“Orphans and care experience in literature”

– This article published to October 1st 2010  was written on 7th April 2017 –

‘Superman was a Foundling’ was the title of an exhibit on the walls of  The Foundling Museum erected in 2014 and still there today. The aim of the exhibit was to establish a list of characters who had been adopted and fostered in children’s homes.

In 2012 I spoke of this in a Ted Ted talk at the Houses of Parliament, a talk now seen by a million viewers. I had been speaking about the connection between characters in literature and young people in care  for some years before. Here I’m describing it in 2010

In 2012 I formulated and presented an event at Southbank Centre called “from Pip to Potter” to connect Orphaned, adopted fostered children in fiction with  non fictional children in care today. Again the primary purpose was to identify the unseen characters in literature with the unseen young people in care.

Rosie Canning was in the audience. She  wrote to me  and said  “it was like a light bulb illuminating that dark place” . Canning applied to university of Southampton, was accepted in 2014 and built her PHD around the idea   stating “I began the PhD journey when I attended Lemn Sissay’s  ‘From Pip to Potter’, at Southbank”

Canning began work in September 2015   under supervision of Ms Rebecca Smith and co-supervisor Sujala Singh at University of Southampton. Her thesis topic is: Hiraeth: Finding a Fictional Home – A Creative Writing PhD.   She says  in her blog “I am going to be looking at the representation of orphans and care leavers in literature”. Rosie Canning set up a website in 2014 called Care Leavers In Fiction. I urge you to visit.


3 thoughts on ““Orphans and care experience in literature”

  1. I once read a book about one of the Mayor’s of Wiganr being a founding I’m not sure if his name was Rigby it was simply written but very informative and quite brutal I had no idea I realised I am truly blessed

  2. It’s lovely to see this. And synchronicity is at work again because since Monday I have been staying at Agatha Christie’s beautiful house, Greenway in Devon on retreat and writing and reflecting on how I started this journey for my forthcoming PhD Upgrade. Today I wrote about from “Pip to Potter” – that was such a special and exciting day for me:
    One of the presentations was by Lemn Sissay, which had a profound effect on me and in fact became a catalyst for events in my own life…As a child growing up in care, I devoured books, orphan stories, fairy tales, adventure stories. They gave me a safe place to go and helped with my emotional well-being. Books were my family. And there was Lemn sharing what I thought was my secret, the stuff that sustained me while living the real life story of an orphan.

    • Ahhh. The symptom of synchronicity. Lovely.

      “Pip to potter” was an event which I conceived chaired and curated. The guests I invited to the stage were Caroline Bird and Rose Griffiths. Both are academics. Caroline Bird via Oxford and Rose via Nottingham University. Both are friends

      My Keynote speech at the booktrust conference alongside Jaqueline Wilson at The Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9th March 2009 also outlined my theory on “care experienced” in literature.

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