Young People's Zone

Voices 2018: our judges

We're very excited about our panel of judges for Voices 2018. They include writers, authors, poets and journalists with a special interest in – or personal experience of – care. They’re all looking forward to reading your Voices 2018 entries! So, get writing now!

Ashley John-Baptiste, singer-songwriter, author, reporter and campaigner, BBC and X Factor UK

Ashley John BaptisteAshley is a young BBC broadcast journalist and presenter who has a remarkable story of how he overcame his troubled childhood in care to then study history at Cambridge University. Many will remember Ashley as the member of boy band group ‘The Risk’ who famously quit ITV’s ‘X Factor’ during the live final show, in order to pursue a career in media. Ashley is now reporting for BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme and presenting the popular BBC Radio 4 ‘Seriously’ podcast.

Whilst at Cambridge, Ashley acted as a mentor to other students who grew up in care and he continues to champion change in fostering laws. Ashley believes you should always follow your dreams, and never give up. Ashley draws on his experiences of care from age four. He uses his story as a tool to motivate and propel others to face their challenges with a sense of optimism and triumph.

Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyJBaptiste and watch an interview with Ashley, where he speaks about his experience of care.

Dreadlockalien, poet, ex-poet laureate of Birmingham, radio host and motivational speaker, BBC Radio 4

DreadlockalienRichard Grant aka Dreadlockalien is a poet that grew up in care. He was the 10th Poet Laureate of Birmingham in 2005/6. Dreadlockalien is also Co-Director of Colour Free Visions Theatre, a founding member of the New October Poets, curator of the 'Art 4 Social Change' collection of ethnic art, Co-Director of the UK Schools' Poetry Slam Championships, host of BBC Radio 4's slam poetry show and a judge for the Young Muslim Writers Awards. So he knows how to pick a good poem!
He has travelled to places like Japan, South Africa, India, Malaysia and Poland working in schools running poetry slam and beatbox competitions. In 2013 he was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen at an event for British Contemporary Poetry. 
Listen to Dreadlockalien's poem 'Well Done', part of Birmingham Council's Making a Difference to Children in Care initiative. 

Jackie Long, Social Affairs Editor and Presenter, Channel 4 News

After more than two decades with the BBC, Jackie joined Channel 4 in 2011.

As Social Affairs Editor and Presenter for Channel 4 News, Jackie provides coverage of policy and public services, and this includes reporting on issues facing young people in the care system.

Jackie also writes a blog on social affairs for Channel 4 News, and is a reporter for Dispatches, Channel 4’s award-winning investigative current affairs programme.

Follow Jackie on Twitter @JackieLongc4, or visit

Jenny Molloy, author and motivational speaker, England Patron of The British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

Jenny Molloy's most recent book Neglected explores the true stories of children in and around the care system. It comes after two previous books Hackney Child, and Tainted Love, which she wrote under her pen name Hope Daniels. Jenny spent most of her childhood in care and, as a care leaver, was under the Care of Hackney Social Services, hence the title of her book. She is now married, and although a mother and grandmother, remains, to this day, a care leaver.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @HackneyChild and read Jenny's Huffington Post blog about what writing meant to her while growing up in care.

Lisa Cherry, author, international trainer and keynote speaker, Youth Coach

Lisa Cherry is a leading trainer and consultant, specialising in assisting professionals working with vulnerable children and families to understand trauma, recovery and resilience. Lisa brings nearly three decades of working in Educational and Social Care settings and a 27-year journey of recovery in overcoming her own experiences of being in care and all that that brought with it. 

Lisa is now a celebrated author, lecturer and international speaker for organisations, local authorities and charities. With a range of qualifications and currently studying a Masters in Education, Lisa brings professional experience in counselling, coaching and a number of holistic healing approaches focused on calming the nervous system, healing from trauma and recovery from a poor attachment history.

Follow Lisa on Twitter @_LisaCherry and visit

Lola Jaye, author, writing mentor, pyschotherapist and motivational speaker, Penguin Books and Random House

Lola Jaye is a British author who was placed into care as a baby. She draws on this experience to write non-fiction and fiction novels. Educated in a BSC degree in Psychology and a Masters in Psychotherapy and Counselling, Lola has written five novels and one self help book that have been translated into several languages including Korean, German and Serbia. Her recent release, Orphan Sisters, deals with the care system of the 1960s. She has also written for The Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News and Marie Claire.

Lola believes the best thing about being an author is when readers tell ‘you that your book made them laugh and/or cry!’ 

Follow Lola on Twitter @LolaJaye and read more about her story of care

Lucy Spraggan, singer-songwriter, X Factor UK

Earlier this year Lucy was approved as a foster carer. She is most well known for her appearance on the X Factor in 2012, with an audition video that has been viewed over 40 million times (she was even the most googled musician in 2012!) Since then, she has had four top 40 album releases, headlined over 60 shows across the UK and Europe, and performed at some of the UK’s most popular festivals, including Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival.

Lucy’s trademark sound is the rattle of rap dropped into sing-along folk-style numbers. She is widely recognised as one of the leading lights in the LGBT community.

Follow Lucy on Twitter @lspraggen and watch her X Factor audition

Mr Gee, poet, comedian, musician and presenter, Radio 4 and BBC Radio 2

From humble beginnings as a Hip-Hop DJ, Mr Gee honed his spoken word skills as the host of the renowned performance poetry club Brix-Tongue and Straight outta Shoreditch. He is now one of the stars of the UK poetry scene and remains at the cutting edge of Underground poetry across the globe, running regular Chill Pill nights at the Soho Theatre, Roundhouse and Albany. 

Mr Gee now presents the new Radio 4 series, Poetic Justice, which encourages prison inmates to write poems that gives an intimate insight into prison life at different prisons across the UK. Gee has also hosted on Radio 4 the SONY award nominated series, 'Bespoken Word,' the first BBC series dedicated to modern performance poetry and the series ‘Rhyme and Reason.’ Mr Gee is the co-winner of a Sony Gold Award for Radio as the resident poet/comedian on the Russell Brand Show on BBC Radio 2. 

Follow Mr Gee on Twitter @mrgeepoet and read more about his story here