Tragic story of bullied Wigan schoolboy's death retold in award-winning short film

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The harrowing story of a schoolboy, whose disappearance and death more than half a century ago shook the town, is the subject of a new award-winning short film.

The harrowing story of a schoolboy, whose disappearance and death more than half a century ago shook the town, is the subject of a new award-winning short film.

Strawberry Fields Forever, from director Richard Andrews, is an 18 minute feature which tells the story of Steven Shepherd, who died in 1967 aged 11.

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Steven, who lived with his grandmother in Brook Street, Ince, and went to Rose Bridge School, was the country’s first recognised death as a result of bullying.

Steven Shepherd died in 1967Steven Shepherd died in 1967
Steven Shepherd died in 1967

He was found dead in a ditch at the Newburgh strawberry fields in March of that year, 55 days after he was last seen visiting the Court cinema on January 25.

His traumatic experience at the hands of bullies was chronicled in a 1999 book called Bullycide, written by former journalist Neil Marr, who is originally from Hindley, and Tim Field.

The book inspired Richard to create a stage production about Steven in the early 2000s and, almost two decades later, he has revisited the material to create a film which features Vera actress Brenda Blethyn as Steven’s grandmother.

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The film takes its name from the Beatles song which was released in the same year of Steven’s death.

The film has won several awardsThe film has won several awards
The film has won several awards

The film was produced over the course of last year, and has already earned praise and a handful of prizes on the festival circuit.

It scooped awards for best male director and best actress at the 2021 Indie Film Shorts Cannes, and the award of excellence - special mention, at the Indie Film Fest 2021.

“I was taken in by Steven’s story, and I used it to create a 20 minute stage play,” said Richard, who lives in Canterbury and is the founder and director of Kent Youth Theatre.

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“The story has always stayed with me, and I always felt that I needed to somehow get the message out there, because bullying happens every day in every school and workplace. It’s such a profound story that I felt I could put a script together and make a film.”

Police reconstruct Steven's disappearance in 1967Police reconstruct Steven's disappearance in 1967
Police reconstruct Steven's disappearance in 1967

Richard now has hopes to get the film shown in UK schools later in the year, Covid restrictions permitting, to raise awareness of the fatal consequences that bullying can have.

Richard visited Wigan several times while researching for the film, and met with Steven’s sister Christine, who provided some valuable insight into her late brother’s life.

He said: “We used Bullycide as a background, but there’s nothing better than reaching out to people who were involved at the time.

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“I came up to Wigan with a colleague and we chatted to people, and put it all together as the basis of the film. We spent hours at the British library, finding all the articles to uncover things.”

Richard is keen to reconnect with Steven’s sister Christine, but a computer glitch last year meant that Richard lost all contact details, and he is now on a mission to reconnect with her, so that he can show her the finished film.

“I think it’s right that she sees it, because she was very helpful. It was lovely to chat with her and hear her side of the story,” he said.

Anyone who can help please get in touch at [email protected].

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The National Bullying Helpline is available for anyone suffering from bullying at school or in the workplace. Call the free helpline on 0300 323 0169 or visit

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