It made me hate them
more and more. And sometimes I was in the block for a couple of months at a time.
In Feltham Youth Custody Centre I attacked a couple of prison officers on different
occasions and because I was so often violent the prison authorities tried to get me
transferred to Broadmoor, which was a maximum security mental hospital. I was
interviewed by a psychiatrist from there, and thankfully he said that I wasn’t mad.
I eventually got shipped out of Feltham the day I’d escaped from the block exercise yard
there and I climbed up onto the prison roof and staged a four hour protest, simply because I
was bored. I’d have probably stayed up there longer, but a lot of the time I was up there it
was pouring with rain.
After the roof top protest I was shipped out to Chelmsford Youth Custody Centre that
night. And on Christmas day there, 1986, I chinned an officer and a group of officers then
dragged me to the punishment block and battered me.
When I came out of the block about a month later, I carried on doing some education
classes in the prison and when I showed the English teacher a short story I’d wrote, she
seemed surprised and amazed that I could write so well, and she enrolled me to take an RSA
English exam, and with only a little bit of preparation and study, I passed the exam and it
was my first ever qualification. I was 19.
About this time I made my first attempt at writing a novel. I then got transferred back to
Aylesbury again. And I carried on doing education classes. I learned to touch type and
gained another RSA qualification, this time in Business Studies. And I started becoming
interested in filmmaking after finding a book about screenwriting and other books about
filmmakers in the prison library.
I got released on parole in September 1988 after I’d served four years and two months of
my sentence. I was 20. When I got out I saw that many of my old friends that used to take
cannabis and soft drugs were now addicted to drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack and ecstasy.
And I’ve learned that soft drugs often lead to people taking harder drugs in the future.
I got arrested again for burglary and possession of fire arms after I’d been out of jail for
about six months, and me and my co-defendant David were remanded in custody. I was 21
and it was my first time in an adult prison.
My friend David was a heroin addict and would smuggle it in on his visits, and whilst
sharing a cell with him I tried heroin for the first time. And for nearly two years that I was
back in prison, I took it regularly, sometimes smuggling it in on my own visits and I brought
back heroin and cannabis from home leaves near the end of my sentence. And whilst I was
on home leave I also smoked crack for the first time and took it many more times after that.
I got released from jail on December 13 th 1990, when I was nearly 23 years old. I trained
in Video Production at Battersea Basement Studios for the second time. I’d originally
studied there for a couple of months when I’d previously been on parole.
I also regularly continued taking cannabis, heroin, cocaine and crack, though unlike most
of my friends I weren’t an addict, but I was on the fringes of it all. I wrote an article about
my experiences of being a crack user and it was published in The Guardian, so now, as well
as being a filmmaker I’d also became a journalist.
Approaching the summer of 1991 I started regularly also taking the drug ecstasy in
nightclubs, then I got arrested with my friend Wayne for an aggravated burglary and we
were remanded in custody. And for a few months on remand we smoked cannabis every
day and took ecstasy once or twice a week. I then told Wayne that I didn’t want to take
drugs anymore and Wayne moved out of the cell. Shortly after this I became a Christian.
I’d started to go to church in Brixton prison and I found Christian books on the landing
and started reading them. Then I found a Christian pamphlet tract and I became a Christian
by repeating the salvation prayer on it. I’d invited Jesus into my heart and promised to live
for and serve him for the rest of my life. In return my soul is saved and will live for eternity.
And serving Christ isn’t like being in a slave relationship, its simply about becoming less
selfish, by serving and helping other people, and spreading the gospel by reaching out to
people with Jesus’s love. And Christ wants everyone to be saved, which is why Christians
evangelise in him.
When I’d became a Christian and leading up to it, I’d started to experience a spiritual
awakening, my conscience came alive for the first time in many years, and from having a
heart filled with so much anger and hate, I was suddenly filled with peace and love instead.
It was the first time I’d been in prison without getting into any fights or assaulting anyone. I
started becoming more sensitive and instead of hating a lot of the inmates and staff, I felt
love and care for them.
By the time I became a Christian though I was already starting to become mentally ill, and
I was released on parole after I’d been in prison a year and within a couple of months I had a
breakdown and I was hospitalized with schizophrenia.
I believe I became mentally ill because of all the drugs I’d taken. And I know that its not
just hard drugs that can cause mental illness, and that also soft drugs like cannabis and
speed can cause psychosis. I believe though that it was the drug ecstasy that caused me the
most damage and I believe I started becoming ill also because I was burning myself out by
writing so many prison letters, and for the first time in years I’d started to open up about all
the horrific, shocking and painful things I’d experienced since childhood, and there were
times when I’d break down in tears as I wrote letters.
Having a breakdown was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. When I became
ill I believed that I was the antichrist and that God wanted to kill and destroy me. I thought
that the Mafia, the I.R.A, the London underworld and other people and organisations were
going to kill me. I also believed the police wanted to frame me for murders and I’d get a life
sentence and I’d kill myself in jail, and I suffered from other extremely painful and
embarrassing fears and delusions. I stopped eating and drinking for three days at a time,
and I went down to about eight stone in weight, and I’m six foot tall. I also stopped washing
and shaving for weeks and I walked miles and miles around the streets, often crying, and I
was so exhausted that I’m surprised I didn’t collapse. I also did things like drag a knife
across my stomach and I once even smashed a bottle over my own head as I was so
I was in Springfield psychiatric hospital on three occasions, twice on a section. And
amongst other things I was locked up and forcibly drugged. I was discharged from
Springfield late in 1993, and since then I remained on antipsychotic medication. I’ve
stopped taking medication several times since then, but after a short while I’ve started
getting ill again, so had to continue taking it.
I’d abandoned my Christian faith soon after I’d been released from prison in 1992, but
God hadn’t abandoned me. I started going to church again over six years later at end of
1998 and before that Christians stopped me in the street everywhere. Complete strangers
gave me their phone numbers and invited me to church. I always declined their offers
though. One day though I saw a banner advertising a Christian healing meeting, and I
attended and went forward to give my life to Christ again.
When I rededicated my life to Christ, my Christian conscience was awakened again, and
from then onwards I started making an effort to live honestly, tell the truth and I stopped
doing things like cheating social security, and I started telling the truth and being accurate
on forms, questionnaires and in writing articles etc. Living truthfully became important to
me again. And more than anything it also became freeing.
Shortly after I recommitted my life to Jesus a guy called Steve Nichols from The London
City Mission rang my intercom and I invited him into my flat. He told me a bit about
churches in my local area and I started attending a church where he was one of the
ministers. I then met Tom Torok, who was also a minister there, and his wife Aideen and
they invited me to dinner with them and their young family. Shortly after meeting them I’d
told Tom that I was a writer, but I didn’t have a computer. Tom and Aideen later then gave
me a key to their house so I could use their son’s computer to do my writing. They knew
that I was an ex long term prisoner and a schizophrenic, but they trusted me and I found this
Tom and Aideen also watched my the old videos I’d made and encouraged to study
filmmaking at college. And since then I’ve studied filmmaking at college and university and
I’ve got a City and Guilds and a HNC qualification in film production. I’ve also written
seventeen mainly slim books now, and have so far had three of them published as ebooks
by Chipmunka publishers, under my pen name Christophrenic. I’ve also made many short
films now, ranging from a music video, to documentaries and dramas, and I’ve got over sixty
films on Youtube, which also include lots of home video and family clips, and over a period
of many years I’ve also filmed lots of weddings, baptisms and other social occasions. In the
past couple of years I’ve also occasionally worked as a film extra. And one of my ambitions
is to one day write and direct a micro budget feature film.
I also met my wife Tara when I started attending Penge family church and I’ve been
married to her for more than twelve years now and I’ve got two grown up step children and
two daughters age 10 and 8.
The medication I’m on does a lot to make me feel mentally well and balanced. But some
aspects of the illness and side effects of the medication are horrible. I often feel physically
unwell and sick, usually for up to a few hours after waking up, and sometimes I vomit. I also
spend a lot of time feeling extremely tired and I’ve got weak concentration. I often feel
mentally inhibited and I’ve got very little mental and physical stamina, so I feel very weak
and debilitated sometimes. I also sometimes experience extreme anxiety, which makes me
feel tense a lot and afraid.
There are other times though that I feel the opposite of all this. When I feel energised,
bright and clear in my thoughts, and physically, mentally and spiritually free, so I feel there
is a balance.
I regret taking drugs when I was younger, because its made me ill for so many years. I
realise things could be worse though. I know five people who’ve died of drugs overdoses. I
know three people who’ve died in motorbike accidents, two of whom may have been on
drugs at the time. I know three people who’ve been murdered. I’ve also got three friends
who’ve served life sentences. I’ve got a friend who killed himself in prison. And another
friend who used to take drugs killed himself on new years day 2014. A lot of people I grew
up with are still on drugs and in and out of prison.
When I think about things like that, I can only be thankful that God has got me out of
such a destructive lifestyle and thank God that I’ve got a wife, family, and so many new
friends, and even though I still suffer from mental illness, I’m so glad that I’m alive.
PATRICK Boothe, a 60 year old, Croydon based reggae music artist has recently produced his
latest independent album, The Lion In Me, which is released under the name of Bobby
Sparks, who sings lead vocals on all the tracks.
The album is Patricks fifth collaboration using Bobby as the vocalist, and Patrick
produced, recorded and wrote all the songs that Bobby sings.
Patrick and Bobby first teamed up shortly after meeting in 2006. At the time Patrick was
living in Sylvan Hill, in Crystal Palace, South East London, and Bobby was living close. And
Patricks wife Marcia and their sons kept telling Patrick, “There’s a guy who walks past our
house singing and his voice is incredible.”
Patrick had never seen Bobby though, until a twist of fate, they both met each other in
boot camp during X Factors 2006 competition. Both of them had entered as singers and got
through the first round and they went to Sharron Osborns house, but failed to get selected
When cabs were called for the artists who’d been voted out, Patrick and Bobby learned
they lived minutes away from each other as they both wanted a cab to Crystal Palace, so
they shared a cab, and it was then Patrick realised that Bobby was the person who his wife
and kids had been talking about, who had the incredible singing voice and who used to walk
past their house singing.
Patrick then said to Bobby, “Before X Factor finishes, we’ll already have an album out.”
And it was true, as within one month they had an independently produced album called
Changing Times, that Patrick created by himself, and Bobby sang vocals.
Now all these years later, they’ve recently released their fifth album together under
Bobby Sparks name called The Lion In Me, which is also the title of first single from the
Not only does Patrick produce the music, record it and write the songs for Bobby’s
albums, but Patrick also creates music videos, sometimes writing, producing, directing,
filming and editing them, and he is completely self taught.
More recently Patricks has been creating a lot of his music videos from using
international stock footage clips and some of his videos also feature special effects, again
what he’s taught himself to do.
Patrick first got into music as a child in church. He used to sing and taught himself to play
drums and guitar. His dad also made a couple of albums when Patrick was a child and
Patrick featured on them.
As a young man Patrick was also a singer in a band called Midnight Express, and they
were the warm up bands at concerts for people like Billy Ocean and Marvin Gay.
After a few years though the band split and to pay the bills Patrick became a backing
singer and featured on the records of many famous people, and for a while he lived in
America. He also had some singles released as a solo artist on Streetwave records in the
Patrick was originally a soul singer and created soul music, but after living in Jamaica for a
while, he got the reggae influence, which later led Patrick to produce the first Bobby Sparks
Although Patricks main genre is reggae music now, his work is somewhat experimental
and different from a lot of other reggae artists. For example on some of his tracks he mixes
rock guitar, as well as other sounds you don’t usually hear in reggae music.
Patrick also feels blessed to have met Bobby, and says that Bobby is one of the most
unique and versatile vocalists he’s ever met and worked with. He says Bobby has an
amazing vocal range and can sing anything and adapt to any kind of track.
Patrick currently lives in New Addington, in the borough of Croydon, with his wife Marcia,
who he married in 2002, and they have five children, two of whom have grown up and left
The songs that Patrick writes are very deep and spiritual and Patrick has a deep belief in
God. He knows God lives inside of him and his creativity is a demonstration of Gods power,
and he knows his music is Gods expression. Sometimes he’ll make a record and video, and
not only does it amaze other people, but also it amazes himself, and sometimes afterwards
he’ll ask himself, “Wow. How did I do that?”
He knows though that he is simply Gods vessel of the creativity that flows through and
sometimes bursts out of him. And Patrick is extremely prolific, and he often stays awake all
night working on tracks in his home studio and making and editing his music videos.
To find Patricks music go to www.sollueshingproduction.com. For videos go to Patrick
Boothe’s youtube channel. And you can get Bobby Sparks new album The Lion In Me, and
Bobby’s previous albums from iTunes and CD Baby.