In 2009, Swansea drug agencies reported a 180 percent rise in heroin use. Even in those pre-recession times, unemployment was rife and had been for decades, due to the major industrial park that used to feed the area's economy being replaced by the DVLA and numerous call centres in the 1970s and 1980s.
It was this that prompted VICE's Andy Capper and Leo Leigh to make the film Swansea Love Story. I guess we went there to find out what was going on, to put faces to a startling statistic and when we did, what we found was tragic. Amy, Cornelius, Clinty and Andrew Williamson were a group of young people stuck in what was described at the time as a heroin "epidemic". They let us film them and were pretty much all victims of second generation drug abuse. Clint was moved from care home to care home as a child and was kicked out of foster homes at 16 to fend for himself. Amy was put into prostitution by her mother at 12. Cornelius' parents were both heroin addicts. Andrew Williamson was always kind of a mystery.
We continued to visit them over a period of six months, following their stories as they battled with heroin addiction and homelessness. The film we ended up with has since been used by drug clinics, schools, the NHS and HM Prison Service to help educate people about the behaviour of drug users. It is also now being re-released.
With that in mind, I called up Clint to see how he was doing.
VICE: Hey Clint. What's been going on since we filmed you?
Clint Ryan Jones: I’ve been doing well, you know. Ever since I got out of prison last year, I've been going to NA meetings and all that. I’ve stayed away from the drugs.
What were you in prison for?
Disqualified driving. I was driving my mate's car, then I crashed. I had to do seven months.
Did it do you good, going to prison at a time when you were using drugs so often?
Yeah, it done me a world of good. I mean it was rough inside, but I got a job on the gardens, which I sort of enjoyed; sorting things out, sweeping the yard, making it nice.
So, tell me what happened when you came out of prison?
For a while I lived in a YMCA in Swansea. Then, I went to the drug clinic in Cardiff and they found me a flat. I’m starting NA meetings on Monday; Narcotics Anonymous is on every Monday and Cocaine NA on Fridays. I’ve been doing well.
And in all this time, you haven’t taken heroin?
I’ve lapsed twice – I lost my aunty and it was hard, but I’m taking the blockers now.
So who do you live with now in Cardiff?
My girlfriend who lives in Bridgend at the moment comes down every other weekend to see me. I hope she’s going to live with me.
When we were filming in Swansea, there was a lot of heroin use. And you are saying that your girlfriend and you have both moved out of Swansea to get away from that. Do you have any idea what the situation is like now?
Well, they’re clearing up everything, but people are still using, it’s still the same. I just want to stay away from them all, you know? And I want to start Judo again.
Are you good at it?
Yeah, pretty good, I did my brown belt when I was a kid, which in Judo is as good as black, really. I would take part in competitions but that didn’t last long, because I moved from foster carer to foster carer. I was actually supposed to go to the gym today, but now I’ve got the dentist's to go to instead.
Routine checkup, or...?
I had my teeth knocked out in Swansea prison last year. I was in with all the users, and two people attacked me and hit me in the head with a snooker ball and knocked my teeth out.
Jesus Christ. Let's change the subject. How are you feeling about life and the future at the moment, do you feel positive?
Yeah, very positive, my life has turned around for the better, I’m really, really proud of myself. I want to get married to my girlfriend, we’ve been talking about it for a while as we've been together for four and a half years. It's going to cost me a fortune!
Does she use drugs?
No, she’s an ex-heroin user, she helped me and I helped her, you know.
What about your kids, do you think you might be able to see them again?
I’ve got to take it back to court but I want to sort something out. Last year, when we made the film, my kids' friends were calling me a “druggie” and giving them hassle in the playground. But I'd like to change that. To prove to my ex-wife that I’ve turned my life around.
It really sounds like it. What’s your favourite song at the moment Clint, what music are you into?
Pink Floyd, I dunno really, I like all music. But I’m not into the rave music any more, I’ve grown out of that.
Why do you not like rave music any more?
It’s for people that take ecstasy. As I said, I’ve grown out of that, haha.
What would you say to people who have seen the film? What’s the message that you’d like to get out there?
Well basically I just hope you can see what I’ve done in my life. It's been hard growing up in the care system. If you are a user or an addict or whatever, there are people that can help you. So maybe you can learn from my mistakes and get the help you need ASAP before it's too late. Go down that road too far and that’s it.
What do you think the problem is, Clint? In a wider social sense.
My problem was being homeless and following around the wrong people. Heroin was my downfall but being homeless didn't help. Now I have somewhere to live with the council and I’m trying to do things to help other people out here. You know, keep my head down.
Do you hear anything about Amy and Cornelius at all?
I saw them a month ago in Swansea. Amy hasn’t changed, Cornelius, he went to jail and he hasn’t changed. They are still both on heroin. Wills is still on heroin, too.
Yeah, he’s still on heroin. Most of them are. I tried telling them to get clean when I saw them. Told them that since I've done it, they can do it too. But...
So let's end this on a positive note, we’re talking about sad things. Do you know any jokes?
Haha, not really, no. I can’t think of any at the moment. But I'd say that a positive thing is that I’ve changed. I hope I can be an inspiration to those out there who are using or who are thinking of using, even. People like myself, who have been in that situation, can help you learn from what we've achieved and what we’ve lost.
OK, thanks mate. Take care.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @alisonsevers
Swansea Love Story will be showing soon at the VICE YouTube channel.