Stories in words

Art and literature frequently tells the stories of children who are without parents - for example, Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, Superman and Cinderella.


Wall at Foundling Museum covered in names of fictional foundlingsFictional foundlings, such as these, are recognized and honoured by the poet and playwright Lemn Sissay in his installation at the Foundling Museum Superman was a Foundling.

The aim is to reveal and elevate fictional stars of popular and classic culture who were fostered, adopted and orphaned.

Sissay himself spent 18 years in the care system, an experience, which he says has had a pronounced effect on his adult life.

I'm told that...18 years in children's systems...was just to do with my childhood and I've realised very clearly as an adult that the effect of my childhood is more pronounced in my adulthood than it ever was in my childhood. - Lemn Sissay at the launch of Superman was a Foundling

...and then

Charles Dickens grew up near the Foundling Hospital and was an early supporter, raising funds for it and writing about it in his work.

Oliver Twist, about an orphan boy, or ‘foundling’, is thought to have been inspired by the Hospital. Two other characters,Tattycoram in Little Dorrit and Walter Wilding in the play, No Thoroughfare, written in 1867, grow up in the Hospital’s care.

Useful links

Discover Lemn Sissay's work

Find out more about Charles Dickens and the Foundling Hospital


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