Letting go

So, it was the last day on Friday, and I have had time to reflect over a long weekend with my family (to make up for outsourcing them all summer!).  It was such an emotional day, beginning with the arrival of Pastel (who is one of the toughest nuts to crack) with a bouquet of flowers for Sue!

We took them all out to an Italian restaurant, and you wouldn’t have known that they were young offenders.  Their behaviour was perfect.  No swearing, no shouting, just a lot of laughter and a lot of eating.  There were reminders once again, about their backgrounds and lack of experience in these situations (“What’s parmesan?”).

Sue asked the kids what they thought of the experience.  MC remarked that he had attended last year and it was down to that experience that he decided he had to do something positive with his life; in his words “I didn’t do anything bad last year.”  His attendance this year was to mentor others.

She also asked me what I felt I had learned.  It was a difficult question because I had observed all of the time, but I did learn that I needn’t be afraid.  I was pretty worried on day one, but soon learned that a lot of the aggression is part of them finding their places in the pack, and a lot of the shouting and swearing is to get attention.  I wouldn’t be as afraid walking past a group of young people in my own home any more.

I asked her what she felt about the experience and she said that it is the same feeling every year; she feels honoured to have been a part of it.  What an amazing lady!

I took one of the group shots in for each person as a memento, and a portrait of Loveheart as she hadn’t like a single picture of herself, but in this shot she really looks beautiful and I hope she believes it now.

When we all parted there were a lot of hugs and tears (me included).  I felt an incredible sense of loss and a bit of panic; how will they be now they are out of our control?  How will they turn out?  Who will they turn to?

I can’t believe it is over.  It has been extremely challenging and emotional – and highly entertaining.  I have over 2000 shots to sort and process, whittling them down for an exhibition at ProjectSpace Leeds, ‘Shooting Young Offenders’  from 6th November, and also for a book.

I’ll see the kids again on 23rd September when we have a celebration evening to give them their awards and screen the short film for the first time.  I can’t wait.


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One Response to “Letting go”

  1. Simon Ashton Says:

    What a wonderful Blog – thoroughly absorbing and very moving! Having read it through, I feel I’ve taken the journey with you. What a great experience and what a rewarding cause. Thank you.

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