A former care home resident who suffered physical and sexual abuse is watching his debut novel being performed in a show which he hopes will inspire similar children to write.
Alex Wheatle, from Brixton but now living in Clapham Junction, is helping stage his 1999 book Brixton Rock at Mangle, in Hackney.
The play started its run, directed by UK Theatre Award’s 2015 best director winner Ned Bennett, last week and continues until March 12.
But he is hoping his example will help motivate other care leavers to pick up a pen and write themselves.
Wheatle‘s 2016 book Crongton Knights won the 50th Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize – previous winners include Ted Hughes, Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon and Jacqueline Wilson.
He is now set to be one of the judges on another writing competition, Voices, national writing competition for children in care and young care leavers.
Coram Voice, the charity that supports children and young people in and around the care system, has launched the competition as a platform for care-experienced young people to express their creative talents. Alex will be judging the entries, alongside other leading authors, writers and journalists.
Born in Brixton, Alex has personal experience of the care system, spending most of his childhood in a children’s home and living in a care hostel. He went on to become the UK’s most read Black British author and won the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for his hard-hitting novel Crongton Knights. Alex was awarded an MBE for his services to literature in 2008.
Alex said: “I’m honoured to be involved in this fantastic competition. It’s great to be a position to spot emerging young talent.
“This competition is close to my heart – it is important for people in care to express themselves in storytelling. They can process their feelings and the emotions they went through because of their experiences. Writing really helped me deal with the pain I had.”
The competition is grouped in three age categories: primary school, secondary school and care leavers, with a special additional award for migrant children in care or care leavers. The theme is ‘New Beginnings’ and entries can be in any written style including poems, short stories or newspaper articles, with a 500 word limit.
Entries can be submitted online at coramvoice.org.uk/voices-2017 until 21 February, and winners will be announced by the judges at an awards ceremony in London on 10 April.
For more information about Voices 2017, how to enter and prizes, please visitcoramvoice.org.uk/voices-2017.