Enchanted by The Ministry of Stories

1 Nov

“We believe in clouds”

I first came across the Ministry of Stories whilst on maternity leave and I was absolutely enchanted.  At the time, they’d just set up The Children’s Republic of Shoreditch – a fictional country run entirely by local kids.  At the Ministry of Stories – which is located behind the Monster Supplies Store in Hoxton (excited yet?), these kids spent time making their own passports, coming up with their manifesto and canvasing on the streets.  The result was some surprisingly sensible suggestions actually along with loads of totally bonkers and delightful thoughts and ideas.

It was so refreshing and inspiring to see kids being actively encouraged to use their incredible imaginations to create something amazing together.  In this film you can see how this project brought them to life, got them interacting with each other, enthusiastically sharing ideas.  You can see that it sparked their creativity, challenged their writing skills and allowed their confidence to grow.  A few kids even say that it helped them get ahead at school – success!

As someone who loves to write, but probably didn’t listen enough at school when it came to the technicalities – I think this is just magical.  Creativity is basically taking what is available to us in this world and arranging it in our own unique way to make something great – and kids are the masters of this as they are so amazed by the world and have no barriers or boundaries.  To learn something through being creative is to learn something that will stick.  So to teach children the art of writing through something as exciting as creating your own country is just genius.  What they learnt here from building ideas, working together, expressing their thoughts on paper and finding confidence in themselves, will stay with them forever.

The Ministry of Stories was set up in 2010 by Nick Hornby, Lucy McNab and Ben Payne.  It’s a creative writing and mentoring centre for young people in east London. They use storytelling to inspire young people aged 8-18, in the belief that writing unleashes their imaginations and builds confidence, self-respect and communication.  In its first year, over 3000 young people took part in their volunteer-led workshops and writing projects.

I was so inspired by this project that I’ve signed up to become a Story Minister.  I would love to be able to facilitate this kind of magic – both as a Planner and as a new Mum. I’ll be going to my ‘first briefing’ on the 16th November and if all goes ahead I’ll be given training and will then be able to facilitate workshops in my spare time.  How exciting!  I would encourage anyone who is inspired by this to volunteer – there are many different roles available from Marketing to Maintenance, Event Management and Administration.  And if you’re not aware of what makes volunteering so rewarding, I already blogged about it over here.

I will of course share updates on my journey to (hopefully) becoming a Story Minister.  In the meantime I’m hoping that someone from The Ministry will correct the spelling and grammar in this post!

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4 Responses to “Enchanted by The Ministry of Stories”

  1. Jonathan Ray (@sereneslumber) November 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading your first encounter with MOS. I recently signed up to help out and volunteer, as like you, I was inspired by the idea of facilitating creativity for kids who want to be inspired and have fun – and them in-turn unlocking part of my creative imagination that has begun to be locked away by pressures and priorities.

    Being at school allows you to gain structure and understand the theory so you can slowly ‘iron out’ any poor habits you have with your personal writing style. In terms of nurturing the creative side of you which is what employers look for today – freethinkers and entrepreneurial spirits alike – school from a young age, and even college and university doesn’t set you up to be able to keep this side of you unlocked, and also have the confidence to express this (I was definitely a product of this after graduation).

    I’m glad people like the MOS and all their volunteers have recognised this, and come together to give future generations of kids the necessary imaginative tools to equip themselves. There were a few key people who inspired me at a young age, and through MOS, I’m hoping one day I can do the same.

    • muthathunka November 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      Thank you Jonathan for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Completely agree that education doesn’t focus enough on nurturing creativity. It’s such a shame as kids’ creativity and imaginations are what make them so magical. As you say, these are qualities that a lot of employers look for – a computer will never replace the imagination! I think kids should be encouraged to have fun and be kids for as long as possible.

      I work in a creative industry, but we work in offices and have time pressures, huge ‘to-do’ lists and a list of considerations to build in to our ideas. It’s a real challenge and every day I think we need to be less serious and channel our inner child more. So I’m interested in what the MOS experience can teach me here.

      Also, like you, I was fortunate enough to encounter some inspirational people in my past – one of which was my GCSE english teacher. He was so passionate and I just wanted to see what he saw that made him so passionate. I wanted to share that feeling. And yes, I would love to be able to inspire children in the same way. Especially now that I’m a Mum and want my daughter to see all that is wonderful in this world. To have the space and confidence to get stuck in and play with it to come up with her own unique thoughts and ideas. And mostly, have fun!

      It sounds like you’ll be a great inspiration! Hopefully we’ll bump into each other out the back of the Monster Supplies Store. Maybe we could share a can of Mortal Fear. Or I hear the impacted earwax is surprisingly delicious!

  2. butwhymummywhy November 9, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Sounds like such a great project. Wish we had something like that up here.

    • muthathunka November 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      It is! I know they’re looking to open more shop front and kids workshops across the country – so you could be lucky.

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