Family is the grounding factor in all of our lives. Having appeared in successful productions for 34-years, actor Christopher Eccleston credits one man, in life and death, who has stood by his side: his father, Ronnie.
Known and loved for his eclectic roles ranging from Our Friends in the North, The A Word, or the man who was the face of Dr Who’s reinvention: Christopher Eccleston’s career has been a whirlwind of success.
For Christopher, family has always been the grounding factor in his life. However, as he was appearing in productions loved far and wide, Christopher was on a journey that many families across Scotland, and the UK, face.
In 2000, Christopher’s beloved father, Ronnie Eccleston, was diagnosed with dementia. A cruel illness, Christopher’s foray into writing has seen the actor reveal what it was like to watch as his father succumbed to the illness.
“I knew this would have tickled my dad pink because he was a great man of books and reading,” reveals Christopher who recently released his book, I Love the Bones of You: My Father and the Making of Me (19 September). Originally penning an article for The Guardian about his family’s experience of dementia, it was this that propelled the move to write a book.
“[The article] generated a lot of interest, which surprised me because all I was talking about was a very common experience: which is someone with dementia in your family.
“So, I was approached to do a book and I said yes, then I said no, then I said yes, and then no again, and then yes,” laughs Christopher.
“In the meantime I felt we were making leaps with the discussion on mental health in this country. Over the last eight or nine years, dementia and autism – which I’m involved in through The A Word – has become a huge financial, medical, social issue.
“The time just happened to be correct [to write this book],” continues Christopher. “I thought if I tried to write something honestly it might resonate. That’s what I found when I worked on Our Friends in the North, or Hillsborough: people respond to honesty.”
The warmth and openness exudes from Christopher, who has a passion for social justice and ensuring everyone has the opportunities they deserve. It is no wonder then, that I Love the Bones of You is such a powerful read.
Although the main journey is of a child’s love and adoration for their parents and the challenges of caring for a parent with dementia; in an honest, emotive memoir, Christopher has detailed the highs and lows of his private life.
The resurgence of a British classic took the world by storm in 2005 where Christopher became the face of, possibly, the most iconic science fiction character to date: Dr Who. Flying through time and space alongside his sidekick Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper), Dr Who was a resounding success.
However, as Dr Who was battling the Daleks, Christopher was tackling his own emotional challenges.
“My issues with food began when I was six or seven,” says Christopher, who has detailed his journey living with body issues, anorexia and clinical depression within his new book. “They quietened down, but when I was 19 they got a vice like grip on me and they never let go until my mid-to-late 40s.
“I imagine that 17-year-old boy – or even a 12-year-old boy or 12-year-old girl – taking the first steps into that illness and thinking: ‘That guy in Dr Who was successful, he had it and I’m not alone, I’m not weird; I’m not taboo.’ That’s what you hope.”
During the period of 2017/18, 536 people in Scotland alone were treated for eating disorders.
However, there are many people who may be experiencing this illness in silence. From watching your child live through an eating disorder, or as an adult facing your own journey: Christopher’s book is set to challenge the taboo.
Christopher continues: “I think of the young generation – I do, I’m not ashamed to say that as I do have children – who are bombarded with idealised body imagery.
“They are bombarded with sexualised imagery from a very early age, and they feel they have to reflect that imagery.
“Hopefully, with an increased discussion on mental health will give them another alternative. I would hope if there is a 17 year-old Northern lad, who thinks he’s got to be macho and he can’t be vulnerable, then this might help.”
I Love the Bones of You is a journey, and family is at the heart of that journey. When the unfortunate time comes for us to lose a loved one, we can continue to feel their presence, and this is no different for Christopher who feels his father still walks beside him.
Even so, it appears Christopher’s book will have a more powerful impact than he might first realise: breaking down barriers and making us realise that we all need to be there for each other.
“I hate giving advice,” laughs Christopher when asked how his life lessons could help another parent, individual or young person. He is a humble Northern man to the core as his parting words are exactly what someone would need to hear.
“It’s important for people to know that they’re not alone. You would be surprised to know how many people [have also experienced] severe, clinical depression.
“I talk about that openly. The number of people who reveal they’ve had an interlude always surprises me; it takes one person to speak out about it. You will always find someone who will not judge you. You will always find someone who will love you and take care of you, as I have done.”
Purchase I Love the Bones of You: My Father and the Making of Me by Christopher Eccleston (Simon Schuster UK) at Waterstones, priced at £20.00.