826 National is a network of non-profit writing centres promoting literacy and story-telling for young people. The centres are hidden behind a range of magical storefronts, from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company to the Pirate Store in San Francisco. Each comes complete with its own fantastical merchandise, perfect for the superhero or pirate in your life.
Now the same idea has arrived in the UK, thanks to a collaborative effort by a team involving design company We Made This, arts entrepreneurs Lucy McNab and Ben Payne, and novelist Nick Hornby. You can read more about it on the Creative Review website.
Make your way to the back of the store and you will find the secret entrance to the Ministry of Stories, where the real educational, mentoring and story-telling work takes place. 26’s John Simmons was approached to write the website and tells the story of his involvement on his 26 Fruits blog. Here’s a flavour:
The trickiest thing from a writing point of view was to get the tone right. There’s a story to tell, information to give, so we needed to get that across clearly but in a way that would be right for the storytelling mission. So we have the anarchic tone of the Monster Store (I’ve just bought my jar of Collywobbles, containing sweets and a story by Nick Hornby, but stronger stomachs might go for the jar of Ear Wax, much loved on toast by breakfasting monsters). But we also have the ultra-bureaucratic tone of the Ministry, which was trickier and less obvious.
Most importantly, this is a project that needs volunteers to help with the continuing educational and mentoring work. It’s an idea that will no doubt inspire plenty of 26 members to get involved. (Just watch out for those monsters.)
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