Young care leavers take inspiration from Coram’s Foundling Hospital archive in spoken word performance at Arcola Theatre

Published: Wednesday 7th July 2021

An original performance exploring experiences of care and identity, inspired by the historical stories from Coram’s Foundling Hospital archive, will take place at Arcola Theatre’s new open-air space on 8 and 9 July.

What's In a Name performers

Created in collaboration between the UK’s oldest children’s charity Coram and Arcola Theatre in East London, 12 care-experienced young people will present ‘What’s in a Name’, a performance exploring their own identities through spoken word, music and rap, led by rap artist and care leaver, Ric Flo.

The performance is part of Coram’s ambitious new four-year programme, Voices Through Time: The Story of Care, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The programme will see the digitisation of Coram’s archive dating back to when it was established as the Foundling Hospital in 1739, the first home for children who were unable to be cared for by their mothers.

Alongside the digitisation, the programme will feature a series of creative projects, including this partnership with Coram and Arcola Theatre, engaging care-experienced young people in the archive and enabling them to explore the past and present of care and effect change for the future.

Amy Cotterill, Programme Manager of The Story of Care, said: “We are really excited to share the creative pieces developed by these talented young people over the last 12 weeks in response to our rich archive. We’re sure that the performance will inform, inspire and surprise audiences as it tackles the important theme of identity in the care system, and shines a light on the similarities and differences between stories of care today and hundreds of years ago.” 

One of the young performers, Paige, said: “Taking part in the project has been absolutely amazing! Not only have I taken part in writing and performance workshops from Ric Flo and had lessons from Coram’s archivist, I have even recorded my spoken word piece at Premises Studios. Artists that have recorded there include Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Arctic Monkeys. How cool is that! More importantly, I have met a group of awesome young people who have had similar experiences to me. We have become like a little family. They have inspired me to better myself and get more involved with improving the lives of care-experienced people. We are ‘care leavers to care leaders!’”

Rap artist Ric Flo said: "I’ve been blown away by how open the young creatives have been through their creative expression, not only bridging connections with the Foundling Hospital archive but between themselves. Going above and beyond to meet each other outside of project to collaborate. That's been amazing to hear and see! It's fascinating to see how when you open up about your care experience, it gives others with similar experiences the space to be comfortable and share their story in their own way too. The archive has been a great catalyst to show through metaphor the perspective of an underrepresented community."

Leyla Nazli, Executive Producer at Arcola Theatre, says:  "Young people are at the heart of so much of our work at Arcola. We are thrilled to be collaborating with Coram on this show, which gives a platform for twelve young performers to tell their valuable stories."

The performances of ‘What’s in a Name’ take place at 7.30pm on Thursday 8 July and Friday 9 July in Arcola’s new open-air performance space. Tickets cost £10 (£8 for concessions) and are available to buy at arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/whats-in-a-name/