Lee Halpin was a young writer and film-maker who, at the time of his death, had been seeking to make a documentary about homelessness on the streets of Newcastle, writes Marcus Williamson. For this project he had said that he intended to “immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can.” He planned to “sleep rough for a week, scrounge for my food, access the services that other homeless individuals use…”
The resulting documentary, titled Stepping Outside, would also have been used as part of an application for an intern job at Channel 4's Dispatches. His personal video statement for the role included the lines, "I hope that you perceive this to be a fearless approach to a story. It certainly feels brave from where I'm sat right now."
He was born in 1986. His love of words came from his father, the poet Aidan Halpin, and his empathy for others was already evident from the age of eight, when he helped a young friend who was less fortunate. Halpin recalled, "He came from a particularly dysfunctional family and we tried to create little fictional worlds of tranquility to escape into, whilst his parents created a very real world of calamity."
Halpin read English Literature at Leeds Metropolitan University and graduated with honours in June 2009. Continuing on to a Masters in creative writing at Newcastle University, he was awarded an MA in December of the following year.
Halpin then worked as a presenter on Radio Tyneside's show The Weekend Starts Here and was the founding editor of Novel. Through this regional arts magazine, which had published five editions, he had already helped 100 local writers to get into print.
On 31 March he asked friends if anyone had a sleeping bag that he could borrow. Several responded and he set out to begin his week-long immersive project.
Three days later, he was found dead in a derelict hostel on Westgate Road in the West End of Newcastle. His friend Daniel Lake said, "Lee was a great guy, a character and was well known. His big things were creative writing and poetry… No one knows how he passed away, but we think it could have been hypothermia." The post-mortem has so far been inconclusive.
His friends have promised to complete the project that Lee Halpin had begun, to help to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness.