Last Sunday, February 19th, saw the event ‘From Pip to Potter: Celebrating the Place of Children in Care in Literature’, run in conjunction with The Letterbox Club and First Club, take place at The Southbank Centre in London.
This event highlighted the stark differences in the way literature presents cared-for children and orphans, compared to the experiences of children in those circumstances in the real world. Poet Lemn Sissay, who has first hand experience of the care system for children, led proceedings. He was joined on the panel by our very own Jane Davis and Project Worker Anna Fleming, as well as Rose Griffiths, founder of The Letterbox Club and poet Caroline Bird who represented the work of First Story, an organisation which fosters creativity, literacy and talent in hard-to-reach young people – often the very children whose literary counterparts-in-care are glorified! Several other Readers were in attendance too.
The audience heard how in literature there is a great tradition of making heroes and heroines out of the most humble beginnings imaginable, those without a stable family background. This tradition stretches back to Dickens and beyond yet stands in stark contrast to the way of things in the real world, where children in care or who have been orphaned often struggle with disadvantages that can hobble them for life. So, while appreciating wonderful characters like Harry Potter, Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Pip and Estella from Great Expectations and even Superman, it is important to remember how hard life can be for young people growing up disadvantaged in a system that often struggles to meet their needs.
This issue is of course very important to The Reader Organisation; we run many groups with looked-after children, working to help them have a fair chance in life . . . if not quite the adventures of some of our favourite characters!
‘From Pip to Potter’ was a great success being hugely entertaining, while emphasising the serious messages that all of our talented, knowledgeable and experienced speakers were there to give. Bev, who attended on behalf of The Reader Organisation said:
“It was a truly inspiring and informative event that emotionally touched the audience. People laughed, some cried but everyone had a great time.
The panel were amazing! Everyone who was on the stage knew what they were talking about having worked with children in care and were passionate about the importance of the role of children in care in literature from Superman to Estella in Great Expectations.”
Here is to literature’s great orphans, from Pip to Potter!
George Hawkins, Communications Intern