Inspired by true events, COUNTY LINES is the highly acclaimed and hugely topical feature from writer and director Henry Blake. The film is a vivid and moving coming-of-age film about a struggling mum (Ashley Madekwe) and her 14-year-old son Tyler (Conrad Khan) who is groomed and recruited by Simon (Harris Dickinson) into a lethal drug-selling network – a ‘county line’ that exploits vulnerable children and puts them to work nationwide.
The film introduces Conrad Khan (Black Mirror) who, in his first lead film role, gives a compelling performance as unhappy teenager Tyler. Ashley Madekwe (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Revenge) stars as Tyler’s mother Toni, and rising star Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, The King’s Man) plays Simon, a ruthless county lines operator. The cast includes Marcus Rutherford whose screen debut in Obey won him a Most Promising Newcomer nomination at the 2018 BIFAs.
Writer/director Henry Blake based the film on his own experience; he has been a youth worker for 11 years and was first exposed to county lines back in 2015 while working in an East London PRU (a Pupil Referral Unit for children excluded from attending mainstream school). His first-hand knowledge from working with young people already taking part or at real risk of county lines exploitation, has enabled him to create an authentic film that beautifully captures the harsh reality so many vulnerable young people are going through all over the UK.
County lines criminal networks have increasingly been in the news over the last two years as the recruitment of children has grown at a worryingly fast rate. The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that up to 10,000 children in the UK are now exploited by or forced to work for drugs gangs and that there are now more than 2,000 individual deal line numbers in operation. Police forces, the government, charities and academia are working to combat and disrupt the threat, which can have traumatic and long-lasting consequences for those exploited.