26 Orphans is an exhibition inspired by the Foundling Museum and the poet Lemn Sissay, himself an orphan.

Lemn thought of fictional characters who were orphaned or fostered in childhood, and their names appear on the walls of the museum.

In this special exhibition, part of the 2022 Bloomsbury Festival, writers from 26 drew on and added to that list. 26 is a not-for-profit organisation for writers and anyone who believes in the power of words. Its members work with words for a living and for pleasure – as business writers, authors, journalists, communication specialists, poets and designers. The name 26 refers to the 26 letters in the English alphabet – the DNA of language.

In 26 Orphans the writers have chosen their own favourite fictional characters – from books, film, drama and folk tale. They have each written from the viewpoint of that character in a form called the sestude – exactly 62 words. You can listen to and read their words as you tour the museum – look out for the QR codes.

Click on the tiles below to explore the project.


Find out more about the 26 Orphans exhibition at the Foundling Museum.