“It’s a never-ending battle but you get up every day and roll on,” says Peter Germaine as we talk about a brutally honest documentary on his struggle with childhood trauma, drugs, mental health, prison, hospitals and brain damage.
To call Peter, now 41, a miracle is not an exaggeration, it seems almost impossible that he is still alive after a devastating car crash when he was 17, a horrific attack where he was bludgeoned with a rock, years of drug addiction and heroin overdoses, alcohol abuse and self harm.
His story is told in documentary Estate of Mind – a grim, sad, stark but, ultimately, brave and hopeful film, with scenes beautifully shot despite the harrowing content, accompanied by Peter’s emotive rap lyrics.
The documentary took more than three years to create with filming taking place during the pandemic. Peter’s life, and that of his mum, sister and two brothers, is told without any gloss, from living through alcohol fuelled violence in the home when children and being in care, to the crash which caused Peter’s brain damage and the struggle of all three brothers with poverty, substance abuse and poor mental health.
The grim scenes of heroin addiction and the savage self-inflicted injuries to Peter’s body make for hard viewing and the tragedy of the three brothers is almost overwhelming but Peter’s 10 years of being clean, his rebuilt relationship with his son Mark and the passion and talent in his lyrics and music bring some light to the darkness.
Peter, who lives in Newington, said: “Over the pandemic I was in a studio doing a bit of music . My friend invited me and there was a movie producer there too. He told the producer he should do a documentary about me and that’s what happened, producer Danny Holloway JNR set it up and directed some scenes and Drew (Cox) wrote and directed.
“I didn’t want anything glamorized. It shows it how it is, that it isn’t all happy families; drugs are not good and making you loads of money; prison is not fun. I told it exactly how it is, how people who go for drugs haven’t got money.
“I’ve got brain damage but manage to cope with it. There are people in worse situations and I try to give them a bit of advice.
“At first I could only scroll through (the film) as it was too close to home. Then I managed to watch it as it had made quite a lot of noise on social media. I was tearful at bits.”
Peter became addicted to painkillers after the car crash and when that supply was cut off he was introduced to heroin, a drug that blighted his life.
Drugs and mental health battles have also scarred the lives of his brothers Jimmy and Brendan with both being sectioned at the time the end of the film was being made.
Peter said: “Jimmy is on the mend now, which is good. Brendan is so lost I don’t know if we can find him again. It’s like losing a brother even though they are there in front of you.”
Peter beat his addiction and, in the film, says that point came after he was in his cell asking if there really was a God and ‘a horrible white light’ surrounded him. He says the end of his addiction came from “acceptance that there’s something bigger and better than me out there and I just pray to that now.”
As a youngster Peter won music competitions and he is concentrating on his tracks and lyric writing once more, many of the songs featuring in the film working alongside friend and music producer Toby Holmewood.
He said: “I finally came round when I was 32 and by the time you get to where you want to go you’re 40. I should’ve been here when I was younger but there are all those years wasted in prison and in hospital.
“I have been doing quite a lot of events in Thanet. I’m making a mixer tape at the moment and I’m doing stuff with Danny (Holloway). We are thinking of doing an Estate of Mind event but it’s not something to take lightly because if (the film) is having an effect on people’s lives then you have a responsibility with that.
“I doing something called noughties to 40 because in all my 0 years I was in prison or hospital and then I was 40.
“There’s also another documentary coming up about music in Thanet and all the MCs will be in that.
“And Toby, I did all my first stuff with him and we are trying to get back into that.”
Peter hopes Estate of Mind will make a difference. He said: “I want to talk to people about it. I really hope it reaches a wide audience, I think it deserves to.
“I want it to hit home, for people to see that it doesn’t matter how far down you are, there is escape. There is a way, do not ever believe it’s too late, keep going and keep strong. Things will get better. They won’t be perfect but life isn’t perfect, just don’t set unrealistic goals. If you are going to fight heroin you have to man up, believe in yourself, you have to be selfish and do it for yourself.”
Peter and Toby are now working on the Noughty to 40 album.
Toby (pictured with Peter) said: “When we were young teenagers we were quite competitive, freestyle rapping and MC-ing. I’d go round his house and we would bounce off each other, we always had that rapport. We inspire each other and work collaboratively. We have similar upbringings and backgrounds although Peter had it a lot worse than me, so we relate to each other.
“We are in the early stages of working on the album at the moment and will be producing a mixer tape.
“I thought the film was amazing. I know I am invested personally but think I am objective. There was a brilliant use of location and when Peter is doing the dramatic stuff he is showing the anger and anguish and pain. I also thought it was compassionate and warm, I think Drew did something completely different so it was also heart-felt and touching, Peter is such a big, natural personality.”
Drew Cox is an award winning filmmaker who moved to Margate just prior to the covid lock downs.
He said: “After getting to know Peter, I saw the way people looked at him and treated him like a scumbag and it was crazy. We got talking about his story and I have disability and special needs in my family and wanted to make a project showing someone in a different light.
“That was the initial reason for telling Peter’s story and then I met the rest of his family and it kind of opened up.
“Ultimately, the essence of the story is you all have a choice to make eventually and luckily Peter managed to make it and be clean whereas both his brothers are still stuck in that, There was also that spiritual faith side of it.”
Peter added: “We became friends, we are from different worlds but spoke the common language of art.”
Drew says the stunning visuals of the film were to create a poetry and show the beauty around us. He says the documentary, which will be taken on the film festival circuit, is dark but shows there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”
He added: “The main thing to get across is the sense of hope and finding some kind of purpose. I think it really helped Peter having this project, something to wake up for every day and do something positive.”
Warning: This film includes disturbing content and language
Help us to continue bringing you Thanet news with a donation towards our running costs https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=YF7BH2EF4UG2N