Giving a voice to young people in the care system

Hip Hop Gives A Voice To Young People In Care

When I ( Nathan) was first approached to be a creative mentor for Derbyshire’s Virtual School programme four years ago, I had no idea that it would have such a huge impact on my life and the work I would go on to make.


Virtual School enhances the life opportunities for children in care in Derbyshire.

Through the programme, I met one 12-year-old girl who loved abseiling and arranged for us to abseil down a bridge. She asked that I go first and reluctantly I agreed. When I got halfway down, I looked up and she was holding my rope. My life was literally in her hands.

That’s when it hit me. As adults and professionals, we expect kids to trust us even though they barely know us, but we rarely put ourselves in positions where we need to trust them.

This inspired me to make a production, that would give young people in care a voice – challenging stereotypes and attitudes towards them. The Trust In Care production explores themes of trust and attachment which can affect us all.



Trust In Care is the result of collaborating for over 2 years with young people in care and professional arts organisations.


The professional production combines hip-hop dance, interactive projection, contemporary dance and poetry written by young people in care.


We were fortunate to receive funding from Big House and business support from In Good Company to bring the production to stage, as well as funding from Plus One, Virtual School and Arts Council England


Young people were recruited for the production by Virtual School and Derby Theatres Plus One scheme. Each young person was assigned a creative mentor to work together on artistic activities such as hip-hop dance, drama, interactive projection and aerial silks. The youngsters were given the role of being the artistic consultants and would give feedback. They’d tell us what they felt was a true reflection of their experience, and what wasn’t, and would give us directorial notes on how to improve each scene.

We also collaborated with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) therapist to help us identify the underlying themes and difficulties that each young person was dealing with. We did this by incorporating a five-part story method where they would create a fictional story including a hero, villain, quest, obstacle and a resolution. The stories fed into the scenes and informed the narrative of the final production.

When working with vulnerable people we are always mindful of their mental health. Young people in care can often experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, so we worked with the CBT therapist to develop a way to treat depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through a combination of hip-hop dance and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). Everyone involved in the creative process for Trust in Care could access CBT if they needed it.

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It was important to educate and train young people on how to make the production accessible. After all, they will become our future leaders and pave the way to create an accessible future for generations to come.

We looked at how we could creatively integrate British Sign Language (BSL) into the dramatic scenes and choreography, as well as how we could incorporate The Rationale Method of Audio Description which uses beatboxing sound effects to create a richer soundscape for people with visual impairment. In addition to this, the projection, costume and set were designed to be more visible to people with visual impairment.


We performed an excerpt of Trust In Care at Derby Theatre’s Culture Cares Conference in October 2018 during National Care Leavers’ Week. We also facilitated a panel discussion with the young people involved in the production to talk about their experience as artistic consultants and they gave physical demonstrations of how they helped to develop each scene. The event was a huge success and they represented themselves with such confidence and professionalism.


Trust In Care will be touring to theatres and we will continue to work with young people in care in every city we visit. They will also assist on the professional production in terms of direction, choreography, sound and lighting production, with the hope that in later runs of the tour they will manage aspects of the show to give them a sense of ownership.

By putting trust in our young people as a society we can all begin to show them we truly care. Our contribution at Rationale Arts is to put trust into those who are in care.


On running a pilot ‘Beatboxing’ workshop with Rationale Arts we received supportive feedback which informed the need to create a bespoke programme:

I was very surprised by how inclusive the Bedside Beatboxing was. Nathan (the facilitator) was fab with the kids and got to their level. Lily (my daughter) has complex needs and thoroughly enjoyed this session.

Sally Harley - Parent