Landline: The story of the UK helpline for isolated gay farmers

The short documentary by Matt Houghton is an emotionally affecting look at a community often overlooked.

Four men stand spread out in a misty rural area, a jeep in the background

Landline is a short film directed by Matt Houghton which chronicles the telephone calls of gay farmers in the UK as they contact the only helpline set up to support them. The Gay Farmer Helpline was created in 2010 by Chaplin Keith Ineson.

The documentary highlights the underlying issues of secrecy, shame and isolation that come with being a gay farmer in the UK. It depicts how many consider suicide, with the documentary opening with a startling reconstruction of a suicide attempt by a young male farmer, discovered in his car, trying to end his life by carbon monoxide poisoning. The man who finds and rescues him insidiously claims after the fact that “if I knew he was gay, I would have left him there to die.”

It’s a bleak but all too realistic depiction of the damaging effects of isolation, a theme every member of the LGBT+ community can readily identify with. This is shown further in the widespread success of the short, which was picked as an Official Selection at the London Short Film Festival and the Seattle Film Festival.

Houghton says of the film’s success, “we began to understand the extent to which being an LGBT+ farmer was so heavily wrapped up in ideas of identity…. Keith Ineson’s helpline seemed like a unique lens through which to explore these ideas.”

In a time where access to social media is prevalent and dating apps make it more convenient to meet people, it’s interesting that certain sections of our community are still feeling isolated and alone. Landline explores a world that still values traditional masculinity, and being gay poses an obstacle to that traditional structure.

It’s important that initiatives like the gay farmer helpline exist and it demonstrates that community led inclusivity can ultimately transform lives. Since opening, the helpline has helped hundreds of farmers in rural areas of the UK. They claim to get one new call per week.

You can read further work by author Tadgh Dolan here.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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