Damaged goods?

I’ve got so much to tell you!  I am sorry that I didn’t update this last night because I didn’t get home until gone midnight.  Had a great day taking the young offenders to London, but oh my goodness I am tired.  The thing is that they are so unpredictable, and several of them do the unexpected to get attention, so you need to constantly think on your feet.  Photographically, it is such a challenge as you are always ‘on’ – constantly looking and trying to predict what they will do next, and being there.

I quite enjoyed the train journey once they had settled down as we had reserved seats and effectively had half a carriage to ourselves so we were quite contained (apart from Rosary’s ring tone which is a man shouting ‘Shut the f*** up’).  It is interesting, though, to watch how the young people behave when they have more freedom.  Some rise to the challenge and show how good they can be, others revert to type.

The only problem we had on the way down (that I noticed) was that Ting was cat-calling to female passengers who walked past, but I explained to him that I would find that intimidating if I didn’t know him and I walked into a carriage and had comments shouted out at me and he stopped. 

We played a game to guess the total price of the train tickets. There was much discussion and one lad was quite close to the total – but I don’t think that they picked up on the message: you are very lucky to be on this trip.  Sometimes they seem to think that they are owed this.  So many things are done for them to keep them on the straight and narrow that I think they believe they are entitled to special treatment – or maybe they just need that attention.

As soon as we arrived at Kings Cross it was time for a fag-break.  I think all bar one of them smoke.  We then took them to the South Bank centre by underground but it was like herding cats.  You forget how long the tunnels are and how many twists and turns they have but we managed to get them all to the same platform, and more importantly, all in the same carriage.

We had lunch at the South Bank Centre but they are so fussy! Afterwards, they went out to look at the fountains and you can predict what happened next.  Juliet and NewBoy (two offenders joined us for this trip) were soaked to the skin.  We were worried that the theatre wouldn’t let them in if they realised that they were dripping.

The theatre trip (Billy Elliot) was ‘eventful.’ I really loved the performance, but it was marred slightly by the behaviour of a couple of the young people.  It is such a shame, but if I was a paying member of the public I would have been pretty disappointed because there was quite a lot of talking, the odd shout out, and lots of messing about with fizzy drinks.  I thought that they would be captivated, or maybe I just hoped that they would.  There is a lot of swearing  in the show and quite a lot of this is done by young kids, directed at adults.  I thought that this would grab their attention.  They seemed to enjoy it but their attention span is so short that it wasn’t held for long.

Still, half way through, two of them gave it a standing ovation!  I got told off for taking photos inside the theatre (even though I was pointing my camera away from the stage at the kids).  I asked Rosary and Double-Jointed later what they thought of the show and they agreed that it was ‘sh*t’ – as did most of the others.  Part of this is because it isn’t cool to show you enjoyed something, but then I got a layer deeper and it turns out that they just didn’t understand it, they hadn’t heard of the miner’s strike.  Rosary said he even got the film out a couple of days ago but didn’t understand that either.  They did appreciate the huge talent of the boy playing Billy as he sang, danced and knew the lines for a long play, but that was about it.  Double-jointed said he couldn’t see the point as it wasn’t the real Billy Elliot.  I pointed out that if he was a kid in 1984, he would be in his late thirties now so wouldn’t be able to play the part of a kid.  He hadn’t thought of that.  It was also fiction…

We took them to China Town for a meal to round the day off.  We ordered a set menu as it was easy and there would be enough variety for everyone to find something they liked, but it didn’t go down well.  It was ’nuff spicy.’

We had to rush back to the train, but when we got on all of the seat reservations had been cancelled as there had been a problem with the previous train.  What a nightmare.  We ended up with young offenders dispersing in packed carriages looking for seats.  I ended up on my own in the quiet coach with Rosary, NewBoy and Double-jointed.  They were mad as hell that they couldn’t find a seat and expressed this in the only way they know how – in loud voices and with a lot of swearing.  I tried to calm them down and quieten them down but everyone in the vicinity quickly realised that these were young offenders and I was in charge of them (which I wasn’t!).  NewBoy sat on someone’s suitcase, but the owner wasn’t impressed and came to reclaim it.  NewBoy challenged him saying he wasn’t doing anything wrong but the owner wanted the case back saying that there might be breakable things in it.  NewBoy and Rosary resented this and started on the ‘who does he think he is’ track, with many expletives – and I texted for back-up.  It came quickly and they calmed down after NewBoy was hauled out.  I just felt for the other passengers, including a young girl, who was wide-eyed at the spectacle!

Rosary was asked to put his phone on silent when his ring tone started to offend everyone, and after a couple of stops they found seats.  They must have been passing comments about a man who got off, and a lady asked them to be quiet, stating that the he had been gentleman.  Light touch paper!  One of our staff intervened again.  I was just praying that the lady would stop talking to them.  I think that she felt that she had to say something as her daughter could hear their comments, and they’d enjoyed a long conversation with the man.

When we finally got to Leeds I said my goodbyes, and funnily enough, passed the lady and her daughter at the ticket barriers still talking about how rude our young people had been.

So, what do I think about the trip?  Well, I am in two minds.  We showed them that there is a different world out there.  We opened them up to new experiences:  food, theatre etc.  I think that they will have learned from it as they were coached throughout.  But I have doubts in my mind about whether they deserved or appreciated it, which is a shame.  I haven’t felt like this until now.  Maybe it was a step too far to expose them to so much?  One of the young offenders team explained that they are so damaged by their backgrounds that it is very difficult for them to accept new things and to look forward. 

What do you think?  Should the young offenders be treated to these experiences?

College is closed today so that they staff can review what happened.  We only have one week left in which the whole of the filming needs to be done for the short film.  It is going to be extremely hard.

Ting said ‘I don’t care about the others, I LOVED IT!’

My project is getting a lot of attention in the press, with coverage in:

I am delighted – the project deserves attention.  In the final week, I hope that the kids can show that they are worth it.

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