Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram



“When I was completely and utterly depressed, but, like a nice depression, I was still able to take films in, but, I was watching them all on my own.”

There is a chilling echo.

A reverberation, a continuation, a thread of stitches, a commonality, a mirroring of the ‘memory loops’ that occupy and feed upon Tilney1.

In writing these opening paragraphs – The hours, days, weeks and months roll on. Not filled with evolution as one might expect. Chaos is not permitted to intervene and gift chance meetings, no friendships born from new seeds, blossoming, growing. No tenderness, no love, no lingering kisses shared to be savoured, no holidays, these are days of no surprises. There is little escape from the barren landscape of Tilney1’s day to day, a landscape left scarred and sterile by his schizophrenia, his medication and continual isolation – words, written almost a year to the day ago, still, as relevant, as though on repeat.

A day repeated, on repeat.

In the absence of profound change, of change in diagnosis, of change in environment, relationships, isolation, in being, still a ghost. Seen, yet unseen, on the fringe, on the outside, alien, alienated, misunderstood, maligned, marooned.

Still, in this vacuum, Tilney1, as though a last man on earth, endures. Fights, minute to minute, day upon day, weeks, years, through a lifetime.

How then, to breathe and be?, to face a day that is a forever echo, pulsating with past traumas and the scars of yesterday and yesterdays, alive with them. How to navigate the walls of this invisible maze, walls that are unyielding, forever steering, pushing, forcing. How?.

There is, here, such a force, to equal medication, diagnosis, stigma, indifference,  prejudice, of being little more, to so many, than both parasite and statistic.

What equals these boxes and fears, these judgements?.


The hope that Tilney1 has. His.

As loud within his being as any invasive thought or voice, at it’s best, as loud as any fear, or state of self loathing, most, imposed by the failings of others around him, for it’s their projected contempt, that breeds Tilney1’s own notions and absence of self worth.

This hope, his hope, that drives him onwards. Hope, for love, for acceptance, for understanding. Hope is the fuel that powers Tilney1’s endurance.

A hope, that goes as un-noticed in life, as Tilney1, himself.


“I always worry if there are holes in my shoes, like when I was really ill. So, sometimes I wear Travel Fox, sometimes Adidas.”

“I would like to wear a nice shirt and some nice trousers, but it seems to me, the more and more people, like the Police, come up to me and ask me ‘Why are you taking photos?’ that I don’t want to dress like corporate mainstream, I want to dress like this. Kevin Carter trousers, on the Manic Street Preachers cover, you know?.”


“Now, with all my writing, art and photography, I watch films to use as inspiration, I write down sound bites for my poetry, reviews, absolutely everything about them, and I try to do all the things I wanted to do when I was on my film studies course, all that time ago, when all I did then was worry about work.”

“All that studying, I mean, it’s nothing you can’t do at home, you know what I mean?. Though, I do think, what’s the point to any film, even romantic films, if you can only watch them by yourself?.”

One of Tilney1’s many folders,  filled with his poetry.

“It’s very hard, the constant worry about credit card bills, Mum having to help me out with money, but, I am really trying my hardest. I lost my credit card, but another arrived today and the first thing I did was pay off the £70 telephone bill.”


Watching the film, Halloween.

“When they said I was unwell at Hellesdon (In-patient Mental Hospital), I had to hang about with all these terribly mentally ill people, rubble on the floor, doors kicked in, and look at my flat, it’s just an art empire!.”

“They said I was unwell in the Autumn, Halloween. Relevant. You see?”


 “I used to have these love visions come over me, I’d see something and I’d feel like a beautiful feeling come over me, within my heart, inside my soul, but they stopped happening.”

Reading through one of the numerous, hand written journals of memories, loops, connections and links. 

“Once again, I’m always finding answers, Teddy Sheringham, Southwold, the Trafford Arms was in the Insight magazine, St Stephens Street 1980, the sexual health clinic, a charity shop with Dave Wolverton books, a video games shop, with like, old school DVD’s.”

“Going to the Old Trafford to watch football, right?, then ring up Hellesdon hospital and tell them I went to the Trafford Arms, Southwold and Sherringham, all the time worrying about work and everything.”

“Constantly all the time this terrible worry, back then. About work. I just, I just try to use my coping mechanisms, and then when I feel I am coping, I draw, make art and write.”


“What is the concept of weird?. You can analyse all eccentric behaviour, and I do. The whole concept of the Sun newspaper, slating all people on Welfare and the work shy, but, all I have ever wanted is a life for myself and a girlfriend but that never happened.”

“I do try to be an amazing person though. I try and find inspiration in my illness. I never chose to be mentally ill, you know?, it was never a lifestyle choice.”

 “The thing is, it’s harder, worse, I imagine for ethnic minorities and gay people to live here, how do you explain to people about that Bismark used to amp up the party, self destruction record drops?.”

“Once again, if you’re a nice, sensitive person like I am, liking House music, Hip-Hop, Hip-House, who started House music?, gay people!, who started Hip-Hop?, black people!, all people who are oppressed, like me, like all mentally ill people.”

About to begin a wall collage.

“I’m always thinking, it’s always going around and around in my head, ‘Will this take the paint off the walls?, will I be in trouble?’. So, I sit there for an hour, then, OK, ‘Put the MMLVC over 90 on the picture’, put that there, do this, put that there, do this, do that there.”


“Instead of just sinking into despair and depression and just taking to my bed, I just refuse to give up. So, then, I just cover the whole wall. A nice artistic coping mechanism.”


In the grip of his compulsive addiction to smoking.


“It’s just crazy, though, I bought a red and a blue one (Vaping electronic smoking device) and I’m just using them to get myself through the nights, and then smoking (Regular cigarettes) through the day when my Mum gives me the money to buy cigarettes, I mean, that’s not the right thing to do is it?, that’s just very sad.”



“It is a struggle, to stop, the whole eccentricity about smoking has always been there for me.”


“Believe me, I do try my hardest (To stop smoking) I really, really do. Even in my loneliness, I do try my hardest. The whole concept of smoking being cool, it’s just so stupid.”


Newspaper headline about vaping.


Taken by a memory loop, vaping.


“I’m a nice looking kid there, like a model, with my hands on my hips. How you love football when you are a kid!. Before everything that happened to me when I was an adolescent.”


Tilney1’s collection of second hand games.

 “A lot of collecting games is about my loneliness, they all remind me of the past, people. The thing is, the diagnosis I have is there and there is nothing I can do to get away from it.”

“They say that mentally ill people go on shopping sprees, with me, I do have insight, but I still do it. It’s a coping mechanism.”

Upon a cursory glance, it would have been easy to believe his past compulsions to make art, to write, had been replaced with hoarding, but looking deeper, seeing, Tilney1 has in fact become his art, for every item has purpose, is a reflection of his memory loops, his walls, cut and paste collages, all have import, all have meaning, nothing is without thought, nothing an aside.

Tilney1 is constructing a cocoon, a defence, a protection. He is his art.

Journals, filled from page one, to one hundred, cover to cover narratives documenting memory loops and observations, fill his apartment, walls become collages, every book, record, C.D, every item, and at the epicentre, within these walls, he creates, he hopes, he endures.


“Coping mechanisms, they are a constant thing, for me, really. All the time, with me. Don’t spend any money until the Manic Street Preachers play the Holy Bible, pay all my bills. Nice, logical plans. My D.L.A. (Disability Living allowance) will be paid into my bank in about a week, hopefully, that will all go to paying my bills, that’s a nice, logical plan.”


“It’s better to spend money on games for my PS3 than heroin and end up in prison.”


“My compulsive spending will stop and it has, like I said, incredibly interesting coping mechanisms, all my money will now go on bills, that’s being responsible.”


“I mean, every time I buy something, anything, it’s always a coping strategy, like, I went into town when England played Lithuania at football, suddenly, all these kids were chasing me down the street, so I lit a candle, lithium, you see?.”

“These brain dead kids wearing hooded tops that cruise the streets in cars followed me, then I went to Tesco’s. I’d gone all along the railway line, round the back way, and they had turned their car around and come the other way, stopped their car and got out and walked up to me, then the Police turned up and I said to them “You’ll probably arrest me instead of the kids!”

“Then I bought some Haribo cupcakes. I lit the candle, for Kurt Cobain… lithium… Lithuania, Cobain died for our sins, you see?.”

“The fear of being hit is incredibly worrying. The funny thing is, the Police said ‘What do you do for a living?’ which was exactly the same things as the kids said to me.”

The mail arrives, often a moment of heightened anxiety, terror.

“I’m taking more money from my Mum now but it does seem like she understands, you know?. When the mail comes, bills or benefits letters, I drink like, five cups of coffee and smoke ten cigarettes before I can open it.”

Overwhelmed with stress.

Any news only serves to exacerbate his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. The telephone, an invasion, now, even the thin sliver of his mailbox, is something new, to fear. Letters regarding bills or his DLA benefits cause instant confusion, sustained panic. The information always hard to process, to untangle, to make reason of, is magnified by aloneness and his condition, it’s easy to worry, and this fear spirals and causes greater panic, a poisonous catch 22.

“I’d freaked out in town, the day before, I got scared as I’d had some crap in the street said to me, but I had to go into town to visit the bank, just to see if my benefits had been paid into my bank.”

Consumed with confusion and fear, a result of the incomprehension of mail describing changes to the time of payment, to Tilney1’s benefits.

 “From the letters, I couldn’t understand them, so I did not know if they (Benefits) had been paid in, or they had been cut, or anything. It’s really stressful, it terrifies me.”

Tilney1’s re-mixed, home made clothing.

“Making clothes, re-mixing them, it’s all to do with dreams I was having, dreams are there for a reason, even when I was in the abyss of despair, I figure the dreams were helping me. It’s very punk.”


“The Clash, thinking about ‘This is England’, thinking about how medication has affected my brain. England’s dreaming.”

A collection of compact discs, arranged in order of related memory.

“I have great musical taste, but, I’ve never had a proper girlfriend.”




Wall collages.

Lonely hearts column within the local newspaper.

“I might just go on the E.D.P dateline one last time, but it’s just so hopeless and sad.”

“I mean, what’s the point of going on a dateline and talking about the film Halloween, and all the amazing people that Bjork worked with and all this incredibly interesting stuff when people my age, they might be single have probably all got kids and do normal things. I am a lovely person though, and if I was with a lady with children, because I am such a lovely person, I’d stay with them 24/7.”

“I look at what my Dad is like with me, and I’d do the opposite, I’d really care for them. I am trying my hardest.”


“I did used to be able to talk to women, but, since my diagnosis, since that’s been written down in my records, now, now, I just can’t do anything, so how are they, writing this down in my records, helping me?.”

“After they told me I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic, I turned my back on girls, let alone going up to them and actually talking to them.”

“I wanted to ring every number on the dateline, but if my phone bill is going to be £70 every time, I’ll just logically plan it out, maybe call one or two, or just not bother at all, any more. I’ve called a few, left messages, just in the hope of a girl talking to me, but, no one has ever called me back.”

Tilney1, writing, within his apartment, April 2015.

You can see more of Tilney1 and his work here.

Please consider donating to the mental health charity Mind whose helplines are open for people in need of vital crisis support.


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