Stories Shared with Amanda Knowles MBE

When Janet Rich, founder of The Care Leavers Foundation, approached me about running a writing event for care leavers during National Care Leavers Week 2017, I jumped at the opportunity.  My business partner and I were long-time supporters of The Care Leavers Foundation and the year previously, at Janet’s request, I had organised the National Care Leavers Week Conference.

I had, by this time, already met Rosie Canning, co-organiser of Your Life Your Story 2017 and 2018.  Rosie was raising funds to finance her research into the representation of orphans and care experience in literature.  I made a small donation to her cause and suggested she apply to The Care Leavers Foundation for a grant as I had wrongly assumed her to be a young person, not a woman near to my own age who had lived a life beyond the care system.  Our separate journeys had brought us to this meeting place in 2015 and as soon as we began talking, I knew we were on the same page…. Go to Orphans & Care Experience in Literature. .https://careleaversinfiction.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/stories-shared-with-amanda-knowles/

 

National Diversity Awards

Team YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY  2019 will be shining a light on the event at the National Diversity Awards in Liverpool on Friday 20th September. The event is supported by ITV and will be live streamed on https://www.youtube.com/ITVNews from 9pm. It was an opportunity, not to be missed, to raise awareness and promote this unique free event that brings care experienced adults and caregivers together with published authors, poets and exhibited artists in a ‘safe’ space to learn the techniques of storytelling through the arts. Whether writing for cathartic reasons, to share with family or to be published YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY unleashes the power of relationships and the untold story… in the famous words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater burden than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Participants at YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY 2019 will be welcomed by care experienced, Rosie Canning, author and researcher from Oxford University. The programme includes an audience with David Jackson author of the first YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY inspired book  ‘Oi You..”, workshops with Artifacts and Taz Trevorrow and a masterclass delivered by award winning poet Joelle Taylor.

 

My Care Family

Different yet the same

Individual and unique

Voices shared by many

Empower and embrace

Respect for one another

Sharing our humanity

Inspiring never tiring

Together we will

Yield peace in society

 

Amanda Knowles MBE

Forgive me if I wonder

Children in Need

Would that be all our children or just those that deserve and who decides?

I wonder….

Does the child who refuses to go to school and face the bullies deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child born addicted to heroin deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who self-harms deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who witnesses domestic violence at home every day deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who is beaten and chastised at home deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who is repeatedly raped by adults deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who is sexually exploited by a carer deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the hungry child who gets caught shoplifting deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who robs to support a drug habit deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who runs drugs for the drug dealers deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who killed the family pet deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who lit the fatal fire deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who abducted, tortured and killed deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the child who killed their abuser deserve help?

I wonder….

Does the 8year old child who feels safer in the gang, armed with knives and guns, dealing drugs to belong, waiting for promotion to a higher order deserve help? 

These are all our children…… Forgive me if I wonder….

 

Amanda Knowles MBE

16th November 2018

To The Boy

To The Boy

To the boy whose cheeks burnt with tears…

Sissy

Nancy Boy

Big Girls Blouse

He who’s not allowed to indulge in emotions

No crying

Quiet

Don’t make a sound; that’s it swallow it down.

They’ll tell you you’ll turn out just like him, if only you knew who ‘He’ was.

The minds imprint taken only from photographs, no smell, touch or memory; no comment to pass…only fears to dwell on.

You took it as given that’s who you are.

No good…Simply rotten to the core, nothing of any significance that’s you a bi-product, mistake, a bastard…a devil child; that’s who!!

The anger it festered, it bubbled inside; it grew with you to the size of the door. No longer able to contain the volcano of vitriol, hate and I’m sure…the re-living of every single detail of the terrible things you endured.

 

BOYS DON’T CRY

It will ring in your ears like a bell.

So you push it away and swallow back the intensity of the swell.

The tidal wave will take you over, if you drop that guard, now the pain turns to anger how long can you keep it behind that façade?

Broad shoulders to carry the weight of the world…stiff upper lip, no sharing of thoughts or feelings, a void where a heart should live; or so you think!

You’re allowed to be open and honest.

You don’t need permission of course.

You CAN express your emotions take down the brick wall course by course.

Vulnerability’s not reserved just for females, and that is an actual truth.

No need to carry a globe on your back…no-one needs definitive proof of your strength as a man.

Because ultimately, all of those messages they fed you, when they told you that you can’t do this because you’re a boy; But You Can!!

 

By Saira-Jayne Jones

NOT ME

Ambushed by legal contract

Designed to silence justice                              

Costly courtroom battles

Truth publicly corrupted.

 

A battle plan that failed

Evidence protected

Defended by legal privilege

Reinvented selves beware.

 

The list of crimes reported

Over time grew ever long

Yet onus placed on children

To know and tell holds strong.

 

Whistles blown were silenced

False claims testified

Finance forced compliance

Reality denied

 

Blighted lives remembered

Stories remain unheard

Justice long awaited

Is no justice at all.

 

Amanda Knowles

EVERYTHING YOU TOOK by David Jackson

When I was young, and you were old,

your child abuse was brave and bold.

Bereft of warmth, harsh and cold.

 

Now I’m grown, please be told.

You took every day I had.

You took my infancy.

You took my childhood.

You took my youth.

You took my adolescence.

You took my education.

You took my life chances.

You took my mental health.

You took my physical health.

You took my social health.

You took my self-awareness.

You took my self-esteem.

You took my sense of self.

You took my pride.

You took my honour.

You took my body.

You took my soul.

You took all that I had.

You took all that I was.

And yet, in the final analysis, you have nothing, and I have it all. It is better to give, than to receive. So, accept my forgiveness and please just leave.

Hey Miss by Saira-Jayne

Hey Miss, will you ever notice what’s going on, because you come to our house, you’re here five minutes then you’re gone. You never ask us about our rooms, about our beds or that big bruise. It’s all well and good giving smiles; admiring our ‘new’ toy. But you never asked us any questions before you were straight back out the door. You never asked me if I’m happy or what was my favourite thing or what made me scared of the night time…you never asked none of them things.

 

Hey Miss, will you tell me what’s on them papers you carry, because I think they’re about us…but you’re always in and out in a hurry, so I can’t ask you, what they was. I need you to say what you mean and mean what you say; if you don’t then I get thoughts in my head; I can’t make them go away. If I did ask you a question would you answer… because I can tell when people really don’t wanna say stuff?

How am I ever supposed to trust ya to tell you my stuff, if you won’t even stay long enough; for me to properly know your name?

 

Hey Miss, will you tell me what’s going on? I’m scared of all the big people and it feels like I’ve done something wrong. I need you to let me know things, even if it won’t be ok. I need you to explain the meetings and lots of the things that you say.

I need you to hear my side. Don’t try and shut me up. I have lots of things to tell you and usually start with the safe silly stuff. So will you give me the time to get around to opening up?

 

Hey Miss, will you not talk about me like I’m not there. If you bring me into the conversation then it’s more likely that I’ll share. I might tell you about the things that are bothering me, my thoughts about my future and where I’d like to be. I might tell you about the things that have played on my mind, made me grumpy and angry; feel awful inside. My thoughts and feelings are precious. I don’t want them to be dismissed. And if I feel that they are, then I might just call it quits and not try to tell you anything ever again; and would you even remember them anyway.

 

Hey Miss, will you remember that I really hate peas, that my best friend is my dog Bandit; that my sister is Emma-Louise. Will you remember that I dropped some clues while we were chatting, that I left you some bread crumbs to follow because I couldn’t speak about ‘it’; will you remember that tomorrow? Will you remember the things that are special to me, the things that make me scream?  Will you remember the things that make me cross so you can help me blow off steam; in a safe way? Will you remember all of those things because it shows me that you care, and maybe I can start to trust you a little bit to maybe start to share? I might tell you my hopes, goals and dreams because I do have all of those things. If only you will be there, be present and try to tune in. Will you ask, notice, listen and remember the little bits, because it’s all of them things that will help me put back together the blocks to make positive relationships.

 

Hey Miss, will you show me that you kind of understand? Will you appreciate my emotions?  Will you try to comprehend where it is that I’M coming from, because I need to know that despite all of this stuff that I’m worth a chance, I’m worth a go!!

 

 

FOOT NOTE:

What I found as a child growing up in a chaotic and abusive environment and as a young person growing up in care, is that with most people my words were not valued, that what I had to say did not matter as I thought it should; so I stopped saying it. I stopped asking questions, I stopped sharing my thoughts and feelings and I stopped caring about what people around me were trying to do because I thought that they were all going to be the same anyway; they didn’t have time for me so therefore they did not care about me.

I have written this verse from a child’s perspective as what I’d like you to remember is that these are the words not of the adult you see here today, but of the child that I was; the child that I still carry inside. This verse was written with my social workers in mind but also reflecting upon the wider network of professionals that were involved within my life teachers, carers, key workers, support workers, counsellors, police officers, health professionals…even other everyday adults that were in my orbit.

 

What I’ve realised as an adult is that we are all worth it, our story, our truth no matter how difficult and painful that might be it is ours; we should not let it define us but reflect upon it so that it can inform us going forward to greater things. Along my journey there have been things that I have held on to that have gotten me through, people who have stood out because they gave me something that they could never get back; their time. This showed me that they cared. They listened to what I had to say, they were bothered about my feelings, they gave me the answers I asked for even if they were difficult and they helped me to understand even when that answer was that they did not know or could not do what I wanted, they celebrated my achievements with me and tried their best to support me to pick myself back up when I was down. It is those people and their warmth, the kind, curious people who were genuine, authentic and non-judgemental that got me through and made me believe even if it was only for a moment that I could be anything I wanted to be; which fuelled my passions and is the reason I am here today.

A LETTER by Amanda Knowles

Child of the State

Hopeless House,

17 Unheard Place,

Why Bother Land.

 

Today

 

Dear Child of the State,

It must be very hard for you so far away and I am very sad to hear that you are worried but please don’t run away.

You were right to speak out about the worker who left you on your own in a place you didn’t know then told you he’d been drinking before he drove you home.

We both know you’re not the liar but that’s so hard to prove when hiding this, matters far more to them than you.

I know how angry it’s made you, to know he’s coming back, but getting mad will only reinforce it’s you not him that’s bad.

It will be hard to accept that justice won’t be done but we both know another move’s not good for you.

So, hang on to your potential, protect it with your life and the day will come when you can tell them all you survived.

 

Together,

The Caregiver x

NOT FORGOTTEN by Amanda Knowles MBE

“OMG…  I’ve finally tracked you down”

 

Your timely words seemed meant to be

But you could not have known

How much they’d mean to me.

 

It’s 40 years since we last met

In that awful place

Where cruelty went unpunished

And justice was disgraced.

 

There were fireworks in the attic

With confiscated toys

Colouring books were all you had

Designed to mute your noise.

 

A cold bath if you wet the bed

Stood barefoot in the snow

Deliveries hijacked

Food packed to go.

 

When visitors came the scene was set

To create illusion 

Bay windowed lounge unlocked

Just for the occasion.

 

Well-practiced children on parade

Reciting party pieces

With tea and cake to celebrate

This perilous delusion.

 

Years Later it came as no surprise

The child crime crier

Was striped and beaten by police

Moved and branded liar.

 

For I am left in no doubt

Abuse will be denied

As long as truth is worthless

And vested interest amplified.