Carol Morley's film – Dreams of a Life

Joyce Vincent was found dead in her flat in Wood Green Sky City. She had been dead three years. The TV was on and there were Christmas presents still wrapped on the floor.

This was a case that completely mystified me – and the rest of the world – when it went public. How could a woman lie dead for three years in her flat with no one – absolutely no one – knowing or caring? Outside of her personal life – for you never know why someone will retreat from the world for their own personal reasons – what about the rent, the gas, the council tax, the caretaker and the neighbours?

I pursued all of this for a very long time. The Housing Association made changes so that anyone living in their premises on their own had to be visited in person each year. Everyone had a reason why no one had pursued entry to the flat. Out of desperation, having found out that Joyce had been in a women’s refuge a few years earlier – I even tracked the refuge down and visited on my own one evening. A young woman let me in and we talked about the existence there. She said even there – although safe – no one cared if you lived or died. I pursued it with the refuge charity – who said – no they didn’t follow up with women who left. All my efforts – with all of the agencies who should have entered the flat – in the end led to a few small changes but no further enlightenment on the mystery that was Joyce Vincent.

Some while later – a film maker – Carol Morley contacted me. She had been absorbed by this case – as had I – and was hoping to make a film about it. I met her and we talked. Some time later – she contacted me again as she now was making the film – and I agreed to do a piece to camera answering questions. There is a good article today about this here.

When I went to where she was filming – I was gobsmacked at what she had found out about Joyce’s life. How had Carol managed all of this – when the police, the journalists, the media had not? It’s an astonishing story.

Dreams of a Life will be shown at the 2011 BFI London Film Festival. The film has been shortlisted for the Grierson award for best documentary at the LFF. It will go on general release in March 2012.


UPDATE: Film will now be released on December 16th!

0 thoughts on “Carol Morley's film – Dreams of a Life

  1. Joyce was obviously escaping a very unsuccessful marriage. Quite often relatives will side with the in-law and one is left on their own in the world as though they had been raised within a children’s home and had not been raised by their own blood at all. Joyce was obviously disconnecting from friends as well as relatives in order to free herself from the ex-husband. Sadly, in doing so suddenly met her death and through the secrecy of her residential address no-one knew where to find her even if they did try to. Women’s refuge would have to keep personal details confidential to help Joyce free herself from the ex-husband. Obviously our neighbours are not very watchful within the Wood Green area when a Joyce lay dead in her flat for 3 years. My question is though “Was Joyce’s dead body placed within her flat or did she meet her death in her flat?” Was Joyce unpopular with the neighbourhood? Was Joyce actually found by the ex-husband and badly defamed throughout the neighbourhood so that no-one wished to know her? All the above remains unanswered. No-one can be too independent.

  2. It has been drawn to my attention that the majority of people living alone believe that the neighbours are looking out for them and that should anything happen to them the neighbours will know.

  3. “She said even there – although safe – no one cared if you lived or died”

    Joyce, as with most females is highly privileged to have had access to a refuge.

    Thanks to successive governments and a never ending line of sexist “equality” ministers there are still next to zero refuge places for men and very little support. Had Joyce been male she’d have been sleeping rough and woudl ahve died on teh street, probably much sooner. They’d have found the body quicker though so that’s one benefit to being male I suppose.

  4. Reading through the article there seems to be a powerful message embedded that modern women should take note of.

    The potential trap of feminism combined with hypergamy resulting in the delay of marriage and children or divorcing out of ‘boredom’ can easily lead to spinsterhood and an unfortunate lonely end as with Joyce. The State makes a pretty poor substitute for husband and family in the end.

    I expect the occurence of this type of situation to increase as the number of childless spinsters and elderly increase and the State cannot afford or doesn’t care to support those who cannot support themselves and/or the state support systems fail.

    Incidentally elderley men are in exactly the same situation but are generally better at supporting themselves for longer because they are used to being self-reliant out of necessity.

    Also a lot of the men conveniently pop off before the end of their working lives and are missed when they don’t manage to turn up for work.

  5. I agree with message above as I believe the lesson to learn is that we can all end up this way – even at the age 26! I live in Tottenham and regularly do my shopping in Wood Green and notice how you see the same people walking up and down aimless. The point is how disconnected we all are and making friends through facebook and twitter will not make it happen. I notice also from the Observer article that nothing is mentioned about the fact she was black. (sorry but it has to be mentioned!) Did her experience of racism contribute to her reason to wanting to give up life? Her ex-boyfriend said she had elocution lessons and spoke posh – does having high standards also alienate you if you are in an environment which doesn’t care about such things.