Coast is getting ready to rock in memory of James

Joanne Hargreaves-Doherty
Joanne Hargreaves-Doherty
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A Fylde coast mum is hoping to rock the town with a festival to raise awareness of teenage suicide.

Joanne Hargreaves-Doherty has organised James Fest in memory of her son James Doherty who took his own life in August 2016 in Tower Woods.

Through her charity Doherty’s Destiny, she is working to promote positive mental health in young people an create a support group for families affected by suicide as well as raising awareness of mental health issues in the young and the effects of bullying.

James, who attended Hodgson Academy in Poulton and was working as a lifeguard while awaiting his GCSE results, had been the victim of online bullying.

His death in Cleveleys profoundly affected the community and the pupils at the school were offered counselling immediately afterwards.

Joanne said: “We have to get the message out there about mental health issues in young people and about suicide.

“I came up with the idea of the music festival about a year ago as something for young people to get involved with.

“James would have gone on to sixth form and many of the friends he went to school with have gone on there.

“So I went to Blackpool Sixth and asked for help and they have come up with soloists and bands.

“I also contacted Upbeat Rock Academy at Poulton who have kids from 10 to 18.

“They too have agreed to support me too and we have Arran Paul doing the audio on stage and Andy Mitchell is going to open the show at 11am.

“The charity is all about raising awareness of mental health issues in young people and quite a lot of young people who play music do so because they suffer from anxiety, so in a way it links in and supports them too.

“If we can raise awareness of the issues and save even one life it will be worth it. We will have support from the charities NCS Fleetwood and Papyrus who will be handing out leaflets to give young people advice and point them in the right direction for support.

“It will take place on May 20, which is the last day of National Mental Health week so we will end the week with a rock out.

“It is going to be exciting, we have so many young people taking part and so many bands.

“We will have collection buckets and a raffle and tombola to raise money for the charity.

“I did a talk at County Hall recently talking about suicide prevention to the councillors and was supported by Coun Andrea Kay.

“She has supported me all the way with the festival as has Wyre Council which have allowed us to use the plaza. That is what it was meant for, musical entertainment after all.

“The charity is hoping to start support group for families affected by suicide and it will be at Cleveleys Library starting in June.

When James died the nearest support I could get was in Kendal, so we need to have something for the Fylde Coast.

“Help and advice should be easily available for anyone, whether they just want to talk about their mental health or seek support for their loss.”

County Councillor Andrea Kay, who has special responsibility for children and young people, said: “We have done a lot when it comes to mental health issues for young people but there is so much more to be done especially in this par t of the world.

“We need to get a support group up and running and this fabulous festival is a good way of raising awareness of these important issues.”

JamesFest lineup

James Fest will take place at Cleveleys Plaza, Victoria Road from 11am to 4pm. Radio Wave’s Andy Mitchell will open the show.

Bands include: The Sound, Demon Pixies, Justin Time, The Loungers, Sandmonster, The Wednesdays, All we Know, On a Tuesday, Balaclava and General Waste.

Soloists and duos include: Chloe Rose Moyle, Daisy and Kassidy, Simon Stirzaker, Alec Jennings, Megan Delves, Nicole Adshead.

Suicides in Fylde

Figures from 2016 showed that Blackpool’s suicide rate is 17 per 100,000. That figure is almost twice the national average of 10 per 100,000, and fourth highest in the country.

Lancashire Care NHS runs a Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline, which can be found at 0800 915 4640.

Childline’s number is 0800 1111.

Doherty’s Destiny can be found on Facebook and can be contacted via

James’s story

Distraught Joanne Doherty-Hargreaves was unable to see her son’s body for almost two weeks after his death due to a delay at the coroner’s office.

She said James’ body was in such a poor condition by the time she finally got to see him she had to close the coffin lid in shock.

Lancashire coroner Dr James Adeley apologised for the mistake in March 2017, blaming it on new computer software and a heavy workload.

Joanne said: “I was screaming my head off. That’s my last memory of him. I will never forget it.”

The corner, in his apology, described the delay as “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

Rejecting the apology, Joanne, who added the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide at his inquest, said she feels ‘robbed’ of spending time with her son before his funeral service, which was attended by 500 mourners, and added: “The last image I have of James is of his skin in my hands. This is now with me forever.”

Joanne says James took his own life following threats made to him and his family.

She said the sporty youngster who played ice hockey for Deeside Dragons in North Wales had been given two days to pay hundreds of pounds he owed to Blackpool teenagers he had met the previous summer.

After leaving a note, in which he said he felt like he didn’t belong in society, he apologised saying he could see no other way out.

He was found hanged in The Towers woodland in Cleveleys by a member of the public.

The troubled teenager had sent a pictured to friends over Snapchat with the words ‘Good night’.

James went to Breck Primary School before moving onto Hodgson in Moorland Road, Poulton.

After leaving, he was given a conditional offer at Fleetwood Nautical Campus and was working as a lifeguard at Poulton YMCA and Fitness Centre in his spare time.

“James was a grafter, he enjoyed life,” said Joanne.

But weeks later he starter hanging around with a group of lads from Blackpool.

She said: “He changed quite dramatically. He became anxious. I would never have seen it at the time, but I can see now he was hitting depression.”

Joanne was unaware he had run up a £400 debt with the boys and had even tried to sell his clothes online to pay it off.

Three days after his death, Joanne found threatening messages on James’ Xbox. Sent through Facebook, they warned of a visit to the family home unless the sum was repaid in 48

hours.A day after visiting James at the funeral home, Joanne received his GCSE results – he had passed all nine.

She said: “James to me, was always happy.

“He would have been friends with anybody, he just wanted them to be his friends. He was a people person.”

Following James’ death, a number of arrests were made but no charges were brought over the threats.