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Broken Lives Mended – Community Rail Cumbria

Concept and aims

The film ‘Broken Lives Mended’ sets out to illustrate how involvement with rail has had a profound and lasting impact on individuals, and how it is now deeply embedded in structured programmes of recovery from drug and alcohol dependency. Using the video, the Cumbrian Coast Line Community Rail Partnership wanted to unequivocally demonstrate that community rail has no boundaries to its operation and reach.

The aims of the project were to:

  • demonstrate the transparency of this unique project and explain its impact to other organisations in the field of social care;
  • convey the possibility of potentially extending the geographical reach of the project beyond West Cumbria, promoting it to other organisations, community rail partnerships, and train operating companies;
  • dismiss any preconceived ideas that drug and alcohol dependency is limited to the most vulnerable or marginalised members of society;
  • highlight that station adoption is not only limited to environmental improvements to the station itself, but can also enhance personal attributes such as the pride, confidence and self-worth of those individuals involved.

What happened

The partnership deliberately created a documentary-style video that was more than simply a series of talking heads. As well as interviews with residents from Stanfield House – operated by the national charity Turning Point – who had been involved in the programme, they also used illustrative background footage to maintain viewers interest and support the film’s narrative thread. The film-makers stated from the outset that the video should capture a ‘journey’, starting with the residents describing their personal battles with addiction and finishing with their hopes for a substance-free future.

The residents were involved at every stage in the film’s production. Even those who were reluctant to face the camera took part by suggesting new ideas, choosing which inspirational quotes to incorporate, and deciding on the drone-based images and footage to appear in the final edit. The finished film shows how the rail project has helped individuals to overcome their fear of people, their anxieties of travelling alone, and allowed them to reconnect with latent skills and find new interests and relationships.

Commenting on the film’s content, a partnership spokesman said: “Capturing the essence of why individuals become dependent on substances or alcohol is no easy task. Articulating the loss of self-respect, personal dignity, family breakdown and feelings of guilt and shame in front of a video camera takes bravery and courage. The completed video portrays this in every frame, and recounts individual stories with integrity and sensitivity.”


As well as praise from the public, who described the video as “moving” and “eye-opening”, the film has also made practical impacts in a number of areas, including:

  • recognition from local mental health teams in West Cumbria, who on viewing the film are picking up parallels with their own clients, particularly those suffering from self-imposed isolation through depression;
  • due to the “extraordinary” reaction to the video, discussions are now underway with directors and senior management of Turning Point, with the aim of extending the reach of the project to other parts of the UK where community rail partnerships exist;
  • screenshots from the video are being used for an accompanying explanatory brochure about the crucial role of rail within the recovery process, due for publication this year;
  • the inspirational quotes highlighted in the video are being used as the basis for a series of thought-provoking artworks planned for installation at Green Road Station;
  • as a result of the video, an increasing number of service-providers referring clients into the rehabilitation and recovery programmes at Stanfield House are now asking for more details of the rail project.