About

Stories of Care is a dynamic and rebellious writing and outreach organisation, founded by Sophie Willan.

We make urgent work that is personal, political and powerful. We work exclusively with exceptional new writers, from diverse backgrounds, whose voices need to be heard and stories need to be told. 

With an outstanding creative team, we develop our writers to smash through all the ceilings across all platforms; there are no limits to how, what and where we will tell our stories.

We’ve written novels, published anthologies, made television, radio, stand-up and theatre. Our work is inspired by our experiences and fired by our imaginations.

See Projects for more information on what we do

“This is true arts development work: much needed, much appreciated and resulting in vital celebrations of what it is to be young, creative and empowered.”

Lemn Sissay MBE

Meet The Team

Sophie Willan

Director & Executive Producer

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Sophie Willan

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Sophie Willan is a Care Leaver, whose personal experiences have informed her mission; to empower, represent and advocate for care-experienced young people and marginalised children and adults.

Whether it’s through her own work, as a multi-award winning comedian, writer, theatre-maker and actress, or through participatory-lead outreach, Sophie is passionate about instigating positive social change through the arts.

Sophie had already built a reputation as a highly regarded, socially engaged arts practitioner and producer when she founded Stories Of Care; filled with love and anger, she felt compelled to do something big to challenge the Tory attack on the welfare state and the inadequate and insufficient representation of people like her and the people she knows and loves; care-leavers, welfare recipients, working class women, mental health and social service users.

Not only does she feel passionate about making her own creative work with Stories Of Care, she’s deeply committed to supporting other care-experienced and underrepresented artists to become creative leaders in their own right, and make personal and political work, that smashes through the glass ceilings across Theatre, Radio, Stand-Up, Television and Literature.

She is dedicated to offering long-term developmental support to the Stories Of Care participants, continually sourcing and providing opportunities and offering long-term mentor support, even after they’ve completed their participation in a Stories Of Care project.

As an Executive Producer on her BBC Two sitcom, Alma’s Not Normal, Sophie has also instigated a paid training programme for young people from low income and Care Experienced backgrounds on the production.  

The trainees will work, full time and be paid at living wage, in specific departments across the programme including producing, art, costume, makeup, camera, location and production.

Alma’s Not Normal, has also delivered an extensive open audition process, to make sure working class actors from Bolton feature heavily in the show. The show also features one Stories Of Care’s, Young Company Members, Susie Hadaway, in her first television role.

Oliver Sykes

Lead Artist & Producer

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Oliver Sykes

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Oliver is a freelance producer and children’s author. He is also one of six kids, and was brought up on a council estate in Derbyshire, by his single parent dad. His family lived on the breadline, receiving clothing donations from local charities and free school meals. 

In 2010, Oliver gained a first class honours degree in Theatre Studies from Lancaster University. In 2011, he was accepted onto the Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme, ring-fenced for arts graduates from low-income families, as Producer at Contact, Manchester. 

Over the past decade, Oliver has worked as a producer, mentor and creative collaborator, supporting the early careers of many underrepresented artists including Sophie Willan and Jackie Hagan. 

In 2015, Oliver produced the first Stories of Care project. However, his role evolved from producing to becoming a core member of the creative team, helping to deliver the writing programme and editing participant’s stories. Oliver has since become a Supported Artist with Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Z-Arts, and has written his debut children’s novel. 

He is currently studying with The Golden Egg Academy and is part of Penguin’s WriteNow Incubator, as well as being mentored by Sophie Willan, Phil Earle and Dominic Berry. 

Frances Rocca

Associate Producer

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Frances Rocca

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Frances is a creative practitioner from a working-class family in the south of Manchester. She studied Embroidery as an undergraduate and got a masters in Art Gallery and Museum Studies where she focused on outdoor learning with early years children. 

She has worked with various arts and cultural organisations as a creative practitioner such as the British Ceramics Biennial, Hull City of Culture and Whitworth Art Gallery, developing and facilitating creative learning workshops for families and children. She has also previously curated and developed exhibitions, including those of her own work. 

Frances is passionate about creative learning and the arts, focusing on creating opportunities for local communities to engage and participate with arts and culture. She currently works with Greater Manchester Artist Hub, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reece Williams

Youth Liaison Officer

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Reece Williams

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Reece is a Mancunian poet of Jamaican and Trinidadian heritage. He started writing at the age of 13, initially to journal all the things that were happening in his life and his local community and it progressed into an essential part of his life. For over 10 years, Reece has been bringing his inimitable, no-holds-barred brand of wordsmithery to stages up and down the country and internationally too.  

He has extensive experience as a writer, performer and project manager. He joined Manchester-based poetry collective Young Identity (YI) in 2007, becoming their Project Administrator in 2008, as well as working and performing with the likes of Saul Williams, Kate Tempest, The Last Poets and the late Amiri Baraka. Reece is passionate about youth engagement, cultural policy and race relations and embeds peer mentoring and the advocacy of active citizenship through the arts into his professional practice. 

Reece is a Trustee at Apples and Snakes and former Trustee at Contact, an organisation dedicated to the empowerment of young people through the arts, currently serving as the Chair of the Resources Committee. He is a Peer Mentor on The Agency, a project delivered by Contact and The Battersea Arts Centre, which empowers young people from economically and socially deprived communities to create projects which foster change. He also currently works at Manchester UNESCO City of Literature as Community Engagement Manager.  

Susie Hadaway

Young Company Member

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Susie Hadaway

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Susie is a Writer/Performer, Actress, Activist and Care Leaver. She believes everyone has a unique story to tell and is passionate about helping others to be heard. 

In 2016, Susie was a Participant in Stories Of Care’s first project, led by Sophie Willan. In 2017, she had her first short story for children published by Barbican Press in ‘Tales of the Weird, the Wild and the Wonderful’. In 2018, she graduated from Contact Young Company. 

Susie has featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC1’s Songs of Praise, BBC News, ITV Granada News, ITV’s Tonight Show and BBC2’s Alma’s Not Normal. 

Outside of the Arts, Susie is a Support Worker for Young Adults and Children for Pure Innovations and an Ambassador & Sessional Worker for Greater Manchester Youth Network. Outside of work, she volunteers with Lemn Sissay’s Gold From The Stone Foundation, ensuring Care Leavers across Manchester have a special day at Christmas. 

Beatrice Kabera

Young Company Member

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Beatrice Kabera

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Beatrice is an aspiring creative writer and filmmaker with a finance background. She has worked on six independent feature films with the British Film Academy (BYFA) where she ascended from a Production Assistant to an astute Production Manager. She has produced a variety of short films with the most notable short film ‘Middle Passage,’ being shown before Suffragette at the 2015 London Film Festival.

In 2017, Beatrice had her children’s short story published by Barbican Press in ‘Tales of the Weird, the Wild and the Wonderful,’ which was part of Stories of Care’s first project, led by Sophie Willan.

As a care leaver Beatrice has had to work hard to prevail the pejorative stereotypes put forth by the media, which has led her to be practical and earnest in everything she does. Through volunteering and mentoring, Beatrice has been able to provide advice and inspire young people within the community.

Toni Lampert

Young Company Member

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Toni Lampert

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Toni is a Care Leaver and a previous participant of Stories Of Care’s first project, led by Sophie Willan. In 2017, she had her first short story for children published by Barbican Press in ‘Tales of the Weird, the Wild and the Wonderful’

Toni has a huge passion for the arts and has been involved in acting, singing and writing projects for most of her life. As well as attending drama school, Toni was a member of The National Youth Theatre – performing several large stage productions – regularly worked and participated in theatre projects for The Lowry and has been an Extra on Waterloo Road.

Amid all her creative ventures, Toni is a Software Test Engineer by trade and has a wonderful husband and son. Her family would describe her as ‘loud and down-to-earth’ – which she would wholeheartedly agree with. She enjoys the company of her friends and family, and being the best person she can be. 

Projects

Chapter One

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Chapter One

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Stories Of Care: Chapter One was our first high-quality, multi-platform, participatory arts project, with founder Sophie Willan as the Lead Artist. 

Based on Sophie’s personal experiences, the project focussed on redressing the underrepresentation of Care-experienced young people and the misrepresentation of welfare recipients and mental health and social service users. 

Over two and a half years, Stories Of Care: Chapter One delivered…

  • A participatory-led writing programme, ring-fenced for Care Experienced Young People, resulting in a published Children’s anthology
  • Over 1500 free copies of the children’s anthology, written exclusively by Care Leavers, to children in Care
  • On Record; a deeply personal stand-up-theatre show, written and performed by Sophie that chronicled her experience in the Care System. The show went to Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it received a sell-out run, huge critical acclaim and an adaptation for a Radio Four series.
  • An extensive national tour of On Record with a robust and unique outreach package; ring-fencing writing workshops for Care Leavers and subsidising tickets for Care Leavers, welfare recipients and mental health and social service users.
  • Sophie’s follow up show, Branded; exploring identity-politics, class, sex-work and feminism for working class women. The show went to Edinburgh Festival receiving phenomenal critical acclaim, a sell out-run, a Herald Angel Award and an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for Best Show. 
  • A large national tour of Branded, with another extensive outreach strand, designated for care leavers, sex workers, welfare recipients and mental health and social service users. 

Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

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Stories Of Care: Chapter Two is our latest, large-scale, multi-platform creative writing and outreach project – and the blueprint for our long-term developmental programme, which we will deliver bi-annually.

Stories Of Care is expanding it’s core missions by working with a new and exciting Lead Artist from a different diverse background every two years. We will support each new Lead Artist as they explore their personal story and tap into it’s wider social narrative to make powerful, ambitious art and outreach that’s ring-fenced for young people from similar backgrounds.

This year’s new Lead Artist is our very own Producer, Oliver Sykes…

It became clear early on that Oliver was not only a great Producer, but a budding artist in his own right, with an important story to tell – growing up on a council estate, in a single-parent, low-income family on benefits – that couldn’t feel more urgent as we live through the extremities of poverty in a post covid-19 Britain. 

With Oliver as our new Lead Artist for Chapter Two, the Chapter One original remit (working exclusively with Care Leavers) will be widened to include young people from low-income and non-standard families.

And over the next 18 months we will deliver…

  • A brand-new writing development programme for twelve diverse new writers from Greater Manchester. They will work closely with the Stories Of Care team to develop their first short children’s story and get it ready for publication. We intend for every one of the writers to ‘graduate’ from the programme with their first publishing credit, working in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
  • Our second vibrant children’s anthology for 7-12 year-olds, written by our participants and published by MMU.
  • 1000 free copies of the anthology will be given to children from Care Experienced, Low Income and Non-Standard family backgrounds.
  • The creation and publication of Oliver’s dazzling debut children’s novel, inspired by his experience growing up in a single parent low income family of boxers. 
  • A children’s theatre adaptation of Oliver’s novel, created and performed by Oliver and directed by Dominic Berry (an established theatre performer/director also from a low-income, single-parent family).
  • A national tour of Oliver’s show to libraries, boxing clubs and theatres, with a robust and unique outreach package, ring-fenced for our remit of children and young people.
  • Three brand-new paid (at living wage) positions, ring-fenced for previous (Care Experienced) Stories Of Care participants. They will receive mentor support and specialised training, to work across different departments such as Youth Liaison, Marketing and Project Management.

In a commitment to continued professional – and organizational – development, Stories of Care will also promote three previous participants to the roles of Young Company Member. These are paid roles that will utilize their experience from the first project to enhance the project and further develop them as creative leaders. 

Partners: Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Manchester, Buxton Amateur Boxing Club, Greater Manchester Higher, Manchester Children’s Book Festival, Manchester Metropolitan University, Moss Side Firestation Boxing Club, Reform Radio, Stanley Grove Primary School, Swiis Foster Care, Trafford Council and Z-Arts. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Supported by The National Lottery’s Community Fund. 

Shows

Alma’s Not Normal

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Alma’s Not Normal

Sophie Willan and Jayde Adams stood in a butchers shop

As the writer of Alma’s Not Normal, Sophie continues to develop the core missions of Stories Of Care; by offering a bitingly funny and unflinching take on class, sexuality, mental health and substance abuse. She celebrates Working Class women, Care Leavers and Sex Workers, and shows complex female characters, dealing with the hands they’ve been dealt while doggedly pursing their dreams. 

But the work is also happening offscreen for Sophie as an Executive Producer on the show…

Alma’s Not Normal are running a paid training programme for young people from low income and Care Experienced backgrounds on the production.  The trainees will work, full time and be paid at living wage, in specific departments across the programme including producing, art department, costume department, makeup department, camera department, location department, production department.

They have also delivered an extensive open audition process, to make sure working class actors from Bolton feature heavily in the show. The show also features one Stories Of Care’s, Young Company Members, Susie Hadaway, in her first television role.

And finally, Alma’s Not Normal are working with Back Up North West – a homeless charity for young people, that Sophie was a recipient of in her youth and are now a longterm partner of Stories Of Care. BBC Comedy are paying the charity to film on their premises and inviting their young residents onto set, to watch the filming.

Branded

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Branded

Sophie Willan beside a large poster of her Branded show

As part of Chapter One (in her second year as Lead Artist), Sophie Willan developed a follow up stand-up comedy show, called Branded; exploring her personal experiences and perspectives on Class, Sex-work, Feminism, Identity Politics and the Care System.

The show was an incredible success, garnering her a sell out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a Herald Angel Award and a nomination for Best Show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2017.

In 2018, Stories Of Care produced a sell-out national tour of Branded, with an extensive outreach strand, designated for Care Experienced young people and Homeless and Vulnerable adults. Sophie provided writing workshops, mentoring sessions and free tickets to the show, subsidized by Stories Of Care and Arts Council England. Branded achieved a sell out national tour, including a three week run at SOHO Theatre, before heading to Australia for a month long run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. 

On Record

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On Record

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In 2016, Sophie Willan became Lead Artist of the first Stories Of Care project. As part of Chapter One, Sophie developed her debut stand-up comedy show, On Record, based on her personal experiences of growing up in and out of the care system. The show received phenomenal critical acclaim and a commission to adapt the show into a BBC Radio 4 series. 

In 2017, Stories Of Care produced a sell-out national tour of On Record, with an extensive outreach strand, designated for Care Experienced young people and Homeless and Vulnerable adults. Sophie provided writing workshops, mentoring sessions and free tickets to the show, subsidized by Stories Of Care and Arts Council England. 

Books

Alfie Shields and the Iron Pants Switcheroo

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Alfie Shields and the Iron Pants Switcheroo

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Coming soon!

Tales Of The Weird, The Wild And The Wonderful

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Tales Of The Weird, The Wild And The Wonderful

Discover why Franny Georgette Tinkleboom has been travelling around the world in a van that has giant mouse ears…

And why Spike, the most mischievous hedgehog in Rivington Pike, keeps wandering off into the dark night…

And what happens when you drink a wicked orange potion like Alicia Moonfall …

Tales of the Weird, the Wild and the Wonderful is a dazzling collection of short stories, jam-packed with rambunctious characters on daring adventures!

In 2016 Writer and Care Leaver, Sophie Willan, turned her focus to a group of Care Leavers in the North West of England. Together with Sophie they have created a tremendously vibrant anthology inspired by their experiences and fired by their imaginations.

Tales of the Weird, the Wild and the Wonderful is the first of its kind; a collection of short stories written exclusively by Care Leavers for children.

Contact us at

info@storiesofcare.co.uk

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