Care experienced journalist Sophia Hall spoke to Isabelle Kirkham, Founder of the upcoming theatre/arts company Unredacted about her care experienced led project, and her degree.

Who are you and what do you do?

Hello! I’m Isabelle Kirkham, I’m a 24-year-old care leaver and I’m currently in my third year of University at the Central School of Speech and Drama-where I study Drama, applied theatre and education (DATE for short)

My area of work is normally around drama and how I can use drama to have an impact on people’s lives. I’m currently working on how to change the stigmas and stereotypes around care experienced people-in particularly that representation within the media. I want to use drama/art to challenge those stereotypes and form a better representation of care experienced people.

I’m also interested in blending technology with theatre and how we can use technology within theatre/art to make it 1) more accessible 2) more immersive. I’d love to make a play that’s fully viewable in VR or a sound only play listened via headphones!

Why have you chosen to combine your degree with your care advocacy work?

There’s a few of reasons behind this, I’ll list three of the most important:

  1. I want to change the representation of us in all aspects, but in particular with the media/fiction deceptions of us. I want to challenge and get rid of these stereotypes and stigmas by creating work about care, by care experienced people. Allowing us to create our own representation.
  2. Art in any aspect is powerful, if that’s graffiti on the side of a bus, a youth theatre in a little village or someone singing in the shower- it gives people the space to be themselves and to (IMO) be free without any boundaries.
  3. Growing up I always found theatre to be my safe space (I still do) I want to create that space for other care experienced people and give them the space to feel safe enough in tobe themselves, use their voice or just be free.

What is your dissertation on?

In short, it’s about Tracy Beaker and how that representation has an impact on

on care experienced people (the good & bad sides of the show) I also discuss a lot of the ongoing stigmas and stereotypes care experienced people face due to the shows and how we as care experienced people need better representations of us- that aren’t Tracy Beaker, serial killers or superheroes/villains.

What is Unredacted?

The unredacted company is a theatre/arts company I’ve set up that produces/makes work by care experienced people and platforms that work. The company was an idea I had in 2019/20 but only became a reality while I started to do research for my dissertation. I want to create a space for us to create our own representations. Alongside this it’s also a company that only has care experienced people involved (from creating the work, the “pr” to the editing)- this is one of the main things I wanted the company to have set in place.

My “goal” for the company is to show the unredacted view of real-life care experience and to give care experienced people the space to tell our own stories. But it’s also to give a platform to care experienced people to not only be seen/heard but to also showcase the work they create. We are a pretty talented community and that needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

I’m currently working on setting up a podcast which will be a space to read the work created by care experienced people and discuss their work, alongside with a “online” art museum for care experienced people to get involved in by submitting any form of artwork (if that’s a poem, a picture, a song or even a tik tok).

Our first project is also in the early stages of development, which leads me onto me talking about my workshops I’m currently doing

Can you tell me more about your workshops?

I’m currently working with 3 other care experienced young people on a project for my course/the unredacted company- we are in the early stages of writing a collaborative piece of spoken word around the topic of care and what it means to be care experienced.

So far, the workshops have been getting to know each other/making the space safe ready to start working on the piece of writing, and the themes of the writing. Our last workshop we spent the afternoon creating a document on “guidelines ” for us all to follow when in the space. This consisted of us setting boundaries, self-care rules and deciding how we wanted to start/leave the space as group. One of my personal favourite guidelines we’ve set is that we always have a game to start of the session, that brings energy and silliness to the space.

How can people get involved in your work?

People can message me directly via my personal twitter account which @IsabelleKirkham or via The Unredacted company’s email address which is [email protected] or visit our website and fill out our “contact us” google form : https://www.theunredactedcompany.com