Two Scots teenagers hope to change society’s view on kids in care with new play based on their life

JONNY WILSON and Daryl Shaw feel they are judged unfairly by society because of their unsettled lives spent in care.

THEY are the forgotten children of 21st century Scotland – kids such as Jonny Wilson, who has been in and out of children’s homes and social work support for most of his life.

His pal Daryl Shaw has appeared before more than 40 children’s panels since he was six years old.

Both have been tossed around the Scottish care system and feel they’ve been judged unfairly by society.

But after taking part in a groundbreaking drama project with the help of one of Scotland’s rising stars, Jonny and Daryl might make people change their minds about kids in care and build a new life for themselves in the process.

They have been joined by Game Of Thrones actor Daniel Portman for a new play, Please Listen, which the lads created from their experiences.

Jonny and Daryl, both 16, have been performing it across Scotland for social work policymakers and they’ve had an incredible impact.

The project was organised by drama teacher Gavin Sinclair at the Kibble Education and Care Centre in Paisley, after he was asked to come up with a production that examined care issues from a child’s perspective.

Gavin brought in his former star pupil Daniel, who appeared in the Scottish-based films Outcast and The Angels’ Share, as well as HBO fantasy series Game Of Thrones, to help the teenagers stage the play.

As well as its impact on care workers, Gavin said the play had a therapeutic effect on Jonny and Daryl, who  were at last able to address issues from their past that had continued to haunt them.

“I’ve been coming in here one day a week from Reid Kerr College, where I work full time, for four years and have seen these boys through to fifth year,” he said.

“I’ve see how hard they have worked at drama and how they have developed. So when I was asked to put on a play about kids in care for a conference on the subject, these boys were the only choice.

“I’m doing a National Certificate course with them and they have both shown they want to take their hobby and turn it into a career.

“I didn’t realise just how much they would put into it. They were both amazing. At first, when the boys were bringing up the kind of things they had been through, Jonny was very upset because it was bringing up a lot of painful memories that he had forgotten from when he was younger. It was all a bit teary.

“So I thought maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea, but he worked it out, and had the idea of doing it through a character instead of playing himself.”

Jonny, from Balloch, added: “It was hard dealing with a lot of things and they were getting to me, so I made up a character called Bush, to help cope with telling stories from the past, to say things I couldn’t say myself.”

Daryl, from Glasgow, added: “All you ever hear is people talking at us, they never talk to us. I wanted to talk about children’s panels because I have been in front a lot of them. I don’t like the review meetings. You sit in front of people you don’t really know and it’s like talking to strangers.”

He believes kids in care attract a bad reputation for no reason.

“People have a real problem when they hear about being in care,” he said. “Nine out of ten times, its not the children’s fault, but we get the blame.

“I’ve had friends whose mum and dads found out I was in care and told them not to hang about with me, thinking I have probably done bad things, and they never listen to the reasons why I was in care. We’re not different from any other children apart from that we are in care and are under supervision orders.”

The 10-minute play centres around four people acting out scenes from the lads’ experiences of care. Their only props are four chairs and a black bin bag, which symbolises the bag Jonny was once presented with, containing all his worldly belongings.

His and Daryl’s powerful message about how their unsettled lives have made it hard for them to grow up has made a big impression.

Kausar Heaney, from Glasgow City Council’s Leaving Care Services, said: “The play is a brilliant way of presenting young people’s experiences and it will have an impact on all those viewing it. I am confident that it will help to improve the way we work.”

Jonny and Daryl are not allowed to go into details about their family backgrounds, save to say they were chaotic. But while they can’t discuss much of their past, they are very forthright when it comes to the present and their future.

Jonny said: “The main message for me is to not judge a book by its cover.”

Glasgow-born actor Daniel Portman was both moved and inspired by the Please Listen project.

He said: “I would love to keep working with the guys here, even if it’s just coming in to talk once in a while, because I feel this is a place where I can help out and do some good work. I’ve enjoyed it more than working with other people and they have real talent.

“You can’t fully appreciate their lives unless you have been through them yourself. I haven’t pushed my luck and asked the boys about it because it could be uncomfortable for them, but obviously a lot of it is very sad and it does make me angry to hear about they way people have been treated.”

You can find out more at . Season three of Game Of Thrones is on Sky Atlantic later in the year.