‘You can find family anywhere’: Young people who have been in care perform sell-out play at Hoxton Hall

The actors on stage at Hoxton Hall. Photograph: courtesy Hoxton Hall / Coram Group

A group of young people who have experience of the care system delivered a “compelling” stage performance at a sold-out Hoxton Hall last week.

The play was the result of a theatre-making project led by writer Brian Mullin and director Vicky Moran, who collaborated with children’s charity Coram Group and its Voices Through Time programme.

The project culminated in the teenagers and young adults performing a new play, Echoes Through Time: The Story of Care, at the iconic theatre on 4 April.

The piece follows a coterie of youngsters who are suspended in time – half in the modern world, and half in the world of the Foundling Hospital.

The hospital was established in 1739 by Thomas Coram as a home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them, and the play draws on the true stories of some these children.

The young actors took on the roles of the Foundlings, as the children were known, to explore the idea of being separated from family at birth and to give a voice to those placed in care hundreds of years ago.

The play also grappled with the challenges of today’s care system and unearthed common experiences across the centuries.

Keziah-Kae Mensah, 19, said: “I’m an actor and I’ve been in some other Voices Through Time projects, so I wanted to be involved. We got a lot done in a short time, but it was really fun.

“The storyline touches close to home. Plays aren’t something that we can always relate to as young, care-experienced people, but this was really relatable to us.

“There are messages the play helps get across. Just because we grew up in care doesn’t mean that we don’t have a family.

“You can find family in anyone and anywhere.”

Another performer, 17-year-old Maryam Mahmood, added: “I’m in care so I know how it feels to have chosen family – something that the play goes into.

“I think it’s important to get messages out about what it’s like to be in care.

“People don’t know about things like LAC (looked after child) reviews or the fostering process. They think it’s like Tracy Beaker!”

The performance was followed by a screening of a documentary, No Place Like Home: The Story of the Foundling Hospital, which was also created through Coram’s Voices Through Time.

The film looks into the lives of some of the 27,000 children who grew up at the Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1954, and the desperate plight of the mothers who had to part with them.

Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, said: “It was a huge privilege to witness this compelling performance by the young people as they explored their experiences of the care system and honoured the legacy of the children who grew up in  Coram’s care in the Foundling Hospital.

“This play is an urgent reminder that, while much has changed in the intervening centuries, we need to continue to champion the rights of care-experienced children and young people today.”

Hoxton Hall was chosen as the venue for the play because of Coram and the Foundling Hospital’s historical links with the area.

Several Foundlings were born in Hoxton, and some did their apprenticeships there.

Hoxton Hall, built in 1863, existed at the same time as the Foundling Hospital, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a base for a charity helping young women.

You can find out more about the Coram Group’s work at coram.org.uk.

For more information about what’s on at Hoxton Hall, visit hoxtonhall.co.uk.