UNITED KINGDOM – Released on 21st June 2022, Both Side of the Track is a powerful true story about the life experiences of Diana Hylton. As Diana shares the hardships, she and her brother endured growing up during the 70’s and 80’s, her memoir recounts dysfunction, neglect, abandonment, and abuse. But, on finding her inner strength and relinquishing and forgiving those in her past, the author embarks on a respected and empathetic career in social work, specifically child protection, providing compassion and a level of support she and her brother were never afforded.
Finding it hard to settle on appropriate adjectives to describe this biographical tour de force – authentic, raw, harrowing, empowering, inspiring, and brave are just a few that come close. Whilst not a book for the faint-hearted, we would all undoubtedly be better human beings for taking the time to pick up a copy of Both Sides of the Track and spending just a few moments in the shoes of this remarkable woman and author.
The underbelly of the East End of London, during the late 60s and early 70’s, was an era fraught with racism, when interracial relationships were considered repugnant and were violently opposed. ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, and No Irish’ was the prevalent discourse within British society and within this context, Diana and her brother were born to their black Jamaican father and white British but of Irish descent, mother. It was a short and doomed union and the children’s infant years were marred by parental dysfunction and chronic neglect. At the tender ages of four and six, they were fatefully abandoned by their mother on a most desolate of Christmas Eve’s. This is the catalyst for a traumatic and devastated childhood. Placed into the British care system, the children were cruelly separated for many years, during which Diana suffered sexual, emotional, physical abuse and neglect by the very people who were meant to care for her and keep her safe.
Following turbulent adolescence that included, being a runaway, sexual exploitation, and a desperate suicide attempt, ill-equipped with life skills and barely an adult, she became a teenage mother. It was the late 1980’s and the UK had entered what is nostalgically referred to as the second summer of love. The rave culture exploded, in this Diana, found brief solace, however alone in parenthood she yearned for love and to be loved. A pivotal turning point, followed a disastrous, violent abusive relationship when Diana came to the realisation that only she alone could save herself and her little boy. Having left school with no qualifications she found a deep desire to achieve. Fuelled by determination and hope, she returned to education, achieved a BA honours degree in Psychosocial Studies, and found a deep true love. Buoyed by her personal and academic success, she joyfully became a mother for the second time. For the first time in her life, she felt safe and secure.
However, a chance and serendipitous meeting with an old friend from her days in the care system led to Diana’s life unravelling in a most unexpected way. A long and protracted police investigation ensued, leading her to give evidence at the Old Bailey – The UK’s central criminal court. It was at this point she discovered the horrific truth of the extent of the paedophile ring that had cruelly abused her and many children at the hell hole known as the notorious St Leonard’s Children’s Home. Despite achieving justice, the reawakening of her traumatic past led to the undoing of much Diana had worked so hard to achieve. Amid the shattered pieces of her life and having travelled a long hard road of psychotherapy, through sheer will and determination she survived to understand her purpose was to protect vulnerable children and to support families to stay together. Armed with newfound strength and resilience she went onto to achieve a Master’s in Social Work.
This led to a 17-year career in front-line child protection. Having practiced in some of the most deprived and diverse local authorities including the infamous North London borough of Haringey, Diana provides a unique perspective of her experience of being on Both Sides of the Track. She provides an inside account of the challenges inherent in child protection social work, including the shocking experience of the Baby Peter Connelly murder and how this horrific tragedy impacted social workers, and UK social work practice and led to significant changes in child protection legislation.
Overall, this is an inspirational story showing how it is possible to overcome trauma, loss, and adversity to find forgiveness, achieve success, and ultimately find freedom from the past. It concludes with seven principles Diana cultivated within her own recovery and of which she hopes will help others to find peace, and resolution and to make positive changes in their lives.
Published by Hasmark International Publishing on 21st June 2022, Both Sides of The Track is available in paperback (£10.99) on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1774821648
Written by: Diana Hylton