Young People's Zone

Voices 2019: our judges

We want to say a big thank you to our Voices 2019 judges. They included writers, authors, poets and journalists with a special interest in – or personal experience of – care. 

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.

He says, “As one of the judges of the 2019 Voices competition, I am delighted to be back again this year and can’t wait to see how the children and young people express their experiences of growing up”.

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

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.

She says, “I have been a judge on the Voices competition since it started four years ago and I am very passionate about giving children and young people the opportunity to tell their story. It is vital that these stories are heard.”

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

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.

He says' “I am very happy to be back again as a judge for the 2019 Voices competition that empowers young people in care and allows them to express themselves in such powerful ways”.

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

Alice Broadway, author

Alice Broadway is the author of two young adult novels  Ink and Spark.She lives in Lancashire, drinks too much tea and loves writing in her yellow camper van.

She says,“Storytelling is a very powerful tool that helps us process our own experiences. I feel very passionately about making sure that children in care and young care leavers have this opportunity to shine and make their voices heard”.

Follow Alice on Twitter @alicecrumbs and read more about her here 

Kit de Waal, author

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father.  She worked for 15 years in criminal and family law, for Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service. She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction.  My name is Leon, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Trick to Time, her second novel, was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

She says,"I am delighted to be a judge in the 2019 Voices competition. My family has fostered since I was a child and both of my children spent some time in the care system so to give young care leavers the chance to express themselves creatively is something very close to my heart."

Follow Kit on Twitter @KitdeWaal and read more about her here

Jarvis, children's picture-book maker

Jarvis studied graphic design and previously worked as a record sleeve designer, bingo caller and an animation director before becoming a children’s picture-book maker. His books include Tropical Terry and Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, which won the 2017 V&A Best Illustrated Book. About his writing inspiration, Jarvis says, “The way I work is always visual. I will have an image or character in mind and I pull a story out of it.” Jarvis lives in Manchester with his wife and their dog and cat.

He says,"I am thrilled to be a judge in Voices 2019 creative writing competition. Everyone should have the opportunity to tell stories and be listened to, and i can't wait to immerse myself in the stories written by the children in care and young care leavers who take part this year! "

Follow Jarvis on Twitter @heyimjarvis, and on Instagram as @booksbyjarvis

Ric Flo, rap artist and creative director of the hip-hop collective Jungle Brown

Ric uses the art of rap to empower children in care through telling his story in foster care via songwriting workshops and using his life experience to help them unleash their creativity.

He says, “Having first-hand experience of the care system myself, I am very happy to be a judge on the 2019 Voices competition. I am proud to support young people using the power of creative writing to amplify their voices.”

Follow Ric on Twitter @ricflomusic and read more about him here

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, poet, playwright, and author

Kiran Millwood Hargrave's books have won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year, the British Book Award Children’s Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for the Costa Award, and the Blue Peter Best Story Award.They includeThe Girl of Ink & Stars,The Island at the End of Everything, and The Way Past Winter

She says, ‘What an honour to be invited to read the work of children in care, and young care leavers. Their voices should have more platforms, and it’s wonderful that the 2019 Voices competition exists. I can’t wait to discover new talent, and to be told new stories.’

Follow Kiran on Twitter @Kiran_MH and read more about her here