Where should I hide? / Where should I go? / I don’t know, I follow my soul / No sense of time, no home/ We’re just playing / If I take that, would they know? / I’m in a dark place, call me mole / Dig deeper, the roots grow / Will they get exposed?
So go the lyrics to Hide N Seek, one of the songs in a music project created by Ric Flo about his experiences of foster care. He originally intended to show young people that they could create a positive future for themselves, regardless of their past. But after being invited to perform the song at Swansea social services’ Looked After Children Achievement awards in 2014 – and deliver photography and music writing workshops the following year – Flo was soon convinced to use his talents to empower foster children through the art of rap.
“It was so rewarding to give back through a passion of mine. It was the seed of knowing that there’s value in [rap as therapy] and that if it’s done the right way, it can be a therapeutic experience – just like it was for me,” says Flo, who moved to the UK from Nigeria when he was nine months old and was fostered from the age of eight.
“I had four or five placements and the first carers were quite disruptive. I just felt like they were in it for the money. They used to be quite racist when they were arguing between themselves and sometimes I’d go to school without lunch,” says Flo. “I found solace and peace in being creative; drawing my favourite characters and listening to music in my bedroom. You could say that was the first act of therapy.”
Since the idea blossomed in Swansea, Flo has delivered rap therapy workshops for looked after young people in London and Birmingham. He starts every workshop by introducing himself and talking about his experiences.
“Some organisations want a definitive result – a full song by the end of the session – but I’ve realised that the main point is for young people to feel confident enough to share…