In the spotlight: care experienced creativity

May 10, 2024

Fran performing at Hoxton Hall: photo provided by Coram

Fran Agyeman describes the challenges she is facing and overcoming as an emerging artist

I’m Fran, aka Nana Araj, a care experienced emerging artist from West London, with roots in Ghana, West Africa. I have been rapping since I was 16, experimenting with different genres such as Hip Hop, R&B and Afrobeats.

My career in music started off in 2019 when I self-released my first single Heartbreak with another artist called Country Girl, and I’ve released many more over the years. I then released my first Afrobeats freestyle Enjoyment which got good engagement on social media.

My main musical inspiration is the rap artist Ms Banks. She inspires me as a black woman to believe in myself and my voice, and to express myself. She is also of West African heritage and, at one of her concerts, she invited me to sing on stage with her which was really exciting.

It was a wonderful achievement when I performed Shine Up, one of my original drill songs, at the New Gen Festival last summer. It can be challenging as an emerging artist, facing rejection, but successes like this keep me going.

Being creative is an important part of who I am, whether it’s writing rap lyrics, journaling about my life or performing on stage. Last year, I had the chance to develop my creativity further when I got involved with Coram’s Voices Through Time: The Story of Care programme, which is made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Performing in Hoxton Hall to a sold-out audience was a great experience

Voices Through Time explores the history of the Foundling Hospital – Britain’s first children’s home, established by Thomas Coram in 1739. Through the programme, Coram has digitised nearly a quarter of Coram’s vast Foundling Hospital Archive. It has also run a series of creative workshops, which bring together care experienced young people and professional artists to explore the past and present of the care system.

I took part in a theatre-making project called Echoes Through Time: The Story of Care as part of a group of care experienced young people. We worked on the script along with the writer Brian Mullin. We looked at experiences of the children who grew up in the Foundling Hospital and how things have changed for children growing up in care today. My passion for writing lyrics helped me to develop a creative plot with the directors.

It was nice to meet and get to know the other care experienced young people as we rehearsed the script, came up with different ideas and decided which characters we would play. I have learnt to cooperate with others in the team which is a hard thing to do, especially in performing arts.

I feel proud of myself and the others too. The most challenging part was learning my lines, because it was a long story and we didn’t have much time. But performing in Hoxton Hall to a sold-out audience was a great experience. I enjoyed taking part in acting. It allowed me to express my emotions more as a character, develop my performance skills and learn how to project my voice on stage.

I feel like people with learning difficulties are often misunderstood or not heard

I thought the story was relatable to me because I’ve had some similar challenges growing up in care as a child during modern times, separated from my mother.

The Foundling Hospital was very harsh for babies, and their names were changed. But while children in the Foundling Hospital rarely met their mothers, I am happy to be in touch with my mother and the rest of my family, after leaving care.

Taking part in Voices Through Time has challenged me to encourage people to have a different perception of those who are neurodiverse. As someone with mild learning difficulties, it can impact my learning, but I have managed to socialise better with others, and I find learning things in a practical way is better for me than learning from theory.

I feel like people with learning difficulties are often misunderstood or not heard. It doesn’t make us any less human and we can do well like others. As a musician, I’m more likely to be rejected for musical opportunities because of my learning needs. But I am working on improving my creative lyric writing and energising my vocals as a performer.

I grew up hearing professionals labelling me with different conditions each time I’ve told them about learning difficulties. Some professionals did not have confidence in me and didn’t expect me to study in mainstream education. But a mentor from virtual college, Mary, has supported me to make the right decisions for my education and advised me to take GCSE English before I go to uni in the future.

I would like society to understand that, just because children in care live away from their biological families, it doesn’t mean they don’t have family. Every young person deserves to be cared for and have opportunities in life, no matter what their upbringing or childhood.

In partnership with Coram, changing lives, laws and systems to create better chances for children, now and forever

Fran is an emerging artist, performer and retail professional from West London. Her interests include Afrobeats, hip hop and R&B. Fran hopes to build on her creative collaborations and perform at more music festivals.

Other work

Donate via PayPal

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice.

Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.