Posted: 19 March 2016

Thank you to the bravery of Firebird

For the last five months Firebird, a play addressing the issue of child sexual exploitation, has been supporting our Seriously Awkward campaign. Now as the play’s run in the West End is coming to an end, we look back at the highlights and say thank you to all involved for their support. 

Responding to nationwide cases of child sexual exploitation in Britain, the play Firebird shows how easy it can be for vulnerable young people to fall victim to sexual abuse.

For many people, Firebird is an alarming piece of theatre.

The headlines they’ve heard about sexual exploitation, the stats and accounts of trials, suddenly come to life.

The production unapologetically presents the authentic story of one teenage girl, based on examples in Rochdale, and her deeply traumatic experiences.

What Firebird has meant to The Children’s Society

At The Children’s Society, sexual exploitation is an issue we work on trying to fix every day.

My inspirational colleagues in services across the country are directly helping around 750 young people a year at risk of, or experiencing exploitation.

Helping them stay safe from harm, helping them rebuild their lives or helping them try to get justice for the crimes committed against them.

It’s not surprising then that Firebird has been incredibly important to The Children’s Society.

Not only has the production brought this often deeply misunderstood issue to more public attention, Firebird has also backed our Seriously Awkward campaign for legal change and been broadcast online for this purpose.

This campaign is asking the Government to strengthen the law to protect more teenagers from sexual exploitation. And make it easier for them to get justice.

As the production draws to a close this week at Trafalgar Studios, The Children’s Society has given evidence in Parliament, less than half a mile from the theatre. My colleagues were invited to tell the committee for the Policing and Crime Bill why the law needs to change.

We will continue campaigning, on behalf of the young people we support, as the bill passes through Parliament.

Thank you

As the final performance takes place tonight, there are a lot of people The Children’s Society needs to thank.

Child sexual exploitation and the failure to protect young people is one of the most horrific scandals of our time. But a major West End production had not tackled the issue – until now.

Putting the play on can’t have been an easy decision.

Thank you to Phil Davies for having the courage to take on such a complicated issue and write a play that has so much integrity.

We know how diligently Phil researched the issue and all of our practitioners who have seen the play are amazed at the authenticity of the piece. Read our earlier interview with Phil about why he wrote the play.

The play would never have been seen by such a large audience if it wasn’t for Edward Hall, the artistic director of the Hampstead Theatre. Edward has bravely put the play on both at his own theatre and then transferred it to Trafalgar Studios. He has driven a partnership with The Children’s Society so that this piece of theatre could help to be a vehicle for real social change and continues to be hugely supportive of the changes we are trying to achieve. Edward has said this is one of the most important plays he has ever directed

The talented cast have been unbelievable and deserve all the credit given in the outstanding reviews. Night after night, Callie Cooke, Tahirah Sharif and Phaldut Sharma have given everything, showing through their performances how complex power relationships between perpetrators and victims and grooming take place.

Callie Cook supporting Seriously Awkward

Callie Cook, actor in Firebird supporting the Seriously Awkward

This is such a difficult topic to understand, but they have mastered it – as well as showing the hopeful importance of friendship. Callie and Tahirah have also backed our campaign. 

There are always so many more people involved in a production than you realise so thanks too, to all the producers, marketing team, designers, lighting and sound artists, stage managers and everyone involved.

We’ve had many special guests attend Firebird and get behind our Seriously Awkward campaign, from bloggers, to celebrity supporters. See Tamzin Outhwaite and Laurie Brett, psychologist Linda Papadopoulos, actor Cherrelle Skeete, and YouTuber and model Talia Michaels supporting the campaign.

Many of the young people we help facing exploitation, don’t feel like their voice is heard.

They are often not believed or let down by the authorities.

Thank you to Firebird and everyone attended, for raising that voice – and listening.

Join our campaign 


Join the campaign

Help us protect the most vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds


Read more

Writer of Firebird, Phil Davies, discusses the play

Posted: 14 March 2015


Read more

Firebird- it’s not just a story

Posted: 16 February 2016