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Focus on our National portfolio: Discover Children's Story Centre

  • Date: 25 November 2011
  • Artform: Literature
  • Area: London
Child moving letters around on board Watching a movie in the Discover Children's Story Centre's Tiny Monster Picture House, Photo: Tim Mitchell

Based in Stratford, Discover Children's Story Centre contains colourful indoor and outdoor spaces where children and their carers can create stories through play.

Learning through play

Discover is a hands-on creative centre for children aged 0-11 and their families and carers, dedicated to generating a love of language, literature and stories.

As well as being home to a immersive world of educational play areas where children can listen to stories in many different languages, the centre also runs an extensive programme of activities. These include: a literature programme led by children's writers and illustrators; community and education projects; multisensory exhibitions and installations; and schools residencies and training for professionals that work with children and families.

In 2010/11 Discover saw a 24 per cent increase in audiences with over 70,000 children and adults participating in their programmes. Over 71 percent of its visitors come from east London.

Working with artists

Artists from many disciplines - authors, illustrators, poets, musicians, visual artists, storytellers, puppeteers, photographers and film-makers - are invited to work with children and their carers at Discover to create new ways of telling and sharing stories.

Inspired by stories, regular original exhibitions in the centre's Story Studio are designed to feed children's creativity and develop their storytelling and creative writing skills. Five of Discover's previous exhibitions have been funded by the Arts Council's Grants for the arts programme, including its 2011-12 exhibition Welcome to Monsterville, a monster town created by three leading UK illustrators Ed Vere, Sarah McIntyre and Neal Layton.

The collaborative working environment at the centre has a positive effect on the artists involved. Illustrator Ed Vere commented:

'By nature authors and illustrators tend to work in isolation. However, the exchange of ideas with other practitioners in the same field is always a hugely valuable experience and one which very often enriches one's own practice immeasurably. The opportunity to do exactly that under the auspices of designing an exhibition[...] has been for me a very invigorating experience which has already helped to inform the books I create for children. It's a very rare experience for illustrators to be able to work on the same project together, it certainly hardly ever happens in the publishing world.'

Joining the Arts Council's National portfolio

Discover is one of the 34 organisations which are not currently in receipt of regular funding to join London's National portfolio in 2012. Claire Boulton, Arts Council Relationship Manager, Literature and Skills commented:

'This summer, I had the great pleasure of joining notable figures from the children's literature world to explore creative story spaces at the launch of the spectacular Monsterville exhibition. In the first day of the exhibition alone, Discover welcomed over 780 children and families into a wondrous world of imaginative story-making.

'With a stimulating schools programme and inspiring Story Trail and Garden, we're delighted that Discover will be joining the National portfolio next year.'

Discovers enters the National portfolio with an exciting programme of events for 2012 including Superheroes, an interactive installation developed with illustrator Steve May; On Track, the culmination of a seven-year photography and sound project with children living next to the Olympic Park; and The Big Write children's literature festival in March. In summer 2012 Discover will also launch StoryCloud, a national digital story project commissioned by London Festival 2012.

Discover's Chief Executive Sally Goldsworthy said:

'Becoming part of the National portfolio is a great opportunity for us to develop new collaborations to enable families in east London to have fantastic artistic experiences. As the world focuses on Stratford in 2012, we want to make sure the energy, ambition and excitement continues for decades.'