Welsh writer’s gay adoption story turned into major BBC drama

Daf James
-Credit: (Image: BBC)

A Welsh writer has recalled the “trauma” he faced as a parent, ahead of the release of his new BBC drama Lost Boys & Fairies – which is based on his own experiences of gay adoption. Daf James, who lives in Cardiff, will release his first original project for the BBC on Monday, June 3.

Speaking to WalesOnline alongside the stars of the new three-parter, Sion Daniel Young and Fra Fee, Daf described his excitement for Lost Boys & Fairies’ imminent release. “It feels like such a privilege to have this platform on BBC One to tell this story about gay adoption,” he said.

“I'm just really excited to share this story with the world and for people to see the remarkable performances that are in it that have brought the show to life and the design and what the director [James Kent] has done with it and all of those things.”

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The cast of Lost Boys & Fairies
Lost Boys & Fairies was shot in Wales -Credit:BBC

A synopsis for the new series reads: “Together with his partner, Andy, Gabe longs to adopt a child and to do so they must convince their social worker Jackie that they’re up to the task. But Gabe is masking his demons: the effects of decades of shame having grown up in a society that overwhelmingly treated being gay as a sin; shame which Gabe is still processing.

“Packed with songs, often used in surprising ways, Lost Boys & Fairies is a ‘coming of middle-age’ story, both bold and deeply heart-wrenching, filled to the brim with humour, redemption, and love.”

Daf James
Daf James adopted with his husband eight years ago -Credit:BBC

As to what inspired Lost Boys & Fairies, Daf said the project is “not autobiographical” but it is “personally-inspired”. He and his husband adopted children eight years ago and Daf says that it “changed” him as a person. He explained: “That year was incredible. As well as being extraordinary and remarkable, it was also very tricky and challenging because you're dealing with children who have lived through trauma, and you're becoming a parent for the first time. I always describe adoption as parenting plus. You're wrestling with your own identity and also about your own experience as a child and growing up. A lot of that stuff came out for me as well, especially as a gay parent, about what it was like living as a child under Section 28 and how I'd internalise all of that trauma.

“What I've done is taken the themes, the emotions of my life, but I've created a work of fiction out of it. Nevertheless, when you're experiencing that work of fiction that has come from lived experience, you go on a journey. You’re processing things, and especially when they're being performed by a cast like this. They're world-class. They're bringing to the table these performances that are so alive, so authentic, that when you're watching it on set, you are watching those people go through that experience. I feel very privileged as a writer to be able to have people like that to say my words. It is a very, very moving experience as well.”

The new series features a strong Welsh cast -Credit:BBC
The new series features a strong Welsh cast -Credit:BBC

In Lost Boys & Fairies Sion (The Left Behind, Slow Horses) plays Gabriel and Fra (Rebel Moon, Hawkeye) stars as Andy. “It really is an absolute honour to be a part of this,” Fra said of working on the series. “It's not every day that you get the opportunity to do something like this. It's great working with Sion, who I've never actually met before but we have lots of mutual friends who have come in from the London theatre scene. Thank God we got on really well. It was just an absolute joy going to work with him every single day.

Sion, who is also from Cardiff, echoed: “There's just such warmth to Daf’s writing, especially with this story. It’s impossible to read it and not get invested. Sometimes, both Frau and I are lucky enough that we get to audition for various things, but there are things that you really, really care about that are rare – and this is very much in that category.”

The cast also includes Elizabeth Berrington (Stella, The Pact), Olivier Award-winner Sharon D Clarke (Showtrial, Informer), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Kin, Outlander), Arwel Gruffydd (Y Sŵn, Tess of the D’Urbervilles), Shaheen Jafargholi (Casualty, EastEnders), Mali Ann Rees (The Pact, Keeping Faith), William Thomas (Torchwood), and Gwyneth Keyworth (Alex Rider, Fflam), Gwawr Loader (Hidden).

As to what he wants to see from Lost Boys & Fairies Daf said: “My job is to tell a story as entertaining as possible so people aren't bored, and all the rest are byproducts If the show can have any influence on anyone to go and think about adoption who may not have thought about that before, that's a win for me.

“For me it's a story about love in all its manifest forms. I think that telling stories about love has become a little bit of a political and radical act these days, because we live in such a post-truth world, where people think lying is now okay. Where leaders are allowed to lie, and apparently that's okay. Romantic comedies now have a place in this world because I actually think we should celebrate what it is to be kind and actually the virtues of kindness. If people can think about that, that would be amazing.”

Aside from representing LGBTQ+ people who want to adopt Daf said that he was also keen for the project to be “authentically” Cardiff. He added: “Victoria Park is Victoria Park. Cardiff is Cardiff. Billy the Seal is Billy the Seal. This is my square mile and it's so important to see that it is authentically represented. Also in terms of the language as well because we're having a bilingual Welsh and English drama on primetime BBC One.

“I speak Welsh with my family, but also with my friends. The dialogue will shift from Welsh to English. Sometimes I speak just Welsh, sometimes I'll be speaking Weng-lish. This is my normal. To be able to put that out into the mainstream in the whole of the UK and to other places as well, that's politically important to me, as well as being exciting to me as an artist.”

Lost Boys & Fairies will be available in full on BBC iPlayer from 6am on Monday, June 3 and airs on BBC One weekly from 9pm that night.