Art: celebrating Care Experienced young people

April 15, 2024

Gerald (left) and other giraffes on the Standing Tall art trail: photos provided by Kerrie

Kerrie Portman reports on why Cambridge is currently home to a trail of giraffe statues

The Standing Tall art trail, running from 21 March to 2 June 2024, supports Break, a charity working with young Care Leavers across Cambridgeshire.

They write on their website that they hope the “trail will bring together communities from all corners of the city, and encourage them to look up at the spectacular art on offer while supporting Break […] We hope as you gaze up at the giraffes you see them as we do – a representation of Break, standing tall for young people with care experience and telling them that the sky is never the limit.”

Standing Tall comprises of 31 large giraffe sculptures, decorated by different artists and sponsored by different institutions across Cambridge, and 60 little giraffes, painted by community groups and schools. This was how I became involved, helping paint ‘Gerard the Giraffe’ with the University of Cambridge’s Realise team.

Helping paint Gerard was a lovely experience. I used to be an artist and, as a teenager, followed many themed trails, dreaming of one day being part of one.

The plethora of different and creative ways to support Care Experienced people is fascinating. Obviously, we need practical support, but that’s not the be-all and end-all, and to even get that practical support we need involvement from non-Care Experienced populations and decision-makers.

Kerrie and Gerald: photo provided by Kerrie

Having a fun and visual art trail helps raise awareness. When advocating for Care Experienced people, one of the biggest barriers I’ve found is people not understanding what makes our lives more challenging than our non-Care Experienced peers and/or not understanding there are ways people can help. A giraffe art trail is a great way to illustrate the breadth of ways people with different skills can help.

At the VIP launch event back in March I learnt that a group of giraffes is called a ‘journey’, which is one of the reasons the animal was selected. Another reason is that giraffes stand tall, at 14 to 18 feet, which can be metaphorically utilised to express a desire to raise the aspirations of Care Experienced people.

I may be a mere five feet three inches (or roughly as tall as three giraffe tongues!) but seeing the giraffes and support for the Care Experienced community across Cambridge helps me feel like a more valued part of the community and more like I belong.

Cambridge has recently made great strides in supporting Care Experienced people practically too. Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Cambridge City Council all passed the motion to act as though being Care Experienced is a Protected Characteristic. I was privileged enough to support and speak about this during the council meeting on February 15th 2024, where the motion was unanimously supported.

The Children’s and Social Work Act 2017 lays out that councillors and officers within a council are the Corporate Parents of Looked After Children and Care Leavers. It always fills me with joy to see people recognising and acting on that.

Giraffes and the Standing Tall art trail is a creative way to celebrate Cambridge’s Corporate Children.

Kerrie is an autistic care leaver, her love of writing originating from the desire to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in social care. This led to her main writing accomplishments, including two published articles in The Guardian and co-authoring a chapter of the book: ‘COVID-19 and Co-production in Health and Social Care Research, Policy, and Practice, Volume 2: Co-production Methods and Working Together at a Distance’. As Kerrie’s love of writing grew, it expanded to most topics and she has also guest-written articles for Ambitious About Autism, National Student Pride, iReader, Heroica, Wearewriteous and North Hertfordshire Pride.

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.