I, Daniel Blake actor David Nellist on ending poverty

The critically acclaimed theatre adaptation of the 2016 film I, Daniel Blake premiered at the Northern Stage earlier this year.

The film exposes the harsh reality of the benefits system as the titular character befriends a young mum called Katie who both face struggles at the job centre. The first run on stage took place in June this year to sell out audiences.

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It will go on tour this autumn, starting again at Newcastle’s Northern Stage and making a stop at Durham’s Gala Theatre in September.

The Northern Echo: David Nellist as Daniel Blake in the theatre adaptation at the Northern Stage.David Nellist as Daniel Blake in the theatre adaptation at the Northern Stage. (Image: PAMELA RAITH)

Ahead of the autumn tour, actor David Nellist who plays Daniel Blake will cycle 350 miles from London to Newcastle to raise awareness that food poverty is a nationwide issue.

Originally from Wallsend in Newcastle and currently appearing in Netflix chart topper Bull, Nellist volunteered at his local food bank in East London during the pandemic and spent time with volunteers and clients at Newcastle’s West End Foodbank during rehearsals for the show.

He said: “The struggles Daniel and Katie face in I, Daniel Blake could happen to anyone, anywhere.

“Dan is a craftsman, as was my Dad who worked in the shipyards. He is a man of compassion and empathy even when he has nothing he still wants to be a giver.

“We were helped in our research by the West End Foodbank in Newcastle. They do an incredible job, helping not just with food, but also with benefits and housing advice for young and old alike. They really make a difference, so I wanted to give something back by raising awareness and much needed funds for the brilliant work they do.

“There’s also a theme of connection, something that is often lost when people are in a cycle of food poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

“I’ll be staying with friends old and new on the journey, one I haven’t seen for 35 years and one I’ve never met, but is the son of my old Benfield High School sports teacher. I’ll be documenting my journey and chatting to people I meet on the way.”

Nellist also appeared as Mike Stamford in BBC One’s Sherlock and more recently Stonehouse on ITVX.

The stage adaption of Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or and Bafta winning film is written by Dave Johns who plays Daniel Blake in the film version.

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Dave Johns said: “I was thrilled to be asked to adapt Paul Laverty’s screenplay.

“But I didn’t just want to put the film onstage, I wanted to update the story for 2023, making it contemporary and exploring more of single mum Katie’s journey and the family unit she forms with Daniel.

“Sadly, during my research it was disheartening to find not much had changed since the film’s release.

“The story is still as relevant as it was in 2016; maybe even more so now with the cost-of-living crisis making it even harder for those who are already struggling.”

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