Aaron Roach Bridgeman: I had to fight the urge to cry over drug-smuggling kids

30th January 2018

There’s a lot of good to be said about Aaron Roach Bridgeman. He’s kind and humble; he’s one of the nations most highly regarded, up-and-coming documentary makers; and most importantly, the North-West London creative genuinely cares about Britain’s youth.

Known as the host of One Punch Killers and When Kids Kill, which showed jarring and sharply honest explorations of the dire situations some of Britain’s youth face, Roach Bridgeman is facing a new challenge with his new documentary, 8 Years Old and Smuggling Drugs.

The documentary explores the harrowing experiences of the country’s voiceless youth – children who have been manipulated into smuggling drugs by dangerous gangs. Filming the programme had a profound effect on characteristically stoic Roach Bridgeman.

“I have to be honest, this one affected me emotionally,” he says. While audiences will be immediately affected by the stories on-screen, Roach Bridgeman expresses the struggle of documentary makers in remaining impartial: “I felt an immense, overwhelming inclination to cry [after one of the first days of filming]. And I consider myself a tough person.”

Outside of TV, Roach Bridgeman mentors children at risk of joining gangs and becoming involved with knife crime.

“I was emotional because I’m used to supporting these young men. I had to understand it wasn’t my role in this documentary; I wanted to make sure I was giving them an opportunity to speak about what they’re going through.”

They have a self-identification of themselves; of not being a part of mainstream society

The host of the programme notes that it’s important to take a step back and give kids a platform. “When you speak to these young people,” Roach Bridgeman says, “they have a self-identification of themselves; of not being a part of mainstream society.

“They think they are unable to garner the opportunities that normal people in society have.”

8 Years Old & Smuggling Drugs
Aaron Roach Bridgeman meets drug smuggling children 📸 Channel 5

Roach Bridgeman seems less a host and more an expert as he speaks about the youth featured in his documentary, though his knowledge doesn’t come from professional history, but personal experience. “I understand exactly what [they’re] going through and the cycle in which [they] feel they’re trapped.

“Take it from me,” he told the kids on the show, off-camera, “from someone who comes from the same or a similar background, I’ve seen what happens. Whether it be death or jail. The pressures of this type of habit can become too much.

“I really want you guys to live and be alive.”

8 Years Old & Smuggling Drugs
Aaron Roach Bridgeman interviews Jermaine Lawlor, an ex-gang member now running a youth programme 📸 Channel 5

Raising awareness of these youth issues among adults is a powering motive for the presenter to create more programmes. “I want people, especially parents, to notice the signs and stop [this] from happening in the future,” he says.

“By the age of 14, formative behaviour is set.

“I can work with 30 young people and only two of them will take away something.”

Roach Bridgeman acknowledges that we should concentrate on our present rather than our future before it is too late. He explains that children with no opportunity to succeed, no sense of community and no alternative routes away from crime (and, in the documentary, drug smuggling), need to be given attention.

“We need to be connecting these young people with organisations [that help them]. Like Shout Out UK,” he says, who Roach Bridgeman is an ambassador for, which does projects that connect young people with society and politics.

The organisation will attempt a “cooler” way of communicating with youth by using an animated character (based on the host, named Aaron) to lead a literacy course.

I don’t care about the fame. All I want is to be good at what I do

Roach Bridgeman, who started his career on SBTV and presents What’s Up TV on Sky 1, has interviewed countless music and film stars but plans to carry on making documentary television. “All I want to do is create purposeful, powerful programmes that have a positive effect.

“I don’t care about the fame. All I want is to be good at what I do.”

As well as another series of When Kids Kill this summer, he’s also looking for chances to show a different side.

“I do smile. Even though if you watch my programmes you wouldn’t see it. [Maybe I’ll] explore that.”

Catch 8 Years Old and Smuggling Drugs tonight at 9pm on 5STAR.

30th January 2018