Dear Peter [trailer]

Do you think we will ever get rid of this government?” barks Keith in an empty book shop. His grievance is interrupted by a young girl’s unsteady promise to never eat meat again. Janet, a third voice, adds to the chorus and offers an apology for forgetting to water the vase of flowers.

These are the first voices I hear, the messages that I read in my hand offer a glimpse into the life of an individual. I flip the postcards over, one by one, in an attempt to figure out their origin. A stream of happy birthday messages and I realise they are all addressed to one person; Peter. We sold the postcards at the bookshop where I work for 20p each. Customers liked the pictures on the front which were all paintings; often allegories of biblical events. I felt that it would be disrespectful to split these postcards that had travelled together, one half of a story in a plastic freezer bag, so I purchased them all for £15. I began to order them chronologically, from a wartime poem by John in 1942 to present day. The messages steadily continue through the decades where Peter is treated to reviews of friend’s recent holidays or informed of their illnesses. I suspect that when they wrote to Peter, would never have expected that anybody else might some day read them, have their great sentiments of intimacy judged by foreign eyes.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 16.47.39

Dear Peter, it never rains but it pours… I have to go back to the breast clinic. I have arranged an appointment with Dr. Orange, a cancer expert and after my hospital visit on Thursday will know more on what I have to face”. The postcards do not preserve the interaction between Peter and his friends but instead only depict a one sided conversation. So what did Dr. Orange say? I wanted to know. Did the young girl stick to her word and never eat meat again? As I got closer to the end of the collection, the messages began to wish Peter better health. He had problems with his eyesight and breathing, I suppose by this point he must have been in his late eighties.

Dear Peter Stamp

Peter had managed to self archive his life through these postcards; it’s shocking to think how easily this existence could have been disposed of or disseminated and scattered around our customer’s bedrooms. I knew that he lived in Hove, England, as his address was often scribbled on the back and occasionally so were his writers. I started to write to his friends to ask if he was still alive? It did not occur to me that the same question could be easily applied to his friends. The postcards stand as a relic of their own existence as much as Peter’s. Finally I wrote to him and I became one of the voices within the collection; Dear Peter…

Dear peter 2

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2 thoughts on “Dear Peter [trailer]

  1. Jane Leigh says:

    Hi – I have just received another letter from Peter Heathfield and he described the film you’d made, so I was glad to find a snippet of it on the Internet.
    “Mr Heathfield” was my Junior school teacher in the seventies, and one of the most influential people in my life. He was “old school” and able to teach what he wanted. From him I found the inspiration to travel and to learn about other cultures and other influential people. He encouraged my interest in art. He was a mine of information – very well read and extremely talented.
    Through a brief dabble with Friends Reunited I was able to make contact with Peter, and we have been writing ever since.
    You chose a great subject to make a documentary about. I would be interested to see more of the video if possible and learn a little more about his life.

    • Scott Willis says:

      Cheers Jane!

      I didn’t really know what to expect before I met Peter. The messages on the postcards gave me a sense of his interests but I wasn’t sure how the pair of us would get along; especially with our 70 years age difference. 22 – 90.

      I stayed with him for two weeks to make the film and over that duration we had great conversations about our mutal interests in art history, german architecture and the philosophical teachings of R.Steiner; Anthroposophy.

      I came across your Friends Reunited post while looking for Peter and I hope that you have informed the other ex-pupils about the film… you should host a screening!!!

      Peter is a great soul and I’m glad I was able to meet him and film it. I aim for Dear Peter to be screened at festivals next year as I am currently concentrating on another project, Pigeon.


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