The film exposing the reality of the UK’s housing crisis

Daisy-May Hudson’s Halfway offers a personal look at the country’s ‘hidden homeless’ community

Daisy-May Hudson’s upbeat tone drops a little when she starts talking about the UK housing crisis. I suppose this is to be expected, when, in your final year at university, you, your Mum and your sister become homeless.

Halfway is Hudson’s directorial feature debut. It tells the story of her family, who were forced into temporary accommodation, and their battle with their local council to get themselves appropriately rehoused. At 26, the filmmaker has made a documentary that deals with her emotional trauma; capturing her anxiety, constant insecurity, and the relentless bureaucracies of local authorities.

The film – which is released in the UK today – signposts new avenues for activism. Hudson knows that getting her film into cinemas makes it more likely to be seen by the governing elite than if she had gone guerrilla with it. Now, Halfway will have weighing power, and the potential to secure a popular following. It may even create real socio-political change. “It’s not a fictionalisation of a working class family, it is a working class family which is really refreshing to have on screen,” says Hudson. “There’s no agenda to it, it’s just us.” We met her to find out more.

“Often you don’t even get a conversation about being housed until you are on the street homeless, like turning up at the council with your bag. There should be something to stop that before you even get to that point” – Daisy-May Hudson

What makes Halfway so different to what we normally see on screen?

Daisy-May Hudson: I think the fact that it’s about the hidden homeless. From the outside, we’re a fully functioning, normal family. I think that’s one of the things about the housing crisis of our generation: the fact that a lot of families are living in temporary accommodation because we are at such a crisis point where there is no affordable housing. There has been a rapid decline in council housing, so there is actually nowhere for people to go. The private renting sector is completely unaffordable. Our story is that we were privately renting, we didn’t really need to rely on council housing. For a long time renting was affordable, and then suddenly the market just sky rocketed and we couldn’t afford it anymore. It’s only because my mum was a mother with two children that we got temporary accommodation otherwise we would have been on the street. 

Why do you think the film will be effective in reawakening the debate around housing in the UK? 

Daisy-May Hudson: Because my Mum is just so funny and relatable, it doesn’t feel at any point preachy or campaign-y as a film, it’s just a portrait of our family trying to make the best of a situation that was out of our control, instead of going on a big political rant. The film is very much about the effects of losing your home, on a person and a family. Hopefully, that means that it’s going to be picked up by anyone regardless of what political party you are, what background you come from. It’s just like something relatable.

Halfway draws may comparisons to Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home (1966), a film which documented a couple’s descent into homeless. Were you influenced by it?

Daisy-May Hudson: Cathy Come Home was incredible, and it did so much in terms of shifting perspectives – which is what I hope Halfway will do also... The difference with Ken Loach’s film is that he was a middle class. Although he’s an amazing left wing political speaker, he was a middle-class white man, who was still writing from that perspective. My film is just made by me and it’s a really truthful and honest portrayal. I think it’s really important that it’s told by us and not someone else who has an idea of what they think our story should be.

What kind of impact has Halfway had so far?

Daisy-May Hudson: We’ve just screened in the houses of Parliament as part of the CLG Committee’s inquiry into homelessness. The film was the first film ever to be used as evidence in an inquiry, and has now played a big role in The Homelessness Reduction Bill which is being scrutinised to help prevention in the first place. Because often you don’t even get a conversation about being housed until you are on the street homeless, like turning up at the council with your bag. There should be something to stop that before you even get to that point.

“It’s not a fictionalisation of a working class family, it is a working class family which is really refreshing to have on screen. There’s no agenda to it, it’s just us.” – Daisy-May Hudson

In you opinion, what does the government need to do tackle the housing crisis? 

Daisy-May Hudson: I think an important thing is having a more holistic approach to the whole housing crisis. We need to fix private renting, we need to stop rogue landlords, we need to build more council houses, we need to stop spending money. They’re giving housing benefits to private landlords. When we talk about the housing crisis, it takes away the responsibility from the power structures that are actually making this happen. 

What would you say is the film's greatest success in terms helping people who have experienced similar circumstances?

Daisy-May Hudson: I’ve had a lot of single mothers come up to me and come up and say ‘wow, that meant so much’. When you’re hidden homeless it feels like this dirty secret, there’s so much stigma. In the film you can see that someone's being very honest about what all those feelings, and it’s on a screen in front of you. I think that the film’s powerful in the sense that, I guess just legitimising, if you are a parent, or you are a family, then you are in control of your own life, so don’t just sit down and let them tell you what you’ve got to do with your life. My Mum cried, my Mum showed emotion, but she still had so much strength. You can be affected and you can cry and you can feel really shit but you can still be really strong.

Could you give some advice to people today who are suffering because of the housing crisis?

Daisy-May Hudson: I think just keep hold of community, know your neighbour. Do not let that go. That’s so strong and you know power structures are constantly trying to break down the community because they know that that is where our strength lies. You have to try and keep those bonds really strong. The thing about preventing eviction comes from people all working together and using visibility. Using whatever means you have to make sure that you’re visible. That’s why I think art is really powerful. 

Halfway will be in Picturehouse cinemas and other cinemas nationwide from the 2 December. Get tickets here.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length