The current part of his story involves rehab, busking, writing a play, and making a film. But then it was back to drugs and the streets… and HMP. He describes this prison visit, which involved running the prison radio and doing some filming, as saving his life. And then friends set out to help Marcus get through the next phase of his life. Check out this remarkable story described in the films below.
Around the time that Marcus first met Wulf, being taken up a mountain with him and others whilst he was going cold turkey, he went to T12 (Touchstones 12), a residential rehab in Colwyn Bay. It was his first attempt at getting clean. He stayed a few months but was then kicked out, not for using, but for something related to ‘weird politics’. He went back to T12 three years later.
Wulf remembers coming across Marcus with a saxophone in a high street somewhere. Marcus tells him that a friend bought him a saxophone after he came out of prison, in an attempt to keep him out of crime. Marcus had played saxophone and trombone as a kid. He started busking a lot around North Wales, doing really well in Llandudno playing ‘the old stuff, the swing, the blues, Louis Armstrong…the old folk loved it.’ He was earning about £70 an hour at one time, but it all went on heroin. Marcus points out that this was some time later. [The sax playing occurred after Marcus’s second visit to T12 (see below) and after he was realised from his final visit to prison in 2012.]
Marcus had never previously had a hobby, so he didn’t know what he liked doing. He was encouraged to try different things when he was at T12 the second time. He met two people from TAPE [a Community Music & Film organisation] who visited T12, and a week later they contacted him and asked if we would like to become part of a creative writing course. The group met once a week, exchanging all sorts of ideas, but no one was writing anything down. So Marcus started jotting things down in a pad one week. He went away and came back to the next meeting with a play he had written.
‘The group picked it up and I ended up directing a play, ending up touring, and I got a job with TAPE. My first paid gig was a playwright.’
Marcus and friends decided they should make a film of the play he had written at TAPE called Legacy. Although it was made with rudimentary cameras and other equipment, a lot of heart went into the film. Marcus started making other films at TAPE [a Community Music & Film organisation] and was already addicted to filmmaking. He didn’t turn up to one premiere because he was working on the next film. ‘That’s the mentality of it’, he says. You’re not enjoying what you are doing now, you’re thinking about the next one. ‘That’s very much the case with heroin. Not enjoying, not really or thinking about this one, but shit, where’s the next one coming from?’
Marcus relates how when he was young his father always said he should take lots of photographs. He’s now taking 25 photographs a second to give the illusion of movement. He thinks his dad would be proud of what’s going on at Eternal Media. Marcus loves all aspects of filmmaking. The beautiful thing is that you meet a lot of people along the way, and with each production he (and the others) have another family. With the first film he made after coming out of rehab—Flipped It, which was made for the police—he had a police film crew and an addict cast, and they all became friends during the production.
Marcus believes that people in addiction are very creative. ‘What’s a lie, if it’s not creativity?’ he continues. He lied even if he didn’t need to lie, because he was hard-wired to lie. He had to lie about everything to everyone all the time, so it just became a natural thing to do. A lie is creativity, he emphasises again.
Marcus says that he hasn’t met an addict who couldn’t tell a good story. Eternal Media puts a lot of effort into telling other people’s stories. They are lucky to have Peter Norrey, a BAFTA-winning editor, on board.
Wulf tells Marcus that he believes that Eternal Media is a recovery community. A recovery community that makes lots of films. He asks Marcus how he would describe Eternal Media. ‘Surreal is the best… we shouldn’t exist,’ is the reply.
Marcus talks about Simon Shaw, who was Chief Constable of North Wales. He had put a lot of money into arresting Marcus ‘over and over’. Marcus relapsed at TAPE [a Community Music & Film organisation] in 2011, and was back in prison a year later. He was still on the merry-go-round of addiction, since he hadn’t done the proper head work for recovery.
On arriving at the prison, Marcus was put in a hospital bed. He was so relieved to be there. One of the prison officers had heard about some of Marcus’s work at TAPE and got him a job doing the prison radio. Marcus loved it. He then did some filming and editing for the prison officer. He was now having the time of his life in prison. Marcus knew what he was doing was saving his life. He said to himself if this could happen to him, it could do a lot for other people. He started to spend a good deal of time planning what he could do to help others.
Tony Ormond and Ade the Blade made Marcus a case study for the Area Planning Board APB, but had to give him a code name, ‘Little Brother’, because the Board would never have funded him for a rehab place if they knew who he was. He wasn’t a safe bet. Tony and Ade asked Marcus to just go to the library from time to time and write down what had been happening to him and how he had been feeling. They were making the case that if this man was not funded, he was going to die. Marcus was eventually funded and went for a clinical detox and then to Open Minds rehab in Wrexham where he spent six months.
When he left Open Minds, Marcus went to a sober house—‘it wasn’t very sober, there were people dying in there.’ He emphasises that the toughest thing for people in the early stages of recovery is not getting appropriate housing. NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) then provided Marcus with accommodation, but it was a ‘shit-hole’. He was grateful for it. The voluntary organisation AVOW and then Champions House in Wrexham gave him access to a room during the day—‘it was so important for me to get up and go somewhere.’