“It was an amazing experience” – Voices 2024 winner Evan on what his writing means to him

Evan with Carol, Gita, Peter and Brigd

05 Mar 24

On 17 February we celebrated everyone who took part in the Voices 2024 writing competition for children in care and young care leavers.

Voices is an opportunity for children and young people to express their feelings creatively and help build understanding around what it means to be care-experienced.

So we were thrilled when Amir Suleman at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire invited Evan, the winner of the Upper Secondary category, to come on his show to talk about the experience!

You can listen to Evan’s appearance here, or read the transcript below.

Amir: Now then, back in November, you might recall we heard about Voices, the writing competition run by the charity Coram Voice for young people in or leaving care. Voices is their opportunity to express what they’ve experienced or are experiencing through poetry, stories or even rap. It’s been running for eight years and this year’s theme was “what makes me different?” Well, the winners have been announced. Evan is 17 and won the upper secondary category and he joins us now. Evan, good afternoon.

Evan: It was an amazing experience. We went down to the Coram Voice office in London and  Peter Capaldi was hosting and I got to speak to him. I spoke to him about my entry and also just about my life as an individual. And it was pretty surreal to me because I want to go into the industry as an actor or director. So seeing someone who’s already very successful was an amazing experience.

Amir: Tell us about your winning entry.

Evan:  I wrote a poem about my experiences as a transgender and bisexual person coming into care. Kind of the experiences that led me in and how I feel now that I’m there and kind of the way that my identity has been, how I’ve made me feel comfortable with my identity through finding a stable home due to being in care.

Amir: How difficult was it to write something about that? Because that’s not an easy subject, is it?

Evan: It was definitely difficult. I became aware of the competition through my carer, actually. She sent it to me and told me it’d be right up my street. And I took about ten minutes to kind of think of it. I wasn’t really considering doing it, but I thought, you know what, I’ll just give it a go. And it kind of just came immediately, kind of thinking about my experiences. So it wasn’t particularly hard because it was something that I’ve been thinking of for a long time, but it made me think a lot. And I think, in a way, it helped me address some of it and kind of come to terms with how far I’ve actually come as a person.

Amir: Of course. So how emotional was that for you?

Evan: It was definitely rough, but I have people around me who were very supportive. And, I mean, the main part of it was towards my foster carer, who helped me so much when I came to care, because I came straight from a psychiatric unit, so I was in a really rough state. And she was just very welcoming. And after I wrote the poem, I went straight down to her and showed it to her. And I think having that support around me definitely helped me deal with the emotions. I wouldn’t say they weren’t there, but I think once you’ve got support network, they’re easier to work through.

Amir: And is it also, do you think, useful for care providers to hear directly from children and young adults like yourself that they look after?

Evan: Absolutely. I mean, every single child in care has such different experiences, and I think the statistics will show one thing, but there’s nothing better than understanding the experience directly from someone. And I think the Voices competition does such great work for that because you’ve got the children and young people who are in care, who have left care, being able to speak about their experiences in the way that they express themselves best.

You can read Evan’s winning poem below and read all the winning and commended entries in the Voices 2024 Anthology (PDF).


What Makes Me Different

For years I knew difference as something to fear,

To fear all the bullies and the stories I’d hear.

So I hid in a closet, hid for my life,

I closed the door shut, away from the knife.

I stayed silent in hiding, praying to know,

To know someone like me, scared of their ‘home’.

The doors they stayed bolted, locked at the seams,

But a friend ripped them open, for all to come see.

When the doors were flung open, I sat there exposed,

I knew not my safety, while everyone nosed.

When she found out my secret, she was so ashamed,

Of the person I was, of the person renamed.

She told me to go, go somewhere far,

I went to another, and went in a car.

My new closet was pretty, I painted it red,

But the red was a theme, the red stained my bed.

He loved me, I know, but love could not save,

Save me from lusting, and digging my grave.

He worried and worried, then worried some more,

Then, I was in a new room, asleep on the floor.

The floor was okay, and I got on my feet,

Spoke to some people, and admitted defeat.

The people went searching, for somebody new,

They searched for a while, they searched and found you.

You stood in your doorway and welcomed me in,

We sat on the sofa, you had a warm grin.

I told my hobbies, and the things that I like,

You told me about you, and about a new life.

When I came to stay, no differences were mentioned,

You saw me as a person, I felt reawakened.

You saw not my sins, you fought my depression,

You never got angry, and fought my suppression.

For years I knew difference as something to fear,

To fear all the bullies and the stories I’d hear.

But time has flown by and I’m a new person,

This new person I am, can say completely certain,

That difference is no longer something I fear,

It’s something I welcome, now that I’m here.