Gavin puts the spotlight on Derry street drinkers

Film maker Gavan Patton, pictured in Derry this week. 2203JM24
Film maker Gavan Patton, pictured in Derry this week. 2203JM24

A Derry man who has captured raw and striking footage of Derry’s street drinking culture says he wants people to watch his series of short films and “look twice” at alcoholics who drink in doorways in the city centre.

Carnhill filmmaker Gavin Patton, who’s a recovering alcoholic himself, says he now wants to speak publicly about his addiction and “give something back”. After years of struggling to give up drinking and nine years of filming, he has completed ‘The Cure’ which he hopes will be picked up by one of the main broadcasters.

Gavin celebrated his fifth year sober on March 6 and says he wants to “put something out there” to raise awareness of the fact that alcoholism is an illness. Now 38, he took his first drink at 19 after moving to Surrey in England to pursue a degree in film studies. Gradually, he says, he began to depend more and more on drink.

“I needed a drink just to do anything. I had to have a drink in the morning before I got up, even. That was when it became clear to people who knew me that I had an issue.”

“I would have done anything. I was selling things from my flat just to find the money to drink. I was in a black hole, physically and mentally and I was spiritually destroyed.

“The change in me was so dramatic, as a teenager, I’d never even touched the stuff. I was completely driven and focused on what I wanted to do in terms of making films, but when I did start drinking I just depended on it to get me through everything.

“I was in a black hole for so many years of my life, I was assaulted on the street, I had my head stamped on, I was putting myself in so much danger but I couldn’t see it.

“I pushed friends and family away and gave up the chance of getting married and having children because of the relationships I destroyed.”

Gavin drank for 14 years, living between Derry, England and New York. Eventually alcohol took its toll on his health and the Derry man was hospitalised with pancreatitis in the Bronx as a result of his drinking.

While he continued drinking after the diagnosis, eventually he turned to his family who helped him enter a treatment programme at the Northlands Addiction Centre.

Now sober, he says he’s determined to change the perception around the culture of street drinking here.

“That’s the message behind the films and I really want to get it out there. These people have an illness and it can affect anyone. I know that because it affected me.”

To view Gavin’s work, search under Gavin Patton Films, Derry City on YouTube.

Read more about Gavin’s remarkable story and his plans for the future in an indepth interview in the Sunday Journal.