A runaway's story of living rough from 12

by Ben Westwood in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 14th August 2018 we successfully raised £2,564 with 67 supporters in 42 days

To get new remastered prints and versions of my childhood story of living on the streets and being in care from 11 years old.

by Ben Westwood in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

(Sleeping rough from 10 actually, but it won't let me change the title. Sleeping rough in east and central London by 12 it was meant to say)

**See Rewards on the right sidebar for £2 raffle**
**Pre-orders of Poems From a Runaway also available on right sidebar. * *   (Paperback and hardback)

Twitter - @PoemsFaRunaway
Facebook - facebook.com/PoemsFromaRunaway

My story  (in a nutshell)

I was born in a place called Norton Canes in Staffordshire before moving to the nearby town of Rugeley just a couple of years later. I grew up for a few years confused to who my actual dad was.

I first ran away aged 9, and by 10 years old I was walking across Staffordshire going missing for days, sometimes weeks. I'd be sleeping in parks, ditches, public toilets or simply stay awake through most of it.

At 11 years old I went into foster care, and at my third foster placement at the age of 12, after more times running away across Staffordshire, I one day boarded a train to London.

I then ended up in Whitechapel, East London, living among other runaways as well as homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes before one day being held up with a machete and locked in a flat.

After escaping, I ended up sleeping rough around Victoria, Central London, where I spent my 13th birthday.

Whilst moving through a few placements within the care system, I spent most of my time from 13 years old sleeping rough in Central London in places such as Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Charing Cross but my main residence was near Green Park station W1,  near the Ritz. 

Without giving too much of the story away, it was surprising how much I was able to live an adults life at such a young age.

Despite me having a few shocking and sad tales which some include pretty intense hunger and sleep deprivation, it wasn't all dark and depressing.
I'm glad to know that some people will have a chuckle when they read of me pulling parked-up news stands out at night and reselling newspapers I'd found in the top of bins. 

Or maybe the time I got drunk in a sports bar at 13 because I'd told the barman I was in London because I played for Walsall FC, and he believed me which led to a load of free drinks. 

A lot of my time up until the age of 16 was spent living as a rough sleeper among Central London's homeless, in which I've a few stories to share about homelessness, mental health, drug addiction, poverty and life on the streets, from the perspective of a young teenager and my thoughts and feelings at that age.

Other stories include the band that took me in one night shortly before they got famous, and the family from America that sort of adopted me for a week as well as many others. 

Poems From a Runaway - The story so far

In late 2016 I started writing my first ever book Poems From a Runaway after writing my first poem 'Free Drinks On Haymarket' (it's one of the shortest stories in the book, some are a few pages long) 

From there, I decided that I'd write my whole story, and after obsessively working day and night on crafting my poetry and storytelling, just over a year later I finished up with a collection of 60 stories from my times on the streets written from the perspective of an upbeat runaway.

During writing the book, I decided to try and find the family from America that I met, which I'd love to give them a copy of this book. I wrote out to america and was featured on WSVN 7 News in Miami which you can view below.

I then worked on designing and self-publishing my book, which wouldn't have been possible without crowdfunding and some lovely spirits.

Shortly before I was due to release my book, I had an agreement in place with  company that were going to help me with my print run and proofreading, which had broken down at the last minute meaning I spent the next two weeks manically editing the book to fulfill the pre-orders I had promised my friends. 

But nethertheless, despite just a couple of typo's and with less than 50 initial copies going to friends, Poems From a Runaway was born. And it's been a very interesting journey since. 

I knew from the start that social workers, foster parents and missing children charities would find my book interesting and after putting it to the test I'm glad to say I've that I've learned so much over the last six months.

 I also released a 'print-on-demand' non-colour first edition version that is currently for sale on Amazon.

After being featured in a couple of Staffordshire local rags as well as the Birmingham Mail, I went on to share my stories on the Missing People Blog,  as well as BBC Radio 5 Drivetime and contributing with my story to the BBC RADIO 4 Missing People Fundraiser Appeal

On June 6th it was an absolute pleasure and honor to travel outside of the UK for the first ever time in my life to be invited to European Parliament in Brussels to share my story and poems at a conference about the unseen and unheard side of runaways.

07b9fee670fe57964aa087189165fd522a0a4999ecc04396d76974feacc7a766b284b25772ecc69b bf5581a2c1a44fbc016e8b16ae98c362f92ce840

I also did a talk and book reading on 29th June with a group of around 33 social work students, lecturers and foster parents at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, in collaboration with To The Moon and Back Fostering (event for social workers and foster parents). I was also featured in the latest edition of Become Magazine (a magazine for children in care formerly known as 'Who Cares Magazine').

During this crowdfunder I also shared my thoughts, experiences and my stories with social workers in North Somerset.


Why I'm crowdfunding and what exactly the money I raise is used for.

As I'll be making a couple of slight edits to the book I'll need new ISBN numbers for them which includes plans for non-colour versions to make it economical to give away or sell cheaply to support services. Depending on the success of this fundraiser I might be able to get a batch of them cheap for around £100.

I actually already have a queue of support services that have requested a free copy of the book, but I'm simply not in the financial position to fund it myself so this is why I'm pushing on with this crowdfunder.
I've put an option on the rewards for those that also would like to donate a book to the services on my waiting list.
By doing this you'll not only be donating a book to a meaningful cause, but you'll also help me manage to get the print costs back down again by helping bulk up my first run on these print edits.

The reviews on the book by those that have read the Amazon Createspace version are amazing and I'm really chuffed.
As the book has never been released in hardback, I'd also love to fund a print run of hardback special copies of the book, so I've also put the option on one of the rewards to grab a special signed hardback of the book along with a personal 'thank you' letter that I'll write myself.

I'd really love to have been in the position to have invested more money into this project to enable me to always have books in stock, and also to have books to hand over upfront to bookshops.  This is why if I managed to pull off a reasonably successful crowdfunder I'd be over the moon to know that  Poems From a Runaway is actually on bookshelves.

I know I can give myself a pat on the back to get this far. But there's heaps more to come yet, I could just do with a big push to help me get this where it should be into bookshops, which is why after some consideration I'm going to aim for £2500 which will really help.

As I have no clue how this crowdfunder is going to go, I am looking at prices for 250 books, depending on the success of this crowdfunder, if any, I will print more books if required which will also be cheaper to print. 

Here's a breakdown of the figures if you're wondering.  

To get 100 colour editions to stock in shops plus another 100 to cover this crowdfunder, I would need to raise £1170.

If I can get at least 25 of you to buy a special hardback copy, that would enable me to get the price down on the printing costs of those to be able to consider getting that stocked into some places. If this crowdfunder goes beyond it's target I shall certain do that.
For an initial print run of at least 50 quality hardback copies of the book, it would cost me around £550. 

If I was to raise yet another £500 for another print run of 100 cheaper black and white versions, then it would be really help me get the price down to also supply a cheaper version of the book to help get it out there. 

The remaining £330 will go towards purchasing and registering my new ISBN numbers and other versions of the book as well as me being in the position to travel to bookshops and attend other events.

As the book is easily read by many and people say they can't stop reading it, I'd really like to hand a few copies out to those I see on the streets, so if I hit target then I'll certainly be doing that. 

All books and signed copies will be delivered around 4-6 weeks after the fundraiser ends. 

My other plans

I'd also love for this crowdfunder to open up many more connections and contacts so that it will become worthwhile writing my next book (as well as others) which will be writing about these experiences in reflection as an adult, written as a normal styled book with a more 'commercial' aspect. 

Massive thanks to any of you that support by donating and/or sharing this out to your friends and contacts. 

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the new edit via this crowdfunder then do please make sure that you select it via the 'rewards tabs' on the page, and enjoy. 

I'm sure you will :) 

If you have any questions or queries then you can write to me at [email protected] and I'll do my best to get straight back to you. 

Take care and thanks for all of your support.

Ben Westwood. 



This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£2 or more

39 of 240 claimed

£2 raffle. 1 in 12 chance of winning a signed copy

Delivery included :) At least a 1 in 12 chance of winning a free book (paperback) by donating just the price of a coffee to my crowdfunding campaign. Up to 20 copies going depending on number of rewards/raffle tickets sold. Draws will be made at the end of the crowdfunder and winners will be posted a signed copy of Poems From a Runaway once the books have finished at print.

£25 or more

Signed colour paperback.

I'll send a signed colour paperback of the new updated version to you. Delivered 4-6 weeks after end of crowdfunder.

£25 or more

Two books to a support service, with your thanks

Select this reward if you'd like me to post two books over to one of the support services on my waiting list. Services include youth support, mental health services, foster care companies and homeless support services. I'll not only sign them but I'll write a thanks on there to you too for donating. Please note if shipping overseas (ie. USA or across europe) I'll send just one book due to postal costs.

£35 or more

Signed colour hardbacks

I'll sign a high quality hardback version of Poems From a Runaway for you. Delivery takes 4-6 weeks after end of fundraiser.

£250 or more

1 of 15 claimed

10x signed colour hardbacks

UK delivery included. By purchasing 10 copies you'll be really helping support my hardback print run to help keep the costs down. I'll sign ten of them for you :) For those outside of the UK please contact [email protected] for more information on delivery arrangements. 10 available

Got an idea like this?

Over £200 million has been raised from our crowd to support the projects they love! Plus tens of millions more unlocked by our partners.