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NAN KIDS ||| The Outcomes

Updated: Jun 7

NAN KIDS is a series of socially engaged performance installations (‘Nan-terventions’). It opens a book of hidden life stories of people, like myself, who had to be raised in kinship care families.

Image above courtesy of Andrew Clark at St Nicholas Church grounds, Deptford X Festival

Framed in an ‘cosy’ grandparent living room assembled over the residency, these ‘sound-word portraits’ of trauma invite exchange with others who share this lived experience. Gallery visitors will contemplate people who are raised by other relatives.

It was commissioned by SPILL Festival, funded by Arts Council England via a National Lottery Project Grant, and received a Deptford X Festival Bursary and Sound and Music Creative Seed Award.


During SPILL Festival 2021, BBC Radio Suffolk’s arts correspondent Jon Wright made about NAN KIDS. This now lives permanently on the BBC Sounds website.

NAN KIDS also featured in Jon Wright’s SPILL Festival special and was on the BBC 1 News (Look East), both broadcast on Friday 28th October. BBC Sounds keeps no quantitative data of podcast listens, but BBC Radio Suffolk has an audience reach of 108,000 people in the Eastern region (figure from BBC Trust Service figures from 2016 suggest that 48.2% of the Eastern region viewers watch the 6.30pm regional news programme. It is not possible to calculate exact numbers of who saw broadcasts or listened online, but it is reasonable to assume that 1,080 people (1% of BBC Radio Suffolk audience) heard or viewed NAN KIDS for between 0.5 – 9 minutes via the TV, radio, and podcast.


By working with The Churchill Fellowship, Kinship and Reel Rebels Radio, this gave me the opportunity to blog about NAN KIDS and be part of Kinship Care Week. Also, I was interviewed by Naomi Woddis for 'The Two of Us', a mental health and arts podcast.

Image by Alicia Graham, taken in Job Centre beer garden @ Deptford X Festival

This is an Instagram post from Alba Frederick, (a writer and the other host of The Two Of Us) about the interview with Naomi on 7th October:

With charity Kinship, I was able to reach kinship care families and people working in this field of social care.

New Artistic Collaborations

New partnerships were forged between Families In Harmony (British Caribbean kinship care families), The Crib in Hackney, a social worker and Reel Rebels Radio. As this was a spin-off of NAN KIDS, I was invited to contribute to a discussion about Caribbean Kinship Care families. The full panel discussion is on YouTube and begins where this link begins here. This new cultural coalition is planning to work together.

Being part of Deptford X Festival provided a platform to trial performing alongside the NAN KIDS sound-word portraits, to test outreach and collaborate with other NAN KID artists Matt Hulse (Matt’s NAN KID memories he drew in our performance together is below left) and Alicia Graham performing spoken word (right).

At NAN KIDS in Deptford, Alicia met kinship carer artist Piyagarn Odunukwe and they collaborated on creating Alicia’s family tree, resulting in a wider exhibition at Reel Rebels Radio in Hackney (which took place in Kinship Care Week in October). Alicia Graham wrote and performed a spoken word piece ‘My Granny and Me’ in Deptford and Hackney. Disabled musician Clare Smith and queer sound artist Martial Ramage each created a new piece for the Ipswich Art Gallery audio installation using a NAN KID interview.

Feedback from participants, artists and audiences

Participant Eirwen Morgan email:

Thank you on reflection it was really cathartic bless you coming into my life xxx

Neurodivergent electric cellist Jo-Anne Cox said:

Great to see Nan Kids and be in the beautiful garden and church, it's really excellent and you really look like you've been performing and writing for ages, I think doing heavy autobiographical stuff well is a skill to make it engaging as some people make the mistake of it coming out like it's using the audience as their therapist and they just go on and on about it to the point where as an audience member you get put off, but yours isn't like that at all, it's structured and really engaging as well as bringing to light a hidden story.

Via Instagram, Deptford X audience member messaged me to say this:

Hello, Leon, I’m Jing. Thank you for stories, sound, music and everything. Totally engaging, it’s wonderful💕

Clive from The Blitz 1940s Tearooms in Ipswich emailed:

Good morning to you Sir, Thank you for sending me the link to your BBC radio Suffolk broadcast & thank you too for your very kind words in this email. I found the topic very interesting. I didn’t realise it was a “thing”, but looking back to my childhood I remember a young girl who lived in my street that became pregnant underage & her parents raised the child as their own. We look forward to seeing you next time you’re in the area. Warmest regards, Clive.

Singer Eleanor Nicholau messaged:

It was very moving and I just to say what a superstar you are, out there, shining a light on this issue. It was extremely interesting to hear about the family interplay between mother and grandmother. I've taught a nan kid for 9 years and have seen her sink into a quagmire of family disfunction and alcohol, this beautiful young woman is constantly fending off hurtful slanging matches and constant verbal slaggings from all sides. She has definite attachment issues. It's taken her about 7 years to actually start to open up to me and quite honestly I'm not sure how she's survived this far. Added to her mix, her biological mother was adopted. Not sure quite how this affects the situation but I do think it has a bearing on the whole "not worthy" and has ramped up the anger and back lash towards the grandmother. There are levels upon levels of disfunction. But she won't or can't pull away. She keeps going back for more in a kind of masochistic dance. I think it's testament to your wonderful grandparents and yourself of course that you came out of this situation feeling so well loved and so well adjusted. You are actually a fabulous inspiration on what unselfish and constant love can do. I'm going to send her your podcast. I just wanted to say thank you for being brilliant and I'm so impressed with how you live your life through art and experience. It's quite wonderful.

SPILL Artistic Director Robin Deacon, writing for Ipswich Star:

‘More than half of SPILL events are free, including an exhibition of video, photography and installation at Ipswich Art Gallery. A highlight for me in this exhibition is Leon Clowes NAN KIDS, a beautiful and moving sound based art work consisting of interviews with people who were raised by their grandmothers. According to Leon (a ‘nan kid’ himself) – “there is never a good reason that grandma had to bring up the grandkids – but we’re not sad about that.” I hope you take some time to listen to Leon’s understated, fascinating work.’

Images above and below courtesy of Martial Ramage, taken at Ipswich Art Gallery.

Links to NAN KIDS video and audio

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