What is The Verbatim Formula?

The Verbatim Formula (TVF) is a collaborative participatory arts project that has developed verbatim theatre techniques to share the voices of care-experienced young people, care leavers, and adults responsible for their care and education.

TVF works with young people as co-researchers, as they are experts in their own life experience and in the systems they deal with. Through using verbatim performances of their testimonies, it raises awareness and provokes change to working practices in care and education.

TVF is committed to supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, to challenge the stigmas and barriers they face, by showcasing/demonstrating their rich and diverse skills and attributes, and by working with adults in developing more caring systems and institutions.

TVF is a method developed with care-experienced young people which can be used in any context where more care-ful listening is needed.

What are our aims?

We aim to create opportunities for young people to be heard in systems and services that are responsible for their care. The ultimate aims of the project are:

  • For care-experienced young people to be heard, and have better educational and social outcomes
  • To create spaces where adults working at all levels in the UK social care system listen to young people, recognise their talents and potentials, engage with them about their concerns, and respond by making changes
  • To develop an understanding of verbatim practice as a creative research, evaluation and dissemination tool
  • To use a performative inquiry practice where the aesthetics of listening are central

“The best bits were our conversations about the Uni. I asked them many questions like, ‘I do BTEC, will the university accept me?’ and they were like ‘Yeah, but you need specific grades’. ‘I’m leaving care soon, what help will this university give me? What happens if my social worker can’t help me?’”

Erin, 16 years old

The TVF team talks about our methodology



As part of our research, we have gathered a bank of audio interviews with care-experienced young people and with adult professionals involved in care, covering a range of topics, experiences and issues.

Our Portable Testimony Service takes curated selections of these testimonies and performs them to audiences of social workers, carers, university staff, family and peers.

The Portable Testimony Service can travel to offices and workplaces, helping staff to think about improving systems and services. Our research team is made up of young people, researchers and peer mentors: the majority have experience of the social care system.  The team conducts interviews, selects and edits them as audio files.

Using headphones, our research team of adults and young people relay the exact words of the interviewee to the audience. The research team have performed in many contexts and spaces – in offices, in theatres and arts spaces, in museums, libraries and universities.

Our team is available for bespoke events. Please get in touch.

“It was a great experience, and I feel it really added value to my team’s understanding of the complexity of issues faced by care leavers. I’m optimistic it will foster a greater sense of empathy too.”
Steve, Housing Services

As the project has evolved, we’ve learnt The Verbatim Formula is a methodology that can be applied and used easily in many environments and with different groups of people. From prison facilities to schools, from refugee centres to government offices, TVF practices are an effective tool for making difficult conversations happen and engage the right people in the discussions that can effectively impact change. Our team has since been working with other academics, government bodies, organisations and local councils to transfer the methodology to other settings.

Feel free to get in touch to learn more.

“It definitely gave me the insight that I needed to make my mind up about university.”
Erin, 16 years old

Since 2015, the TVF team at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has been working with arts organisation People’s Palace Projects and the Greater London Authority to deliver free university residential workshops for 14-18-year olds with experience of care.

Two days and a night are spent on campus, during which the young people experience a taster of student life, and share their aspirations and dreams creatively. Arts and drama techniques are used, including verbatim theatre, where the young people share their dreams and challenges with each other. Visual arts, spoken word, games and other activities are also used which are shared with adults at the end of the residential. The project has been extended to three further universities – the University of East London, Goldsmiths and Greenwich.  Over the years, we have worked with care leavers who have shared inspiring and thought-provoking stories.

“I wasn’t really supposed to graduate, I was supposed to be doing a nine-to-five job at a retail store, and probably pregnant with two kids by now, but I’m not, I’m twenty three with a degree now. I’m not an outcast. I’m normal. I can achieve what everyone else can achieve.” 

Ava, care leaver, 2016