Kamari Romeo has collaborated with other care leavers – Sirena Reynolds, Tobi, Tiahnna, and Maya – to create Toybox.

A nine-month project, Toybox is a series of short, filmed poems that are performed to original music. The poems highlight how childhood experiences and traumas affect us, and shape the people we become.

“After my mother died suddenly in April 2018, I began to take an interest in the idea of deconstructing my childhood through the perspective of a child, piecing together the memories of my care experience…” explains Romeo. “It suddenly felt more important than ever to delve into my history as a second-generation Zambian immigrant, growing up in England, playing with Chinese toys and watching American TV to figure out what parts of my multi-cultural upbringing I would hold on to as an adult out of the system.”

“I wanted to dissect how I could use poetry as a tool to communicate empathy, forgiveness and worth…” continues Romeo. “Analysing and transposing these lived experiences into poetry seemed like a natural step. An open call was announced across the UK for care-experienced young people to explore their journeys through spoken word. Two of the five contributors to Toybox are exploring poetry for the first time.”

My mum the bottle collector

A poem about alcoholism written through the eyes of a child and in the style of a children’s story (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo).

For My Next Trick

Inspired by the wonder of magic and using it to solve your worst problems (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo)

L.O.V.E.

About being caught up in the “game” of a toxic relationship and not understanding the dangers until it’s too late. (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo)

Makishi

A poem about decolonising myself as an artist and rediscovering my roots on my own terms. Written in English and translated into my mother tongue Tonga/Nyanja (Zambia). (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo)

The beauty amongst the chaos

The pressures of trying to thrive despite being care experienced. (Written and performed in order by Tobi and Tiahnna)

15

A poem about rebelling against the system. (Written and performed by Sirena Reynolds)

Belinda

A commentary on the influence of American pop culture on British young people particularly in relation to drug culture and the masking of trauma. (Written and performed by Sirena Reynolds & Kamari Romeo)

Boxes

A poem about anger and forgiveness. (Written and performed by Maya)

Symphony

A reflection on complexity of relationships between biological parents and children in care. (Written and performed by Sirena Reynolds)

Kick

A poem written from the perspective of a foetus in the womb, experiencing the epigenetic factors given to me before birth- Stress, nicotine, alcohol, depression (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo)

Alphabet Soup

An abstract retelling of the alphabet with key words from all the care leavers stories in the album. (Written and performed by Kamari Romeo)

Main image by John Godwin