Latest news - Free eBook promotion and crowdfunder extention

Hi everyone,

I've been quiet lately, I know. We all need a break from time to time and for those of you in the know, some of the subjects I've been covering over the last couple of months have been a bit full on.
I'll leave it at that.

Anyway, on a lighter note, I'm trying to get more people to read my new poetry eBook called 'Welcome to Leatheton' and try to get some of you to be the first to review it.
I actually think lots of people will really enjoy it, so I've enabled it for free download as an eBook from 9am 1st August (UK time) until 9am on the 6th August.

If you want to read it beforehand it's only £1.99 to download for your laptops, tablets, smartphones and Kindle etc and contains some fab sketches from my mate Neil Paterson.

You can download it from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Welcome-Leatheton-This-Book-ebook/dp/B07S6C8GCZ


ALSO.......

As many of you know, I've recently been offered a job in social work (the actual role is a social, emotional and mental health practitioner but I will be in my dream role working with young people in care. (If  hadn't of written Poems From a Runaway then this specific opportunity would have likely never happened, so it just goes to show that persistence pays off. Apparently I completely bossed the interview, but the real test comes with the huge amount of stuff I will learn.

I've been running a crowdfunder to try and raise 1.5k towards getting everything I need sorted for my move down south including accommodation deposits and other often overlooked costs.
Through it people can purchase signed paperbacks and hardbacks of Poems From a Runaway as well as purchase raffle tickets for a 1 n 15 chance of winning a copy - all of the proceeds going towards making it an efficient move without the usual setbacks of

It's been going great with a big portion of it raised so far but I've decided to extend it for another 2 weeks whilst waiting for my DBS checks to come through and stuff in an attempt to hit my target to raise 1.5k profit from book sales and crowdfunding towards my move.

You can view my crowdfunder or purchase colour signed copies from it by visiting - https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/careexperiencedsocialworker

A huge thanks to everyone that supports it.
You can still also get non-signed and non-colour interior versions immediately from Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poems-runaway-story-Ben-Westwood/dp/1981314350

Big Love :)

Ben




Purposefully breaking boundries with Princess Anne.



The story I'm about to tell you never made it into Poems From a Runaway, but I was reminded of it today whilst going through my emails and reading the monthly newsletter sent to me by The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which is a homeless drop in service I used both as a runaway (I was a great blagger) and once I'd turned sixteen and had returned back to London, this time somewhat more permanently.

.
As some of you know, after using the service for a few years using a fake name whilst sleeping rough out on the streets of London's west end, once I'd turned sixteen after a spell in young offenders and returned back to London I sort of arrived at the desk saying "I'm not whom you thought I was, I was a runaway from the west midlands but I'm sixteen now."
Among the homeless scene we all knew it as 'Connections' and many still do, it caters for people of all ages now within the same building but back in the day there were two separate buildings.
The main building which is still used today would provide food, showers and drop in services for homeless people between 16-25 (or unknowingly 13 in my case!) and there was another building in the crypt underneath the church which was a drop in centre for the older lot.

There were a few drop in centres around London for people back then, but I couldn't get into them all.
Sometimes I'd meet other homeless people that would claim to be able to help me get into them, places such as The Passage in Victoria among other places, but not being able to always prove my age I couldn't always get in, so I'd wait outside and perhaps someone would come out with a cup of tea.

Sometimes I get a little anxious when writing about their support just in the case people think "Well how did a 13 year old get the use the services of an adult homeless service", but thankfully since releasing my book St Martins have been nothing but supportive of it.
My childhood would have taken a completely different path if it wasn't for being able to access the services at St Martins, being able to blag my way in was a blessing indeed as despite London being a busy, vibrant place with many fantastic people within it - it can also be such a lonely place at times where those finding themselves in dire need gain only the attention of the predators and psychopaths.
That's why you'll find a lot of homeless people look out for each other so much, and why some of the sex workers that have been through so much tragedy have massive hearts and a natural energy for protecting teenage runaways and the other girls they walk the streets with.

As mentioned in Poems From a Runaway being there as a young teen in a place full of 16-25's was also a very much needed element for me.
Most of the people I'd meet on the streets were in their late-twenties at the very least and I remember it being a time despite most people there being a couple of years older at least, I felt more connected with my peer group there than I had anywhere else on the streets.
An importance that I think I'm currently struggling to explain.
I didn't knowingly come across a lot of other runaways in my day, I think most remained largely unseen and those I did suspect often seemed connected with the hard-drug scene that would rear it's head around Tottenham Court Road and Soho during the early hours of the morning, but I knew by then to stay well away and do my own thing hence why I never slept rough around those parts.


But when I had finally turned sixteen, I was invited by The Connection at St Martin-in-the-fields to go on a boating holiday along with a small group of volunteers and other service users. Somewhere down Cornwall I think it was.
I great trip and despite me thinking I was invincible after being the only one not spewwing over the deck from the seasickness, my time indeed came!
Still a fantastic trip on a former fishing-boat learning how to sail it and tie all the knots and stuff, most of which I've forgotten eighteen years on but that's life.

The crew were fantastic and we had all had a great week, I think it was also the first time in a few years that I'd been on a group holiday and none of us had got into trouble!
Well on one of the last days of our trip, we found out that Princess Anne was coming to visit to find out a little bit more about what work the boating charity does to help people, i think as they were going to receive a donation or something.
We were educated prior to her coming that we should address her properly and call her 'Maam' etc.

Unknown to Princess Anne, the plan was that we'd all be sat around the table on the boat when she arrived, and we'd have the map of the sea out and little plastic models of the things you have in the sea to direct the boats and stuff.
We'd actually already cover all of that but it looked good and educational for when she arrived.


We knew when she was coming because her security team came and had a look around first before she then stepped down onto the boat and we made a circle whilst she stood and spoke.
She asked about the work that the boating charity did as well as the work of the Connection at St Martin's in which volunteers replied back and explained.

She then proceeded to ask each of us in the homeless group one by one about why we were homeless and where we were from. It was obvious from where I was sat that I'd be one of the last people she would ask, but by halfway through I couldn't wait because everyone had seemed so timid and a little bit starstruck or something with her as they quietly ended their answers with 'Maam' etc.


But I wanted to make a little moment that I thought might be a little bit special or something. It was obvious that a lot of her public meetings must have been like this. In my head I thought 'Her name isn't Maam, it's Anne!'
I couldn't help but feel a little bit sorry for how it must be to live so much of your life meeting people and there being this automatic unnatural power balance. Surely she'd love someone to just get on a level with her, and even maybe ask her something about herself.
'I can't wait for my turn' I thought.


She then got round to me and and asked me about myself in which I replied I used to be a runaway but now I'm 16 and waiting for a place to come up in a hostel.
Now it was my chance to break the ice and give her chance to be in a normal average day-to-day situation.
I put my hands together and looked in her eyes.
"So where you from then Ann? Hows life for you at the minute?"

It could have been perceived as a dig if taken the wrong way due to her coming from an extremely privileged background, but she knew that it was completely from the heart.
People in the room gasped as I said it, personally I don't know why because it seemed quite a human thing to do.
In fact I think her eyes lit up a bit which felt like mission accomplished as she began pondering and struggling to think of where in the country she was actually from whilst laughing about it a little.
"I guess I'm sort of from no-mans-land I suppose" she replied.

It was nice to witness the dynamics change from everyone acting all 'proper' to just being in a genuine conversation.
My little mission was complete I think.
I think she was surprised about me calling her just 'Ann' but I hope it triggered some humble memories. She never had a go at me

I just thought I'd share that little story for the virtual scrapbook like. :)


Through The Connection at St Martins-in-the-Fields I was then a week or so later refereed to a homeless hostel down in Vauxhall.
Around a year later I met a bunch of squatters and stuff but what I didn't know was that someone from the day centre that had been working with me had put me on a waiting list for a flat, and so when I was around 20 years old I had a flat in Dalston, Hackney.
Huge thanks again to The Connection at St Martins for that, just a small example of some of the great work you've done for many of us.


Thanks for reading.


Check out The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Field's EMERGENCY HOT WEATHER APPEAL at the link below.
https://www.connection-at-stmartins.org.uk/news-item/emergency-hot-weather-appeal/

They are also hosting special 'breakfasts in the square' at St Martin's which is a great way to support a fantastic charity.
Find out more at https://www.connection-at-stmartins.org.uk/get-involved/communal-breakfast/


Also if you don't know about my crowdfunder to help relocate to my new role working with young people in care, I've extended it for a few more days so there's still plenty of chance to get signed paperbacks, hardbacks and raffle tickets to win books.
https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/careexperiencedsocialworker



New Twitter account and my crowdfunder.

Had a few problems with sour personalities and trolls lately. Long story.  I'm unable to access my Poems From a Runaway account so now I'm asking people to follow me instead at @fractalmoon1 until or if I can ever get things back to normal.

Apart from that all good though.
A few talks coming up with fostering agencies etc which is great and still looking forward to my new role down south working with young people in care.

You can help support me with supporting my accommodation out near to where I'll be working by grabbing a signed paperback or hardback of Poems From a Runaway on my crowdfunder at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/careexperiencedsocialworker

I'm also doing raffle tickets for both signed colour paperbacks and hardbacks for a 1-in-15 chance of winning copies of them.
A massive thanks to each and every one of you that helps in any way to fund or share the crowdfunder....massive love.

Ben.

my main website is at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway

SPOILER ALERT - a poem from 'Welcome to Leatheton'

Similarly to when I posted up another poem from my new upcoming eBook which is out on July 1st, a conversation came up on my twitter feed which reminded me of my book.

I won't say what it's about as yet as I don't want to spoil it for you....so here goes!

( 'Welcome to Leatheton' is available as an eBook to read on your kindle, laptop, phones and is available to pre-order before July 1st for £1.99 at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/)




Barry


I wake up in my shelter, open my eyes and lift up my head.
The sounds of the town’s morning continue to play around me.
I can hear buses go past, and a few people talking.

I shake the dust off of my bare feet, the dust that gathers in this place that I sleep.
Sure I’m homeless , but that’s just how it is.
I guess that I’m just free.


Not that I want a single persons sympathy, but there’s none here on this street anyway,
for someone like me, with a half-cocked eye and one a leg that don’t work.

I guess that it’s time to hit the main street, somehow find something to eat.
All I ate yesterday were a few bits of bread.
And I’ve got that starving feeling now in me.


It’s eight forty-five in the morning.
 I’ll always get some food with so many people around.
And I don’t worry about my pride, when people see me inside of the bins.
One or two might look, but in general none of them ever really notice me.

Sometimes I’ll find a leftover sandwich, jump out of the bin and get out of sight.
Thanking god for my blessings, whilst I take a bite.

Sometimes I just stand and eat it there on the street, without a care in the world about what anyone thinks.
But I know really that it’s better to be somewhere else, when the people around just won’t let me be.

They walk towards me like hawks, but at least I know that I will survive.
Just no respect, it’s nearly always me mainly moving for them, even whilst I’m sat there eating.
Except for the few that still throw me something when they see me around.

But I still always get by every day - and then I fly,
to the tower block that’s just up the road.
I land on the windowsill of the old man with the plants.
He always feeds me and he’s now named me Barry.







Doodles in the book by Neil Paterson at

Spoiler Alert! Children's home poem from 'Welcome to Leatheton'

Hello :)

My new eBook 'Welcome to Leatheton'  is a pretty mixed bag. (You can find out more about it at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/blog/this-is-leatheton-my-new-ebook-series )

Anyway... I thought as most of my Twitter followers are social workers giving a voice to young people in care, that they might want to read the children's home poem from the book.

I'd love to know what you all think.

'Welcome to Leatheton' is out in digital format July 1st and is available to pre-order for £1.99 at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/





The children’s home



Up at the top of St Peters Road, a set of conifers will hide,
the entrance of the children’s home, that has eight kids inside.
There’s Justin, Sarah, Alfie, Robert, Crystal, Diane, Jax.
And Shane has gone to see his Mum, in three days he’ll come back.


One day there were three youngsters, inside of the home’s  car.
On their way to then go to, the next town’s cinema.
The two staff had just quickly gone, to search for their lost keys.
“Has someone took them once again?
If you have then give them please!” 


But no-one had taken the car keys, the staff were soon to see.
But where they had parked up the car, the parking space was free.
They heard some voices shouting loud, the staff ran up the street.
Robert, Diane and Jax jumped out, but Alfie’s in the driving seat.


The car is rolling down the road, he knows of his mistake -
after thinking it was funny, to let off the handbrake.
And push the car on to the road, and send it rolling down.
But now he’s hit a parked up car, and feels like a right clown.


The owner then came rushing out, and then soon called the police.
“We’re bloody sick of this kids-home, and we all just want some peace.”
They had complained to the Leatheton Gazette, of their frustrating pain.
But half of the stories weren’t the full truth, and the kid’s home often gets the blame.


They had started a petition, and wrote to their MP.
The total people that had signed it were no more than twenty-three.
It was obvious the neighbours there, were kicking up a rage.
“Children’s home gang trouble” was the headline of the front page.

They’d written in the article so much that wasn’t true.
Such as burglaries and break-ins, and drug dealing from there too.
 A social worker called Linda said “Look this just ain’t right.
We’ve got to show people the truth, and put up a good fight.”


So then she hired the Rugby club, for a whole Saturday.
Laid on some entertainment, and put on a big buffet.
Invited all the local neighbours, to meet the kids living at the home.
It was the first time ever in this town, a glimpse of their lives was shown.


The neighbours had soon come to learn, the stories from in care.
And the feelings of abandonment and the trauma in some there.
Abid Ali offered jobs, fixing phones once they’d turned sixteen.
Diane’s been offered to try out for the young women’s rugby team.


 The day went on from ten up until six, a refreshing day in Leatheton for sure.
Now Robert, Sarah and Jax have all found local foster homes,

and the petition don’t exist anymore. 



(End)




Copyright Ben Westwood 2019



https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/





Update on my stuff. My new eBook series, poetry comp for young people in care and more.





Poems From a Runaway


If you're one of the few reading this that doesn't know anything about Poems From a Runaway (like hello, where have you been the last year?) then everything you need to know about my childhood story of being a frequent runaway and living on the streets of London can be found at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway

You can also purchase signed high-quality colour versions of the book at the 'My Book' section there too as well as read my blog which features my journey of being a self-published and debut author.
It is also available as an eBook and in paperback directly from Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350

I've now also added a wholesale option which currently ends September (But I'll see what I can do to get it going for longer)
10 colour copies for £105 or 50 for £510. Including fees and delivery.

 These will be unsigned as will be shipped direct from book suppliers. For inquiries about this contact benwestwooduk@gmail.com

To purchase wholesale orders at a discounted price visit my page at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/blog/wholesale-page-for-bulk-orders




International Poetry Competition For Children In Care.

If you've not already heard - I'm running an international poetry competition open to both young people in care and care leavers.
It's a great way to help keep both young people and adults creative. Entries for all categories are to be submitted ONLY by a registered social worker /support worker.
For more information about the competition including prizes and how to enter visit https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/blog/2019-international-poetry-competition-for-children-in-care

Last entries by September 1st 2019. (benwestwooduk@gmail.com)



'This is Leatheton' eBook series.

If you like my poetry stuff, then I'm writing a series called 'This Is Leatheton'.
The first book is titled 'Welcome to Leatheton' and is out on July 1st.
You can be among the first this gritty, real and raw yet comedic story-in-verse fiction novella.
You can pre-order it for £1.99 at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/

You can find out more about it at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/blog/my-new-fiction-project-will-still-feature-the-care-system-and-runaways-pre-order-today


And finally...

If you're an avid novel reader, then check out Jane Corry's exciting new thriller called 'I looked Away' which comes out on June 27th and is available to both purchase and pre-order at https://amzn.to/2Joag3C

Jane is an award-winning established author. As well as being a journalist working as a writer-in-residence in a high security prison for men - she also was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University and is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and My Weekly magazine.

Back when she was writing 'I looked Away' , a shared some of my experiences of being homeless with Jane and she has featured a poem written by myself inside the book.




Contact


The best place to currently find me at the moment is over on Twitter @PoemsFaRunaway
You can also email me for formal requests at benwestwooduk@gmail.com


My NEW fiction project will STILL feature the care system and runaways. Pre-order today.



'Welcome to Leatheton' Released on 1st July 2019 - £1.99 to pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/




It's been over a year and a half since I first published by childhood story 'in-verse' Poems From a Runaway', and before I continue I just want to say a huge thanks again to those mainly on Twitter (and a few over on Facebook also) for helping this book get to where it has.

Since self-publishing my stories about running away and sleeping rough in London as a child and teenager I've been to European Parliament, various social work conferences, done heaps of blogging and interviews and the highlight of this year was meeting hundreds of great souls at the recent Care Experienced Conference in Liverpool.


Anyway without yapping on too much, I've got a new project on the go, an eBook, and I'm asking as many of you as possible to pre-order it to help me get a bit of recognition in the rankings on Amazon.
It's cheap as chips at just £1.99 to pre-order, and is well worth the bang for you eBook!
If I can get 100 people in a month to pre-order it, it will be a job well done - so although I'm really proud to present what I think is a great little book full of soul, a really big thanks to any of you that pre-order this for it's release on 1st July 2019.


I'm pleased to say that it's quite a similar format to Poems From a Runaway, in the sense that it's heaps of mini-stories weaved into one big story which is Leatheton town.

There is also a children's home poem which is based from personal experiences of living in residential care as a teenager myself.
Oddly enough, a month or so after writing this a similar real-life story happened in Stoke-On-Trent where the neighbours petitioned against the opening of a children's home.

There is also a character in my book series called Jack, whom is seven years old in the first book and lives with his mother whom is an alcoholic. There is a story in the book about when he runs away.

There's heaps more in there as you discover the characters and stories of Leatheton.
You'll also develop a relationship with Derry the dog, whom also weaves in and out of the series.

Homelessness, Mental Health, Relationships, Struggles, Randomness and Comedy.
Just like in 'Poems From a Runaway', it's all their again.

If the eBook campaign is a success, I'll publish the 'This Is Leatheton' series in paperback upon release of the last edition.
In the meantime, it's available for your phones, laptops, Kindle's and tablets in eBook format for just £1.99 and will likely save a few trees in the process.


Big Love.

Pre-order 'Welcome to Leatheton' for £1.99 at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/
You won't be charged until the eBook is released on 1st July 2019.





Poems From a Runaway - A True Story is also available both as an eBook (£3.49) and in paperback (£14.69)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350
You can also read samples of Poems From a Runaway at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/sample-poems

My new eBook series 'This is Leatheton' coming soon. Available for pre-order

Release date - 1st July 2019
You can pre-order the 1st eBook of the series 'Welcome to Leatheton' for just £1.99
at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/




If you enjoyed the poetry reading style of 'Poems From a Runaway - A True Story' , then you'll probably love this too. It's written and laid out similarly, just as gritty, down to earth and in it's own way - a chance to reflect on the different types of people in our society.
It's also a celebration of our diverse communities.
Hopefully some of the characters in this series will remind you of some people that you know.


Although it's a work of fiction, many real moments have inspired me to write 'Welcome to Leatheton' which will go on to be part of a book series called 'This is Leatheton'.


Where is Leatheton?

The fictional town of Leatheton is based approximately 30 miles from London, England.
It was once a bustling market town many, many years ago - but has since hit hard times over the last twenty-five years.
People still try their best to enjoy themselves here though, most of them anyway.
Still it has stories.The good, the bad and the ugly.


Read how a small dog becomes a national celebrity overnight, and what happens when some of the locals cause a fuss about their local children's home.

In all there are 33 poems in 'Welcome to Leatheton', and for less than the price of a coffee you can't go wrong, and you definitely get some bang for your eBook here.


 If you're one of the very first people to read my latest (and 2nd ever) book , then please do let me know what you think, by using the hashtags #Leatheton or #ThisIsLeatheton - as well as tagging me on Twitter @PoemsFaRunaway


This short series will be available exclusive on Amazon as an eBook (for laptops, phones, tablets etc), with plans to be released on paperback in the upcoming months.


Thanks to all those that help spread the word, and I really hope you enjoy my new work. :)
Big Love.


Out July the first.
Click the eBook cover to pre-order :) 



Official Announcement - From my upcoming book - a work of reality-based fiction - children's homes

I'm soon to release my book for pre-order. >>> https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07S6C8GCZ/
This is the first ever official announcement of it in fact. I'm not even going to reveal the name of it yet. (It's coming soon so keep your eyes on this blog)

Coincidentally, I wrote this piece of fiction around a month or two before the article about the children's home in Stoke-On-Trent being petitioned.
The similarities are uncanny,

I'd like to think I was a bit psychic but perhaps this actually goes to show how massive an issue it is, the stigma of children living in homes from fear-mongering neighbors eager to make a big issue out of it by using the press.

Please note that this story is not a representation of children in care in general, but somewhat inspired by some of my own personal experiences around twenty years ago.


Enjoy and look out for my official announcements in the upcoming days and weeks on my new short project which if you enjoy the first one, might even become a series.

Anyway.. Take care and let us know what you think! :)









The children’s home



Up at the top of St Peters Road, a set of conifers will hide,
the entrance of the children’s home, that has eight kids inside.
There’s Justin, Sarah, Alfie, Robert, Crystal, Diane, Jax.
And Shane has gone to see his Mum, in three days he’ll come back.


One day there were three youngsters, inside of the home’s  car.
On their way to then go to, the next town’s cinema.
The two staff had just quickly gone, to search for their lost keys.
“Has someone took them once again?
If you have then give them please!” 


But no-one had taken the car keys, the staff were soon to see.
But where they had parked up the car, the parking space was free.
They heard some voices shouting loud, the staff ran up the street.
Robert, Diane and Jax jumped out, but Alfie’s in the driving seat.


The car is rolling down the road, he knows of his mistake -
after thinking it was funny, to let off the handbrake.
And push the car on to the road, and send it rolling down.
But now he’s hit a parked up car, and feels like a right clown.


The owner then came rushing out, and then soon called the police.
“We’re bloody sick of this kids-home, and we all just want some peace.”
They had complained to the Leatheton Gazette, of their frustrating pain.
But half of the stories weren’t the full truth, and the kid’s home often gets the blame.


They had started a petition, and wrote to their MP.
The total people that had signed it were no more than twenty-three.
It was obvious the neighbours there, were kicking up a rage.
“Children’s home gang trouble” was the headline of the front page.

They’d written in the article so much that wasn’t true.
Such as burglaries and break-ins, and drug dealing from there too.
 A social worker called Linda said “Look this just ain’t right.
We’ve got to show people the truth, and put up a good fight.”


So then she hired the Rugby club, for a whole Saturday.
Laid on some entertainment, and put on a big buffet.
Invited all the local neighbours, to meet the kids living at the home.
It was the first time ever in this town, a glimpse of their lives was shown.


The neighbours had soon come to learn, the stories from in care.
And the feelings of abandonment and the trauma in some there.
Abid Ali offered jobs, fixing phones once they’d turned sixteen.
Diane’s been offered to try out for the young women’s rugby team.


 The day went on from ten up until six, a refreshing day in Leatheton for sure.
Now Robert, Sarah and Jax have all found local foster homes,
and the petition don’t exist anymore.


Coincidences, and children's home stigma

It's been an emotional night for me, an article about 221 residents petitioning against a children's home opening really riled me, so much stigma.

I urge everyone to VOTE YES to speak up for children in care to help change public perception if anything. https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/we-dont-want-troubled-kids-2780667

And then it hit me, I've recently written a fiction story as part of my upcoming book.
This is my first ever teaser of it.
Magical coincidences :)




The Children’s Home



Up at the top of St Peters Road, a set of conifers will hide,
the entrance of the children’s home, that has eight kids inside.
There’s Justin, Sarah, Alfie, Robert, Crystal, Diane, Jax.
And Shane has gone to see his Mum, in three days he will come back.


One day there were three kids inside of the parked kids home car.
On their way to then go to, the next town’s cinema.
The two staff had just quickly gone, to search for their lost keys.
“Has someone took them once again?
If you have then give them please!” 

But no-one had taken the car keys, the staff were soon to see.
But where they had parked up the car, the parking space was free.
They heard some voices shouting loud, the staff ran up the street.
Robert, Diane and Jax jumped out, but Alfie’s in the driving seat.

The car is rolling down the road, he knows of his mistake,
After thinking it was funny, to let off the handbrake.
And push the car on to the road, and send it rolling down.
But now he’s hit a parked up car, and feels a right clown.

The owner then comes rushing out, and then soon calls the police.
“We’re bloody sick of this kid’s home, and we all just want some peace.”
They had complained to the Leatheton Gazette, of their frustrating pain.
But half of the stories weren’t the full truth, and the kid’s home gets the blame.

They had started a petition, and wrote to their MP.
The total people that had signed it were no more than twenty-three.
It was obvious the neighbours there, were kicking up a rage.
“Children’s home gang trouble” was the headline of the front page.

They’d written in the article so much that wasn’t true.
Such as burglaries and break-ins, and a murder suspect too.
 A social worker called Lucille said “Look this just ain’t right.
We’ve got to show people the truth, and put up a good fight.”

So then she hired the Rugby club, for a whole Saturday.
Laid on some entertainment, and put on a big buffet.
Invited all the local neighbours, to meet the kids living at the home.
It was the first time ever in this town, a glimpse of their lives had been shown.

The neighbours had soon come to learn, the stories from in care.
And the feelings of abandonment and the trauma in some there.
Abid Ali offered jobs, fixing phones once they’d turned sixteen.
Diane’s been offered to try out for the young womens rugby team.

 The day went on from ten up until six, a refreshing day in Leatheton for sure.
Now Robert, Sarah and Jax have all found new foster homes,
And the petition don’t exist anymore.

(End) 


There will be a link to my upcoming book in the near future :) Peace and Love

International Poetry Competition 2019 update

Hello :)

The truth is, is that I'm actually really only writing this blog post because I've just spent the last forty five minutes going through my websites to find a photo I can use for my new 'Donate' button thumbnail address, for the main competition blog page over on my Wix website.

I'm not really one for selfies and Instagram and all that, but just before I carry on, and just for the sake of it, here's a photo of me back two years ago when I won two tickets to see Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschco back in 2017 and went along with my younger brother after entering a Facebook competition done by Lucozade.
It was my first ever time inside Wembley even thought when I was a runaway teenager I visited it and hung around a couple of times back in the days when they still had the twin towers outside.
Certainly not two words that are said in the same jest these days.




Right, now we've got the thumbnail photo out of the way, time to update you about my International Poetry Competition For Children In Care.

A while back I decided to launch a poetry competition for children in care.
The full details and information on how to enter  as well as prizes can be found at


Due to a high number of requests I've now added a category for care leavers. So for those working with young people having left the care system, this competition is now open to care leavers too.

It's a good suggestion to be fair, especially when you learn so much about yourself in hindsight having needed to process a lot of stuff.

The competition is free to enter for any child in care or care-leaver via a registered social worker or keyworker, and the closing date for entries is 1st September 2019.


Please consider supporting me by purchasing a signed colour copy or two of Poems From a Runaway using the paypal link below or by using the donate button at the bottom of the Wix blog page.

Thanks.

Ben Westwood.
Author of
Poems From a Runaway - A True Story





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Did you meet a young homeless East London boy in Walsall 20 years ago and take him to the pub?

I didn't write about this in Poems From a Runaway as it was a buried memory up until just over a year ago.

But when I was around 12 or 13, one time I'd actually ran off to London and one day caught a train to Walsall and had slept rough in a doorway there for a night or two.

I was actually spotted in a doorway by two men that noticed I was young, and when they asked me why I'd been sleeping rough I told them I was around 18 and spoke to them in a fake cockney accent and told them I was from Whitechapel in London and was homeless in Walsall.

They took me to the nearby pub and we played pool, and they let me sleep in the covered and warm hallway inside their block of flats.


I'd love to find these chaps again to say a massive thanks for the soul they shown me that night, and explain the real story.

If you're from Walsall or nearby, then please share this out on social media.
Massive thanks to those that do.


Ben Westwood

:)

Contact  - Benwestwooduk (at) gmail.com



THIS STORY WAS A BURIED MEMORY WHICH I'D FORGOTTEN ABOUT UNTIL AFTER SELF-PUBLISHING POEMS FROM A RUNAWAY.
YOU CAN GET THE BOOK DIRECTLY FROM AMAZON AT  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350

OR SIGNED COLOUR COPIES AVAILABLE FROM THE PAYPAL LINK BELOW.

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When child runaways are let down by the system

For those that don't already know much about me, from the age of ten up until I was sixteen I'd ran away from wherever I was then living around forty times.
Sure I had a load of tricks under my sleeve to help me stay undetected such as fake names and accents and taking different routes into London - but for some of those times I ran away I would be 'missing' sometimes for over six months without any communication with social workers.

I put the word 'Missing' in commas there because after some reflection on the whole thing, I'm not even sure if I really was.

OK so in my early London days at twelve years old living among the homeless in Whitechapel - I can understand how I slipped off the radar a little bit - and when I knew that social services and the police had found out I'd been hanging out around the Whitechapel area - I hadn't made it easier for them.
Already from the start I'd been calling myself 'Toby' and sporting a fake east end accent whilst claiming I was from the area.
In my mind back then, if the police had come into the local cafes asking around about a young lad from the West Midlands then it wouldn't bring the heat on me.

But once those days were over and I left the east end, although I'd been picked up by the police and taken back home a few times, still I'm surprised even to this day about how easy overall it was to stay undetected as a child runaway whilst being sat begging at the side of the road in places such as Green Park, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden.

By the time I was fourteen it had became obvious and apparent to me that I could roam and sleep rough in the west end at all hours of day or night and no-one would really bat an eyelid.
Even police officers that had previously taken me in and sent me back home had walked past me whilst I was sat begging on Piccadilly.
One of those 'Oh no I'm busted' moments - only to see him walk on as if he couldn't even remember me.
Perhaps he knew that I'd probably only run away back to the west end anyway.


For a good part of three years on and off, I would be passing through Piccadilly Circus and past the Eros statue at least three or four times a day and often hanging out there.
Why did nobody find me there? Even after the many times I'd been taken back and they knew I'd been sleeping rough and begging in the center of London.

Sure plenty of police had stopped me over my years in the west end, and before it finally sank in that nobody had really been searching for me there, I'd managed to get away from the police checks again using fake names and accents, and made up dates and places of birth.
But it shouldn't have happened.

In a way it was my own presumptions that had helped me stay under the radar even more.
In my earliest days in the west end at thirteen years old, when I'd been sat begging and saw police officers walking towards me - I thought surely a photo of me had gone around the station. But it seemed it never had, and not once during the many many police radio checks that I'd blagged through was there ever a sniff of hearing about a thirteen to fifteen year old runaway from the midlands possibly being in the area.

But even way before then, when I was going missing at ten, eleven, twelve years old it was no wonder I hadn't really been found by anyone for so long, as they'd been putting photos being put out of me from when I was much younger and with a different haircut.


For sure I have to take some responsibility for my own actions too, but come on - I was a kid.
Perhaps if I'd felt at any point that people wanted me found, then who knows, perhaps it would have reshaped my mindset a little.

But whether it's 1998 or 2019, no young person should be able to be so hidden in plain sight, missing from there foster parents or children's home and be able to get away with being a full time beggar and rough sleeper.
Sure I was a handful, and costing social services a lot of money in secure escorts every time I was caught - which quickly changed to me visiting Westminster City Hall to collect a travel warrant if I ever wanted to come back to the kids home.
But in what is known as the most CCTV'd up part of the country and with so many police officers around back then - how on earth did I get away with it for so long.

Mad that it can really even happen ay.
I'm glad that I've just written this.
Something for those helping to find missing children to think about.
Thanks for reading.

Ben.

You can find out more info about my book at
 https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway




Being a rough sleeper in the west end from 13 years old.

I actually spent my 13th birthday around Victoria station when I was sleeping rough at the steps of the Apollo Theatre.
No doubt at night I made my way into what was then a recently opened 24-hour internet cafe across the road.

But as I explain in my book , I soon moved on from Victoria after personally discovering the more shadier aspects of living on the streets - and some of the risks I faced as a child/young teen runaway sleeping rough in London.


I then spent a few days or weeks sleeping all across the west end until I had decided to settle around the Green Park / Piccadilly area.
Although no child or young teenager should be living on the streets, I certainly could have chosen worse places, and the reason I had decided to settle down around Green Park was because of it's general feeling of safety.

Sure I still had people try to push drugs onto me, people offering money for sex and I was even robbed whilst laying down inside my sleeping bag by older middle-aged men... but still I'd felt safer there than being around the other areas of the west end where crack and heroin were rife.

I was skittish in my own way I guess until I'd discovered the day centre's a year or so later and started to make more friends.
But I think making new friends was what had kept me around Green Park anyway having being befriended by the nearby Evening Standard sellers and the lady working in the nearby Mercedes showroom whilst I was gouching on the steps of the tube station after hardly sleeping for months.

Those early days right before I met them were pretty dire... although I'd already learned to get a nights kip by making a cardboard box shelter - I think after what had happened to me in Victoria I generally felt unsafe sleeping out so would stay awake for so long that I'd often be falling asleep on train station steps whilst hallucinating from the sleep deprivation.

I'd mainly up until that point being getting by by pulling off my 'I need to get home which is miles away' scam outside the train stations. But after getting lifted by the undercover British Transport police it had started to put me off a bit.
Up until Green Park I hadn't discovered the homeless day centre's, soup runs and all that - and was only really begging when at my utter most desperate and hungry.

But once I settled around the Green Park area, it sort of became my sanctuary.
In my own way I enjoyed it, seeing my mates at the newspaper and flower stall and chatting to the same people that I saw every day.
Having the park right opposite me seemed somewhat a bit of a blessing considering the situation that I'd found myself in.
Even though I was sleeping in the doorway on Piccadilly, I was still able to join in with groups of people in the park that were playing football.
A rescued part of my youth so to speak.


By that time I was spending huge amounts of time in London without being caught and my doorway opposite Piccadilly was now somewhat my home.
When the weather wasn't too good or in the early mornings my chill-out space and washing facilities would be the nearby Starbucks which isn't there anymore.
The staff in there had started to get to know me a little in a way and would offer me the odd free coffee and drop me off a little something on their way home when they saw me in the doorway.


And of course, how could I forget the beautiful and brilliant family from Plantation in Florida.
A truly warm and magical moment throughout my times on Piccadilly and one of the events that humbles me that despite my own stories, things could have been so much worse there.
There were some truly magical souls, from all walks of life - such as the woman living in the nearby hotel residence that used to play scrabble with me on the side of the street, and Leah the hairdresser from Australia that invited me to come and live with her mates in Cricklewood.

And of course Matt Willis and James Bourne from the band Busted whom I remember taking me in off the streets one night to jam and chat with the lads.
James had given me his number and unknown to him that I was actually a runaway - he offered me to go on tour with the band.
Not that I would have passed through the security checks or managed to pull it all off, but one day I tried to call but the number had got soggy in my pocket and I couldn't see what I was dialing.
Some things are just not meant to be, but it was great to see them a year or so later when on the telly with a set of guitars and smashing it onstage.
I did indeed have a little chuckle and was to glad to know that they had made it.


Of course, there's much better ways to live your life than by sleeping on the side of a road.
Sometimes by doorway would be taken, but I was never one to mark my territory and there's plenty more doorways about.

At 33 years old now, I guess it's strange to think that for so long I slept among the sounds of footsteps, street-sweepers and passing traffic.
But however grim it sounds, I knew I'd be safer there than around Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road or Soho.


Anyhow, I'd just thought I'd share a bit of personal self-reflection about it all anyway.
If you've not already read Poems From a Runaway then you can read some samples of my book at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/sample-poems

Signed copied available from my Wix site and it's also available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350










Discovering soup kitchens at 12 years old.

Here's a photo of a place I knew back then as 'The Dellow Centre' which is now called Providence Row. It's a little different to how it used to be back then in the 90's.
My friend Joanne one day said "Come on we're going to a soup kitchen".... at 12 years old and coming from Staffordshire the words 'Soup Kitchen' were alien to me back then.


It has a very different feel in there these days, as time progresses.
I actually back in there one day about ten years ago whilst squatting area, and it was nothing like how I'd remembered it yet they still continue to help the east end's homeless get food, clothes and shelter.

As I explain in my book, back then in 90's there were rows of London's old age pensioners from back in the war and Whitechapels homeless population.

After my time being kidnapped and all that, I used to come here when I slept in the west end before I'd discovered the other day centers such as London Connections.
I could turn up at 2am, press the buzzer and they'd give me a blanket, socks, toiletries and a cup of tea.
A great service for homeless people actually as almost all the day centres and practical support services throughout the UK are usually only open for a handful of hours each day at the most.

I often have to mention this, but for anyone thinking "Why are they giving stuff to a runaway kid" then please understand I was a good blagger and could even fool police and get through radio checks by the time I was 12, often sporting a fake accent.


You can find read some of my book at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/sample-poems

For more info about Providence Row visit https://www.providencerow.org.uk/

The first time that I ever slept rough in London

I'm just going through some of my photos from when I went to London to shoot them for the book.

Here's a photo of the first ever place in London that I'd ever slept rough at 12 years old after my friend Joanne had been placed into a secure unit. (Where the metal fence is)
It's Wentworth street which is just off Brick Lane in London's east end.


I'd be lying to say that I wasn't a bit scared to be honest.
Although I'd already been running away and sleeping rough across the West Midlands since the age of ten, sleeping rough at Brick Lane was a completely different experience.


I'd already been in the area a while after spending at least six months constantly running away to London and getting caught - but I never needed to sleep rough when I was with my friend Joanne. She always knew a place for us to go.
I'd got to know a lot of the local sex workers and drug users around the Whitechapel and Aldgate area, but in the late hours of the night until early morning it didn't help the place not feel any less shadier.

When Joanne got placed into secure unit (which was what she actually needed for her own safety), I was then out on my own on the London streets.
Over the coming years I soon learned the ways of the streets though.


You can find out more about my book at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway/sample-poems

Poems From a Runaway ebook Free to download between Friday 22nd - Tuesday 26th February

**Note, this previously 'weekend-only' promotion has now been extended so that organisations, non-profits and others can now download my eBook for free until the early hours of Wednesday morning.**


Usually £3.49 in eBook format or £14.69 in paperback on Amazon. 


 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07C96RFLP/

Page count -
Amazon paperback - 323 pages
Colour copies from website - 350 pages




If you've somehow found this page, or it has found you - then a big hello from me :)


For those that don't already know, Poems From a Runaway is a collection of stories (most in verse) about my childhood as a child and young teenage runaway, going through the care system in Staffordshire, UK - and some of my many memories of living and sleeping rough in London's west end from the age of twelve.

As well as the stories inside my folded flyers, people might also find some more on this blog (see the sidebar) as well as on my new website at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway





For those of you that might want to still read my book 'Poems From a Runaway' but still haven't had the chance to have a ganders yet, then I'll be giving away ebook downloads between  Friday 22nd - Tuesday 26th

You can download the ebook from my amazon page at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350 and if you are signed up to Kindle Unlimited then it's already free for you to download.


After spending time writing to various publishers that seemed to get put off once they'd heard it was in poetry, I decided to self-publish the book in various formats with a little help from friends via crowdfunding and got in touch with as many fostering, missing children and social work organisations as one man could make possible.

Since then, and despite it still not reaching a wider audience due to this being a pretty much one-man-band affair, it's been read at European Parliament alongside missing children's charities and MEP's - and at a number of social work conferences to those interested in runaways and missing children, child psychology and trauma and children/young people living in care.
(You can find out more about all that on this blog as well as the blog on my wix website)

Downloads and orders of the book though have largely always been few and far between, so I'm hoping to get a few more of you to know about the book and that a few of you will make use of the free download this next coming weekend and consider letting myself and others know what you think by leaving a review.


I also sell higher-quality colour copies from my new website which I'll also personally sign and post off for to you at

 https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway

Take care :)




Poems From a Runaway - the story of the story so far.

https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350


A year on since self-publishing my 350-page story 'in verse' (323pages) on the Amazon version) and I'm still out and about spreading the word about it.
I'm really pleased now that I took a year out from almost everything to write it, and the countless hours of promoting myself through thousands of emailed press-releases, social media set-ups and reaching out to organisations haven't gone unnoticed.

OK, so I've only sold 151 copies including ebook on Amazon so far bringing the total somewhere around the 250 mark including my signed high-quality paperbacks.
But it's been a much brighter journey than one of simply selling a ton of books - sure, more people reading my book would be ace. I'm sort of glad this journey hasn't been at all as easy as I once expected, but what has come with it has for me being amazing.
I've met many inspiring and caring people since my self-publishing journey began, and sharing my childhood story has led to me being invited to 'the other side' by social workers to get a much deeper view of how many social workers really do want to understand more about the deeper aspects of the people they often find themselves working with and supporting.


After reaching out to missing children's charities and fostering organisations in the UK and across the world via email and twitter, I was invited to write a couple of blogs, one for the charity Missing People whom have been doing some great work over recent years.

I was then invited to European Parliament by the charity Missing Children EU to attend a conference on Runaways, which was actually my first ever time abroad at the age of thirty-three years old.
As well as reading some of my story and sharing my experiences, thoughts and feelings from the persective of the-then young me I also learned a lot about how other children across Europe went missing and was glad to see people internationally were giving a voice and looking out to help runaway children (Continued below video)



Shortly after my visit to European Parliament in Brussels, I then shared my childhood experiences and read some of my book to a group of over thirty social workers, social work students and foster carers at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge alongside To The Moon And Back Fostering whom are also based in Cambridge.
(Continued Below)














Not too long after I shared my experiences and gave another book reading to social workers in North Somerset as part of their social work course.
I also contributed to a couple radio interviews with BBC radio 5 and Cambridge local radio as well as being featured in a magazine called 'Become'.  Those care-leavers like me that were in care around twenty years ago might remember it as 'Who Cares?' magazine.

It was nice to be invited once again by To The Moon and Back Fostering to share my experiences, thoughts and feelings once again at a conference on childhood trauma.


I then managed to successfully crowdfunder enough money to get a more finely-tuned second edition in print before attending a safeguarding conference in Crewe with social workers from around the country.

I've just got back from multi-agency conference in Bexley where I saw an effort by social workers once again to understand more about the deeper aspects of what affects young people and families.

The journey certainly isn't over yet, and although I want to get writing another book - I'm keen to keep sharing my experiences as well as the learning I also get from attending such events.

You can find out more about my book as well as purchase high-quality signed and colour copies from my new website at https://benwestwood.wixsite.com/runaway
You can also save money on delivery costs by grabbing an Amazon createspace version at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350 (ebook also available for £3.49)

You can read some samples of the book also by clicking HERE

Feel free to contact me also at benwestwooduk@gmail.com

Cheerio for now, below is a  recent video of me busking in Glastonbury with a funky version of John Lennon's 'Imagine'.
All the best and stay warm.

Ben Westwood.