Once Upon a Time in Stoke-on-Trent: Care youngsters make film about life on their own
FOSTER children from the Potteries have helped produce a film about life in the care system.
Luke Potter is among 10 teenagers who wrote and produced Once Upon a Time in Stoke-on-Trent.
Premiering last night at the Mitchell Memorial Theatre in Hanley, the film tells the story of two teenagers, Jack and Ashley, who emerge from the care system to lead independent lives.
It is a script that reads much like real life for 18-year-old Luke.
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Since the age of 12, Luke has been cared for in various homes around the region, but left home and rented his own flat in Perry Street, Hanley, last October.
Now he is putting his troubled past behind him and is volunteering at Hanley Fire Station, where he hopes to one day become a firefighter.
He said: "I wasn't really looked after properly by my parents and I ended up in care.
"I've been to lots of places all over the country, but Hanley feels like home now.
"At my last place I had a really good relationship with my foster parents. And there was a police officer who used to visit, and I struck up a friendship with him. I would like to become a firefighter or a police officer in the future if possible."
The film has been produced by Newcastle-based production company Junction 15 and local charity Arch, and was funded by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Actress Deborah McAndrew, better known as former Coronation Street character Angie Freeman, supervised the script, which was largely dreamt up by the children themselves.
The council will now use the film as an educational tool to help children in care adapt to life outside the system.
Luke said: "I've really enjoyed being involved. I met some good people and it's nice to know I've helped with something that could go on to help others."
Junction 15 producer, Susanne James, said: "At the end of the film, Jack and Ashley jump through a magic mirror and begin new lives.
"It draws on a fairytale theme, but is based on real experiences. It is fiction, but there is a documentary element also. There's a lot of information in there."
Susanne's colleague, Darren Teale, said: "The idea was to produce a documentary that was going to help allay people's fears about living in care.
"The teenagers wrote the script with the help of Deborah McAndrew, but she was really only guiding them. It is all their work and ideas.
"It's funny how lots of famous stories, from Luke Skywalker to Harry Potter and Hansel and Gretel, are about orphans, or people who are the product of a difficult family life.
"If they were living in the real world today, they would be in care. These are the themes the film draws on."
Jess Foster, who works for the council and runs activities for children in care, said: "We want it to benefit young people's lives and explain the whole process of the care system, and life afterwards.
"Some 37 people will be taken into care over the next 12 months in Stoke-on-Trent.
"The average age that people leave home is 24 in the UK, but for children in care it's 18.
"So these are the sorts of people who need a bit of help and a bit of a boost when they enter the adult world."
Attending last night's premiere, Lord Mayor Terry Follows said: "It's a real insight into lives we don't know very much about."