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The Ministry of Stories

  • Date: 31 March 2011
  • Artform: Literature
  • Area: London
Drawing of blue monster with triangular head and extra eye on forehead Lairious Nefarious, created in the Ministry of Stories. Illustrated by Stevie Gee, Copyright Alistair Hall

The Ministry of Stories, a unique space where young people can develop their writing and literacy skills, will be funded as part of Arts Council's national portfolio from 2012.

The Ministry of Stories, which launched in December 2010 with a National Lottery Grants for the arts award and seed funding from The JJ Charitable Trust, is a new addition to the Arts Council's literature portfolio.

An environment to inspire

Housed behind the facade of the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies store in East London, The Ministry of Stories has more than 200 volunteer writers, artists and teachers providing students with free workshops and mentoring sessions.

After passing by the shelves of Tinned Fear, Fang Floss and Organ Marmalade in the world's first monster-specific retail store, young storytellers enter the Ministry to explore all forms of writing - from song lyrics and play scripts, to journalism, blogging and poetry.

The Ministry of Stories was founded by author Nick Hornby, along with Lucy Manab and Ben Payne, and is inspired by author Dave Eggers' 826 movement in America. It boasts an extensive list of high-profile ambassadors including Roddy Doyle, who founded the 826-inspired project Fighting Words in Dublin; author Zadie Smith; writer, playwright and actor Meera Syal and former Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo.

A community focus

The Ministry has a community focus and there are plans to replicate its success in locations across the country. Lucy Macnab, director and co-founder said: 'There is a definite need to improve literacy and writing skills for young people in the UK. The 826 model has been proven to work across the USA by not only engaging young people but also volunteers and neighbourhoods through its creative, inclusive approach.'

One of the first creations to emerge from the Ministry of Stories is Lairious Nafairius, conjured up from the imaginations of Burbage Primary School students.

Lairious Nafarius

Have you ever seen a monster with a pyramid for a head? Maybe you should spend more time looking in rubbish bins in the woods, because that's where Lairious, he of the pyramid head, skeletal body, pig-like tail and ruler length toenails, lives.

To be honest, Lairious would probably hide if he saw you coming. He'd like to be friends but he thinks you look quite ugly. He's as scared of you as he is of mice. If you ever did become friends though, you'd have a great time, painting each others' nails and smelling his roast chicken flavoured feet.

You might think that with dry cracked feet he wouldn't be good at dancing. You'd be wrong. He loves it! He also loves food, although Lairious only eats sticks and sand, so it's not like anyone is fighting him for seconds. I don't know if this is true, but Lairious says he is Spiderman. He told me then flew away in his spaceship before I could check! Year 5 class, Burbage Primary School

Find out more about literature and children and young people in Arts Council's new national portfolio.