26 Characters

Image by Jacob SteadOur latest project, 26 Characters, is now underway. Laura Hunter tells us how the power of stories helped to drive it from start to finish, and everywhere in between.


In the heart of Oxford lies a magical place that enriches lives through story and storytelling. It’s called the Story Museum and it’s the inspiration and venue for our latest project, 26 Characters.


Towards the end of last year the directors of the Story Museum approached John Simmons about using the name 26 Characters (26’s legal name) for an exhibition. John had no objection but asked that 26 be involved somehow. What followed was the coming together of famous authors, writers from 26, illustrators, designers and printers. A testament to the power of stories.


The first part of our project was to write a sestude in response to the exhibition photography. Photographer Cambridge Jones captured a host of famous children’s authors transformed as their childhood literary heroes. Philip Pullman became Long John Silver, Neil Gaiman Badger from The Wind in the Willows, Benjamin Zephaniah turned into Anansi the Spider. 26 of us were paired with a photograph and were given a letter of the alphabet to start our sestude with.


For the second part of the project we were asked to reconnect with our own childhood reading and write a blog about our favourite character for the Story Museum’s digital gallery. You can read those blog posts here.


But the project didn’t finish there. We were so pleased with the sestudes that we decided to collate them in a book. So we talked to design studio Design by St who were more than happy to help.They decided to extended the project further and asked 26 leading illustrators to respond to each sestude. The result is fantastic.


Over 80 people have contributed to 26 Characters. Perhaps people were so willing to get involved because the stories we read as children continue to inspire us today. The adventures we went on are still vivid. Their appeal as strong as ever. As Philip Pullman said: “We don’t need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do’s and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.”


Laura Hunter

You can buy a copy of the beautiful 26 Characters book for just £5 from our website.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.