Kieran Townley was referred to Headliners by Parents Of Children with Autism (POCA). In POCA, he had been helping as a volunteer with the younger children, finding activities that would “keep everybody happy, because if they are, then I’m happy too.”

When Kieran initially joined the group, he was struggling with the aftermath of a difficult school experience and rebuilding confidence took time and patience.

“I was being bullied at the time, it was really bad and I was in a really bad mental state. It took me a couple of years to recover. I joined POCA to help myself out of it, and then they told me about Headliners and they helped me feel more comfortable; I already knew all the members of the Headliners group from POCA before I joined.”

Kieran's interest in cinema and filmmaking techniques is what drew him towards Headliners.

In Headliners, the young people get to take all the steps of filmmaking themselves, from sitting around a table and debating ideas, interview techniques, storyboarding and camera angles, to doing the final cut and promoting their work. With the help of journalists and project workers, they handle the equipment, produce and direct their video packages, record interviews, off-voices and B-roll, and make all the artistic decisions.

Since he joined Headliners, Kieran has shown natural leadership skills and has been a strong help in steering the conversations and brainstorming sessions. His passion for media and filmmaking made it easy for him to blend in with Headliners and to engage with others like a director would with his crew.

“I’m trying to be a film maker and Headliners has helped me be a better one and getting new skills. The organisation has definitely helped me progress with who I am and with my future. It has helped me both as a person and as a professional.”

“I would say the absolute beginning and the ultimate part of a video project – i.e. brainstorming and editing, are what I like most in a Headliners project; but Headliners has been talking about bringing special guests, industry speakers and masterclasses into the sessions and I think that’s a great idea." 

“Headliners has certainly helped me to become more capable. My life is really building up to something now. I joined some courses; I’m currently in the Nerve Centre and I’m planning to join another course in the North-West Regional College (NWRC). I think the qualifications I’ll obtain at the Nerve will help me make it into the filmmaking course at the NWRC.”

Going back to education was a lot to ask Kieran when he joined Headliners. Journalist and Project Worker Aidan Campbell recalls: “Kieran didn’t really know what he was doing or what he wanted to do, so we went to the Nerve Centre together. He was very lost this time last year, and he didn’t want to be the only one to enrol in a new course; but another Headliners member was also interested in the place. They started the course together and both benefited from already knowing someone. It’s incredible to see Kieran standing here like a brand-new person only one year later.”

Kieran explained: “I kept seeing the Nerve Centre courses being advertised on Facebook 24/7, it was screaming at me ‘JOIN US, JOIN US’ so I thought I’d sign up just to shut them up.”

“I have an interest in filmmaking. I’ve always enjoyed watching movies and TV shows and I always come up with bright ideas on all forms of moving images, even documentaries; and so I thought why not, let’s go for it. I was a bit lost and afraid of going back to education because of all the bullying, so it was a big step forward. I’m glad I went back to education.”


Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the Headliners/POCA group has been meeting every week online to debate on the latest news and reflect on the state of the world. Kieran barely missed any session and always came prepared with a list of potential topics with angles of discussion.

“I feel more social than ever. I do miss hanging out with the groups because of the whole crisis, but Headliners has been making the most of a difficult situation and done everything it could to benefit the young people.”

Though all physical production plans were frozen during the lockdown, Headliners continued to plan projects for a post-pandemic time and asked the young people what new angle could benefit them.

“I’d like to get the debating going a bit more during the sessions” said Kieran, “and I’d be happy to see work experience in the film industry coming along after the lockdown if that was possible.”

Now officially a volunteer in Headliners, Kieran has been helping in recent weeks with the creation of a younger Headliners Bureau – his reassuring presence and the fact that the younger people already knew him from POCA were crucial in making this group a success.

To see some of the media Kieran was involved in creating, take a look at his podcast on the silver linings of lockdown and the conversation on how John Hume helped shaping this generation's childhood.

Kieran Townley is a member of the POCA Headliners group, and a volunteer with the "Otaku League", a group for younger people with autism. Thank you to The National Lottery Community Fund for enabling us to help young people like Kieran in giving them a voice as well as practical experience in the creative industry.