6 Nov 2015

Hampstead Theatre’s powerful and highly-praised play – Firebird – about the sexual exploitation of a teenage girl is being given a free online showing on the Time Out website.

From 6-10 November global audiences will be able to watch online for free a video of the production, which tells the hard-hitting and emotional story of how a teenage girl is groomed by an older man. Firebird is written by playwright Phil Davies and is based on the recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxfordshire. 

The Children’s Society advised writer Phil Davies and the play’s director Edward Hall, the theatre’s artistic director, on the authenticity of the play. The charity’s Seriously Awkward campaign is urging the Government to strengthen the law so that all young people experiencing sexual exploitation – in particular 16 and 17 year olds – get the protection they need and the access to justice they deserve.

A new report launched by The Children’s Society yesterday reveals that huge numbers of sex crimes against older teenagers in England and Wales in the last year went unreported and unpunished because many victims were gripped by the fear of not being believed and suspicion of the justice system.

The staggering scale of under-reporting is highlighted in new figures obtained and analysed by the charity, which underline the appalling number of sexual offences against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year. Through Freedom of Information Requests, the charity found that police in England recorded 4,900 sexual offence cases — including sexual exploitation, rape and sexual assaults — against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year. But in stark contrast, the organisation’s analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales reveals that an estimated 50,000 girls alone say they have been victims of these crimes. More than for other age groups.

Actress, Callie Cooke, who plays the lead character in Firebird, took on this challenging role straight after graduating from drama school. 

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'Firebird is a striking and authentic play about child sexual exploitation and highlights the sorts of issues our services help support children and young people with. The play shows how easy it can be for vulnerable children to experience sexual exploitation and how these young people are, all too often, failed by authorities.

'We want to thank Hampstead Theatre and Time Out for supporting The Children’s Society’s Seriously Awkward campaign. We encourage as many people as possible to watch Firebird online and sign up to support our campaign.'

Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre and Firebird Edward Hall said:

'Theatre has an incredible power to provoke discussion and sometimes to even bring about change. Without the platform for new writing, this power rapidly diminishes. Hampstead Downstairs exists for moments like now – presenting new writing that’s bold and ambitious; theatre that has the power to inspire, to challenge and to provoke.  Stories that reflect what’s going on in the world in which we live today. We’re thrilled that our work can support The Children’s Society’s cause and are indebted to Time Out for helping us showcase such an important story.'

The broadcast of Firebird is available exclusively on the Timeout websiteThe Children's Society's website and the Hampstead Theatre website.

For more information about the themes explored in Firebird or to support the Seriously Awkward campaign to protect young people visit the Seriously Awkward campaign.

Media enquiries

For more information, please call Anabel Unity Sale from The Children’s Society media team, on 020 7841 4420, or email anabelunity.sale@childrenssociety.org.uk.

For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors

  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn.
  • We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.