Published: 06:00, 16 June 2020
A youth theatre director has enlisted the help of a Golden Globe and BAFTA winner to bring his "bullycide" film project to life.
Brenda Blethyn, who starred in Pride and Prejudice and ITV drama Vera, will be co-producing Strawberry Fields Forever, a film which aims to remind its audience of the terrible effects bullying can have on children.
Richard Andrews, the director of Kent Youth Theatre, in Canterbury, drew inspiration from the harrowing story of 11-year-old Steven Shepherd, who was found dead in Wigan in 1967 after suffering at the hands of three bullies.
Mr Andrews uses the term "bullycide", coined by journalists Neil Marr and Tim Field, who defined it as death by suicide where bullying is one of the causes.
Speaking about the project, the director said: "It's a case of reminding people that bullying, like racism, is simply not acceptable.
"It can have dire consequences - there's a phrase I use that bullying is a lethal weapon, and we must disarm people."
According to Mr Andrews, Ms Blethyn said to him "this film must be made."
Mr Andrews used the tragedy of Steven Shepherd's story as the inspiration for writing a play with his youth theatre group 15 years ago, but now wants to get the story in front of more people.
He said: "It's a very sad, very tragic story, and it's stayed with me since then, and I've felt that the story needed a wider audience, and the way to reach a wider audience is to make a film."
The title - Strawberry Fields Forever - refers to the strawberry fields Steven liked to visit as a child, and where his remains were found by officers after 55 days of searching for him.
Mr Andrews already has the entire film cast and a crew ready to shoot the film, and is hoping he will be able to begin at the end of July.
To make sure the project sees the light of day, the director has also released a crowdfunding page, where he is hoping he can raise £20,000.
Alongside co-producing the film, Ms Blethyn will also be starring in the central role of Granny Nellie.
Ms Blethyn was spotted in Kent earlier this year filming a new ITV sitcom with The Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison.
The pair were seen in Central Parade, Herne Bay, In January shooting their new comedy Kate and Koji.
Ms Blethyn won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in 1997 for her role in the Mike Leigh's movie Secrets & Lies.
She was also nominated for an Oscar that year, before being shortlisted for the best supporting actress prize in 1999 for her appearance in Little Voice.
To find out more about the project, click here.