The Ministry of Stories Magically Unleashes Kids' Imaginations

Building confidence, self-respect, and communication skills through writing.

Feb 19, 2020

On Hoxton Street in East London there is a very special children's writing and mentoring center but don't expect to easily find it. That's because in this magical world, the Ministry of Stories is fronted by its shop, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.

When you walk through the doors, according to The Telegraph, you can expect to find monster delicacies such as cubed earwax (vanilla fudge) and human snot (honey). The store raises funds for this very special program that unleashes children's imagination and allows them to soar high.

Youth ages eight to 18 enter the Ministry through a secret door that is designed to open a world of opportunity by fostering a love of writing.

The organization believes that, "Writing enhances self-respect, improves communication – and can transform lives." That’s because writing allows children's voices to be heard.

This year, the mentoring workshop is celebrating ten years of helping children discover a love of writing through innovative programs.  Founded by Lucy Macnab, Ben Payne and best-selling author Nick Hornby, the organization now has over 400 volunteers and runs its programs at no charge for area youth.

“Through a range of innovative writing programs, and one-to-one mentoring, we help young people discover and realize their own creative potential,” Macnab told The Telegraph. “We build confidence, self-respect, and communication skills in both workshops for schools and out-of-school writing clubs.”

The organization works with around 1,000 children per year in participating schools, and community programs across Hackney, Islington, and tower Hamlets.

One 10-year old participant, Nmeso, said that the weekly after-school club he attends at the ministry has helped him grow his imagination and improved his grades. In fact, he was able to move up a grade in school.

What's even more remarkable is that Nmeso has had a story he wrote published — along with other writers in the program —  titled Andre has a Hard Time. This is Nmeso's success story.

“At this age, to have a book in his name, that is a big achievement,” his mother said. “When he gets to secondary school, he can always look back on that achievement. The foundation is laid.”

The Ministry of Stories is supported by the literary world and has a special relationship with Penguin Random House UK. Author Charlie Higson who participated in panel events with the youth at the publisher's headquarters said that the writing program offers something that schools can't.

“The school system has become more and more restricted, and I think there’s a danger that it can actually put kids off books and reading,” he says. “The Ministry makes writing fun, and encourages children to use their imagination and creativity, without being told there’s a special way to write a story. I think it’s brilliant."

In 2015, at only five, the program won the National Lottery Award for the best arts project and assisted a sister organization to open a writing center in Rotherham, Grimm & Co, that is also fronted by a magical apothecary shop. 

The organization has great plans for its tenth anniversary beginning in spring 2020. A series of international travel guides for monsters to places like the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Africa that were authored by local children attending community schools that collaborate with the writing center will be launched to commemorate this special year.

Two more community clubs will begin this year that will meet on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. These clubs will also support secondary school students.And a slew of special events are still being planned.

Who knows what else will happen now that the ministry is reaching double digits? But rest assured, it is bound to be magical.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.