Lost Boys and Fairies writer’s pride over ‘queer’ adoption drama

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Lost Boys and Fairies writer’s pride over ‘queer’ adoption drama

BBC Daf JamesBBC

Writer Daf James says his bilingual drama about a same-sex couple adopting feels like a “massive triumph”

When Daf James and his husband adopted two young children, he found the experience so profound he “couldn’t not write about it”.

“It felt very dramatic, it felt insane, it felt beautiful, extraordinary, remarkable… it was such a complex well of emotions,” he said.

The result is three-part BBC One drama Lost Boys and Fairies.

The fictional tale inspired by his real-life experience is billed as a tender, glittering story of “queer” club performer Gabriel and his partner Andy’s journey to adoption.

Kirsten McTernan  Daf James at his piano Kirsten McTernan

Daf James is a playwright, screenwriter, composer and performer

Filmed in and around Cardiff with some characters speaking both English and Welsh, the drama could not mean more to James, a Welsh speaker.

“It’s not only a queer story… it is a bilingual show on primetime BBC One,” he said.

“That’s a massive triumph not just for me personally but also for the BBC.”

Eight years ago James and his husband adopted two children under the age of six and have since adopted a third.

“When anyone becomes a parent their life changes drastically and dramatically, but when you’re a parent to adopted children and two arrive at the same time and they have lived through early life trauma… it’s parenting plus,” he said.

James’s mother had died less than a year before he became a parent and he found himself dealing with a wave of emotions.

“Even though I felt like I’d done my grieving, when you become a parent you suddenly see who your parents were through a completely different prism.”

For James, writing became a form of therapy.

“I thought it would make for a beautiful story but I also write in order to process my emotions and what I’m going through,” he said.

He went on to develop the drama with Duck Soup Films as part of BBC Writersroom’s TV Drama Writers’ Programme 2019 – the scheme now known as Pilot.

Left to right: Gabriel (played by Sion Daniel Young) and Andy (played by Fra Fee)

Lost Boys and Fairies tells the story of Gabriel and his partner Andy’s journey to adoption

Writing the dialogue in both Welsh and English simply felt natural.

“It’s just the way that we live, I speak Welsh, I speak English, I jump between the two of them,” said James.

According to the latest census, James is one of 538,000 Welsh speakers in Wales, or 17.8% of the population.

The Welsh government aims to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

“You can tell I’m passionate [about the Welsh language] but it is also my life,” said James.

“I find it crazy that we are in 2024 and we’re still having to defend the language.

“I mean, how often do I hear the jokes like ‘oh, it just looks like somebody’s fallen on a keyboard and pressed some letters together’ and I find it so shocking that within this brilliantly multicultural island with many languages and many cultures the Welsh language can still be the butt of a joke.”

Left to right: Andy (played by Fra Fee) and Gabriel (played by Sion Daniel Young)

The drama was filmed in and around Cardiff

The opening episode sees the character Gabriel, played by Cardiff-born actor Sion Daniel Young, reticent to open up to his social worker about his upbringing and the shame he felt over his sexuality.

To what extent is this James’s experience?

“Everything I write is personally inspired… I’ve taken the themes of my life and the emotions of my life,” said James, who grew up in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan.

“If I think of my life as a song with notes, structure and a rhythm, I’ve taken all those notes so the song sounds similar, but I swap them all around so that it is essentially still a work of fiction to protect myself and to protect my family and everyone around me as well.”

Andy and Gabriel

Lost Boys & Fairies is James’ first original screenplay for the BBC

James laughed as he remembered playing dress-up at nursery and being desperate to wear a beautiful pink dress.

But as he got older, like the character Gabriel, his school years were overshadowed by a “deep-rooted shame”.

“You’re categorically told that the love that you feel towards people is wrong,” he said.

“I was constantly made to feel that I was abnormal, that I was subhuman, that I didn’t deserve to live and breathe and be, and that’s an incredibly traumatic space to exist as a child and a teenager and to internalise all of those emotions.”

Between the ages of 11 and 13 he faced the “horrific experience” of daily bullying on the school bus.

“It was often a very lonely place in little Daf’s head,” he said.

“To keep myself sane I would sit and imagine stories in my head, like films where I was playing the lead part… it was only years and years later I’ve realised ‘what you were doing was writing your own stories, you were writing your own films’.”

Gabriel, Andy and their social worker

The couple’s social worker Jackie (played by Elizabeth Berrington) assesses, supports and guides them through the adoption process

James said when he began writing the drama, his first original screenplay for the BBC, he was simply using his lived experiences and was not trying to create something that made a statement about the representation of LGBTQ+ people or the Welsh language.

“Although politically I do want to have this out there… representation is so, so important,” he said.

“This drama is about inclusion and breaking down those binaries, shifting the world into somewhere more inclusive, where people can live and breathe and feel safe in their own identities.”

So how would young Daf on the school bus feel about having a three-part bilingual drama on BBC One inspired by his and his husband’s journey to adopt?

“This show in particular has such personal and political and cultural resonance for me,” said James.

“Little Daf would be dancing and singing his heart out with delight – in a lovely pink dress.”

  • All episodes of Lost Boys and Fairies will be available on BBC iPlayer from 06:00 BST on 3 June and it airs on BBC One weekly from 21:00 that night

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