• Ben Westwood

Meeting more of the 'Who Cares? Scotland' team and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon

Updated: Oct 15, 2020


Back in March it was great to meet hundreds of care-leavers and social workers at the 2019 Care Experienced Conference in Liverpool.

It was great to meet some of the 'Who Cares? Scotland' team whom gave me a warm welcome and I enjoyed some insightful discussion about ideas of positive change for care-experienced children and young people. Who Cares? Scotland is a national voluntary organisation, working with care experienced young people and care leavers across Scotland.



Many of us stayed in touch after what was a vibrant and wholesome event, and recently I was invited by them to attend a 'Poetry Salon' (A poetry reading event) that they had organised with The First Minister of Scotland - Nicola Sturgeon.


Most of us each read a poem written by ourselves from our childhood and the First Minister read us out a deep poem that she'd chosen.

I chose to read a piece from my 'Poems From a Runaway' book called 'The Coaches From Glasgow' which (like all of the poems in the book) is a memoir from my childhood and early teens, specifically about the times I was around twelve to thirteen years old sleeping rough around London Victoria.

I'll attach the poem, and some of the others, towards the end of this blog post.


The poems were all pretty inspiring actually, and it was great to be around others with such creative yet meaningful messages. I do hope the young person I spoke with that wrote one about the cool schoolteacher that helped guide them - get's it out to teachers. I really loved that one.

Another poem also gave me tingles as I heard it read out - quotes and references to young people being like 'ships' sailing through storms.


Only the night before I'd written three-quarters of a blog post with so many similar references, and had only published it online moments before arriving in Scotland.

Mad one!

Just kickin it up at the First Minister of Scotland's house and sharing poetry


It was great to meet her, and prior to that I'd only seen her on the telly a few times, and I'm not too clued up about Scottish politics.

I was pleasantly surprised about how genuinely engaged and happy to be there with us, and I actually had a bit of a laugh with her and it felt like you were there chilling with your aunt or foster mum or someone.

I don't think she'd mind me saying that, after a fellow care-leaver expressed if they had the power they'd create a care-experienced minister.

There were was no-one filming and no-one writing down what she was saying.


"Well I'd like to consider that to be me" was her reply.

Top woman!


Care Leavers Army - Scottish Regiment HQ.

Of course I brought along a copy of Poems From a Runaway to give to the First Minister of which I'm sure she'll thoroughly enjoy ;)



Nicola Sturgeon is now the proud owner of an obviously legendary masterpiece.


T'was quite nice to be among the vibrant energy and passion of everyone there including Kenny Murray, Jeanette Miller and David Grimm.

Scotland like all places may have it's troubles, but it's great to see such a light being shed on the lives of care experienced people and how we can help prevent others falling behind in society from disadvantaged backgrounds.



A secret committee makes plans for the war on stigma


Lovely to finally meet Jeanette Miller - oozing creative and one-woman 'special force' unit

Great to catch up again with David Grimm. Master craftsman of poetry and squadron leader of the smiley batallion

More of the Who Cares? Scotland team. Glasgow's alternative to the Spice Girls



Great to catch up with Duncan Dunlop again near the Edinburgh Fringe Festival


POEMS

The Coaches From Glasgow

By Ben Westwood

(From the book 'Poems From a Runaway' available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350 )


Walking around Victoria, you’d always meet a Scot,

Who’d been in London for a few days, and the rucksack that he’d got,

Was so big and heavy, but his health did seem alright,

He’d be happy and be chatty, it seemed that he was bright.

We’d hang out a day or two, share our knowledge of the street.

He’d teach me how to steal stuff I’d show him where to eat.

Then after a day or two, we’d go on our way.

But so very often, I’d see them another day.


Perhaps it was a few weeks, a month or maybe two,

I’d see them sat down begging, and I’d say “Hi, how are you?”

But they seemed a different person, and they had no time to speak,

A bag of bones and lost his spark, it seemed that he’d gone weak.


And that is what I think had taught me, that heroin weren’t good,

It sucks your soul right down a hole, not feeling like you should.

I’d tried to say hello again, but they wanted rid of me,

To beg the money to go and score, so often I would see.


And then I wouldn’t really see them, I weren’t sure where they’d go.

Some move around or change their lives, or maybe back to Glasgow.

But I just hope that in time, that some went back to who was here,

Before being a slave and wasting life, just for the crack and gear.




The Bold

By David Grimm


In times of trouble, uncertainty grows.

People struggle to smile, or stand – heads tall.


Once we were bold, beholden to none.

We were hardened, loving, encouraging folks of passions and fate.

Fate of your own, no the thing that ye gain.

We were bewildered by hate, Empowered by grace,

The Passionate race with friendships by spades.

A land built atop the most welcomin’ sights.


- Callanish

- Mallaig

- The green northern lights and the wales in oor tides.

Most seldom of all…


- A rare tcheuchter smile!


Bold in its own, a land that is great.

people to landscape to borders and gates,

Clanships deep rooted by family trees.



All this was gone in a loss of our grace.

No, not lost but hidden away!

I ask that my kin stay true to the pace,

Fraught we may be but no longer astray.


The chieftain of mammie’s will coury us hame,

Then stand once again, in the lands of our Bold

And the home of oor brave.






The time came

By Jeanette Miller    

The time came to say farewell To the staff that cared for me well But we will meet again With caring hearts gained

The time came to meet again With the caring people that I gained But I will not forget The tears that flowed down my face At a reasonable pace

The came to remember the good And all the positive faces that stood But I will remember That they understood

The time came to forget the bad And all The times I was sad But I just wanted to tell you About the time I had But this poem was made not to make u sad

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