How a care-leaver self-published his childhood story and was invited to European Parliament
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In less than a year debut-author, street musician and care-leaver Ben Westwood’s book Poems From a Runaway has gone from strength-to-strength as social workers, foster parents, missing children’s charities and safeguarding boards embrace his story. Here’s how it was done.
In 2016 , Ben Westwood decided he was going to have another go at writing his childhood story.
Some of his friends had said that he should and he’d tried many times before, but understandably for someone with life events that were often chaotic, at times traumatic and certainly eventful – it was never going to simple.
Nevertheless, by the end of 2017 and with crowdfunding support from some local friends as well as online supporters – Ben released the first edition of his book ‘Poems From a Runaway’ which not only details his events of running away and sleeping rough from ten years old – but also his journey living with numerous foster parents and at various children’s homes across the UK.
Since releasing his story it’s taken the interest of social workers around the country in what has been an eventful year for the dreadlocked street-musician and his book.
Ben launched his book at and with the support from a small local café near his hometown before turning his focus to blogging about his life story and promoting it on social media sites Facebook and Twitter.
From there he managed to share his story online to social workers and the like, as well as with the UK charity ‘Missing People’ whom later used some of his experiences for an appeal on BBC Radio 5.
He later also contributed on BBC radio 4 in a discussion about children in care before being invited by the umbrella-charity Missing Children Europe to share some of his experiences at European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium – alongside MEP’s and Children’s rights advocates.
Two weeks later he shared his story with over 30 social work students, lecturers and foster parents at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge alongside foster care provider ‘To The Moon And Back’ before contributing his experiences as part of a social work course in Somerset, UK.
Having only printed around 50 books and with having last-minute pressures before its initial release another crowdfunder was then launched to enable a second edition to not only be printed but for copies of Poems From a Runaway to be donated for free to youth and adult support services across the country.
The book journey hasn’t ended yet however, as Ben is due to talk at a youth psychology event with social workers before speaking to his biggest ever audience of around 100 people at a conference on child safeguarding.
“I can’t believe it’s been less than a year since I first released the book, it feels more like two or three” he states, before going on.
“I think because of its title a lot of people might think it’s a bog standard poetry book or something a bit airy-fairy. They might not suss straight away that it’s a 350-page adventure written in poetry that also gives people a few giggles to counteract some of the more shocking stories they might read from my childhood as a runaway.
I think those that have read it like it because it’s written in the perspective of the then-young me and explains why I made many of the decisions I did, but also written in an unpretentious language that we can all understand.”
Visit: Poems From a Runaway
Ben is looking for the support of the IRO/social work community and book lovers to help spread the word or simply leave an Amazon review about this self-published book that will no doubt surprise people as a shocking, educating, yet upbeat read.
You can find out more about it and Ben’s journey so far at: https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway
And connect with him on Twitter at @PoemsFaRunaway