Arts Derbyshire


Local Young People’s Life Experiences Inspire New Audio Drama

Local Young People’s Life Experiences Inspire New Audio Drama

Photo credit: Chris Webb

A new audio drama, written and performed by a Derbyshire creative team and inspired by experiences of local young people, has been released as a free podcast following a successful premiere at a virtual festival.

kilburn (not london) was launched at In Good Company and Attenborough Arts Centre’s Check in Festival on Saturday (May 29) and is now available to download free on podcast platforms from

The production team worked with members of Plus One, Derby’s care-experienced young people’s creative group; Derbyshire LGBT+’s youth services groups and students from John Flamsteed Community School in Denby to help inspire the characters and plot.

The project is funded by Arts Council England, and supported by Boundless Theatre, In Good Company and New Perspectives Theatre Company.

The 55 minute-long kilburn (not london) tells the story of teenagers Charlie and Grant, played by Derbyshire actors John Booker and Louis Greatorex. The characters live in the small Derbyshire town of Kilburn and the play explores themes of falling in love for the first time, identity and how to find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

Local Young People’s Life Experiences Inspire New Audio Drama

Photo credit: John Booker (Phil Sharp), and Louis Greatorex (Tristram Kenton, The Guardian)

The script was written by Derbyshire playwright and producer Simon Marshall and directed by Derby Theatre Associate Artist Omar Khan.

The audio drama also features original music by Lucy James, another Derbyshire artist, who uses her personal and geographical experience to influence the music.

Writer and producer Simon Marshall explained: “I love writing about Derbyshire because it is so rarely represented on stage or screen or in the media.

“Growing up here, the biggest feelings of your life take place against an accidentally epic backdrop of hills and fields and wide-open spaces. I started thinking about the friendships and relationships that made me who I am, as well as how I see similar experiences in the young people I work.

“It was essential to draw on the feelings and experiences of local young people to write the play – particularly members of Plus One who have lived-experience of the care system – to create authentic and interesting characters in a place that many young people can relate to.

“I do really feel there’s lots to be said about telling stories about overlooked places, especially from queer and care-experienced perspectives. I hope the play feels like a place of its own for listeners and helps them value the connection to environments the 2020-21 period especially has intensified for everyone.”

Composer Lucy James, who is also a Plus One ambassador, explained how she wanted the music to help the listener get to know the characters and bring the Derbyshire landscape to life.

“Composing the score for kilburn (not london) has been an incredible privilege. As soon as I read the first script extracts, I felt such a connection with Charlie and Grant and their experience of navigating queerness whilst growing up in a small town, and the topic of care experience being brought to light is equally important to me.

“The opportunity to explore and voice these underrepresented experiences with such a talented team of creatives has been nothing short of a dream!

“There was truly such an outpouring of love, warmth and understanding throughout our process of shaping the world of kilburn (not london) and I had so much fun stepping into this welcoming space to compose and perform the score.

“I’m so excited for listeners to experience Charlie and Grant’s journey as a companion for their own adventures, as I know they’ll be accompanying me for many moments to come.”

Local Young People’s Life Experiences Inspire New Audio Drama

Photo credit: Lucy James (Brendan Shek)

This was echoed by one of the young people involved in the project said: “As weeks went by, I got so caught up in Charlie and Grant’s story; excitement for their future and curiosity to see how their relationship would develop.

“I found a new side to myself that I didn’t know existed; with the right background music I was able to completely transform and change the world I was living in.”

The core creative team all have their roots in the Midlands and worked virtually throughout the process from their homes in Belper, Nottingham, London and even New Zealand.

Marshall continued: “Although the whole process was completed Covid-safe on virtual platforms, it has been an incredible experience and an opportunity to work with creatives who I have known for many years and others, such as Omar, who I have wanted to collaborate with for some time.

“A major part of the process has been embracing individuals’ creativity. The young people involved in the project developed creative identity diaries – exploring the places that mean the most to them through poetry, script writing and creative non-fiction.

“These have been published on the official website alongside the audio drama so I hope that listeners will read these alongside the production.

“Moving forwards, we also want to encourage the public to explore their own creativity and send us their stories, poems, artwork, videos or music that respond to the themes in kilburn (not london).

“We are particularly interested in hearing from people about places that made them who they are and the relationships they built there. It could be a town, childhood bedroom, a cafe, a tree or a country.”

Marshall concluded that kilburn (not london) was just the start: “Podcasts have really come into their own during the pandemic as people have had more time to themselves so publishing kilburn (not london) for free as an audio drama felt like the logical step.

“Moving forwards, I think there is scope for a second episode – revisiting Grant and Charlie as adults – and maybe one day, a television drama as there are so many stories still to be shared.

“I would also love to work with more organisations and theatres to help tell similar stories about their neighbourhoods, with their young people. Who knows, this could be the start of a franchise on this theme with perhaps the next stop being, for example, ‘soho (birmingham, not london).”

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