The remarkable story of former York College A Level Maths student Daniel Lightwing has inspired a highly acclaimed new British movie, X + Y.
(Photograph courtesy of The Press)
As a mathematical prodigy with Asperger’s, Daniel (aged 15) came to York College from St Peter’s School in 2003. At York College he was taught and looked after by the Maths Department and he secured a place to read Maths at Trinity College, Cambridge. Daniel had started out on the path that led to him being selected for Britain’s International Maths Olympiad team.
Daniel was the figure people noticed in the BBC’s ‘Beautiful Young Minds’, a documentary film that showed the UK Maths Olympiad team competing in 2006, when it won four silver medals – Daniel won one of them – and one bronze. The director, Morgan Matthews, was so struck by Daniel’s story that he decided to make a feature film out of it, and X + Y recently had its premiere in London at the British Film Festival.
In the film, Daniel becomes a young Yorkshire prodigy called Nathan Ellis, brilliantly played by Asa Butterfield (of ‘Hugo’ fame). Asa passes well as Daniel, however the feature film is fictional in many areas. For example Daniel’s dad (happily healthy and alive!) is killed off in the first few minutes. What is pretty dramatic for York College is that the scriptwriter turned Daniel’s Maths teacher (Miggy Biller) into a man - a troubled former Maths prodigy, acted by the charismatic Rafe Spall.
Daniel’s family are very appreciative and generous in their praise for all that York College did for him, personally as well as academically; it means a lot to them. They invited Head of Maths Miggy Biller to accompany them to the film’s British premiere in London and a few months later Miggy was joined by other York College staff at the film's premiere at York City Screen.
Miggy said, ‘It was wonderful to see the Lightwing family, in particular Dan. We sat beside each other at the showing, chuckling together about some of the film’s maths problems. It was funny to look at the line between fact and fiction being trod all the time by the film! Dan’s Dad, sitting just behind us, saw himself killed in a car accident … and I don’t think I need to say that I didn’t recognise myself in Rafe Spall! It’s a brilliant and very moving film, and Asa Butterfield is amazing.”
Daniel is now in his 20s and living in London, he has worked as a programmer for Google and recently joined the company Greenday, who are building what will be the largest building in Europe, as their IT, translating and marketing manager. During his recent visit to York Daniel kindly spared the time to visit York College to talk with A Level Maths students.
X + Y is showing at local cinemas.