Freedom at a price
The story of Guildford Four detainee GERRY CONLON's wrongful imprisonment was turned into a major feature film. But what happened to the man when the applause died down?
Words: Deirdre Molloy
Short Stories: The Bndge Channel 4, Mon 15 Sep, 8.30pm.
Suffer from a minor dose of vertigo? Feel a bit dizzy at the thought of leaning out of a window to save your cat twelve feet above the ground? Then, The Bridge is probably not the most relaxed evening in front of the box you'll have this fortnight.
This penultimate broadcast of Channel 4's Short Stories series turns the camera onto a team of abseilers as they work on giving the Forth Rail Bridge a lick or two of much-needed paint. Don't believe all those Blue Peter episodes in which one of their daring number reached into the skies to single- handedly re-decorate the 100-year- old structure - the bridge hasn't been properly serviced for a couple of decades.
Not that the hour will be a technical dirge about girders, yellow primer and cantilevers. Given director Sean Smith's background in
The abiding public image of Guildford Four detainee Gerry Conlon dates from 1989 — a man embraced by his mother and friends nolding up a defiant list for freedom on the steps of the Old Bailey Appeal Court.
Four years later, posters for In The Name Of The Father featured Daniel Day Lewis. almost Christlike. his
arms pinioned back by two ., , ,,v 5., , 4” current affairs which has taken him
interrogating officers from the please reiease me; Gem, Conlon on me after prison in How Fa, ﬂame? to the danger zones in Cambodia,
Metropolitan Police. But the Pakistan and the USA, it is no
subsequent fate of Conlon — and others released after take stock of himself. the last four years have almost surprise that this is first and
acknowledged miscarriages of justice — has received been worse.’ says Byrne. picking up the story. foremost a human story.
scant attention. The toll taken on Conlon‘s psyche is evident in 'Having worked in that sort of How Far Hmncf’. a documentary in Channel 4‘s many ways — his inability to form lasting environment,lwanted to show
‘Films Of Fire’ season. attempts to redress the relationships with women. his cocaine habit. the these characters and to give thema balance. focusing on the psychological damage strain on family relationships and his sense of bit of space,’ says Smith. 'There'sa
suffered by Conlon — now 43 - since his release. constantly reliving the past. monument that everyone knows Produced and directed by Belfast filmmaker Brendan ‘llis life in the present today is like living in no- about but there's also this whole Byrne. it captures Conlon in candid conversation over man's land.‘ concurs Byrne. ‘Every time he meets new world of people living and
| his life of rootlessness and distressed extremes. someone new there‘s a split second where you don‘t working up there.’
! When Conlon. Paul Hill and Carol Richardson know if they‘re going to kill him or shake his hand. So, the story is told largely were separately released after fifteen years in jail. He‘s always walking a tightrope.‘ through the eyes of aspiring Byrne recalls. the first reaction of the British media The tone of How Far Home." is undoubtedly musician Rory, fisherman Ed and and public was not personal. So is Byrne tip- Aussie Lisa, who came up with the
I welcoming. ‘People said at Ionce Conlon came down from toeing around the politics? initial idea of putting all of this on
g the time that they d rather the . . . . ‘For me it s more about film. Naturally, it's not all fresh air
j Guildford Four hanged than the ﬁlm! bearmg m mmd he had challenging that section ofthe and genial camaraderie. Cue shots
bring the British justice never had any counselling or audience who have of Lisa insisting thatlife on the
system into disrepute.‘ he any time to take Stock of preconceived ideas. about the bridge can be both hectic and .
U’mmtmh- . likes of (Jerry. he counters. l pastoral. Cut to two blokes cursmg ‘More importantly. the h'mself: the IaSt four years have defy anybody to watch this for Caledonia and generally
case against (itiiseppe Conlon almost been worse] gmij Bums! documentary and say they threatening to kill each other.
i — Gerry‘s father who died in think he could be guilty. (Brian Donaldson)
-. - . ir , l i? . prison — still hadn 1 been d “tor HOW Fm Hm" otherwise he should have
quashed. and it allowed the press and judiciary to been playing himself. not Daniel Day Lewis. because Don't look downzThe Bridge begin a whispering campaign to reapportion guilt all he‘d be the best actor in the world.‘ i over again. We thought in 8‘) the justice system had An apology to the Guildford Four has not been stared itself in the mirror and realised they‘d fucked forthcoming from the Government and Byrne. while up. But the reverse isactually the case.‘ hopeful the programme will have an impact. I On release. Conlon threw himself into concludes on a sceptical note. ! campaigning for the Birmingham Six. Touring Britain "l‘here'll be some kind of different attitude to the
i and then as he became disillusioned. America. he cases which are currently stacked tip and waiting to I sometimes spoke to over ten audiences at day. come before the appeal courts.‘ he says. ‘Btit. as Following the publication of his book In The Name (icrry reminds us. this new Government is in a ()_/’ T/lt‘ I’iii/ii'r. he was approached by actor (iabriel honeymoon period. It was actually a Labour Byrne about a screen adaptation. ()nce Hollywood (iovcrnment that introduced the Prevention ()l' took over. (‘onlon was excluded from the production 'l‘errorisin Act. and they lthe Guildford Four] were the process btit considered the finished film extremely first people held under that Act.‘ powerful. ‘()ncc he came down from the film. bearing in How Far Home? will be broadcast as part of the Films mind he had never had any counselling or time to Of Fire season on Channel 4, Thu 18 Sep.
l.‘ \ep 2% wt) l‘N/ THEUSTTI