Hoxton Street Monster Supplies aka Ministry of Stories

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies aka Ministry of Stories

Hoxton street monster supplies aka Ministry of Stories is a fantastic project in London’s East End. Hoxton Street Monster Supplies provides monster themed goods like dragon food and the thickest human snot. It is a front for the Ministry of Stories a writing program that inspires 8-18 years olds through the power of story telling.

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It was started as a pilot project by Lucy McNab, Ben Payne and Alistair Hall. Inspired to start one after attending a workshop on running a not-for-profit organisation by Dave Eggers founding member of 826 Valencia, the first of this type of program. 826 Valencia was opened in 2002 in San Francisco  the location they got for their planned literacy workshops was zoned for retail so they needed to sell something. They came up with a pirate themed shop with writing workshops at the back. The idea proved so popular that chapters sprung across the U.S from superheroes in New York to outer space in Seattle.

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Lucy and Ben were able to secure seed funding from the Arts Council and JJ Charitable Trust but it all took off when author Nick Hornby joined them. They soon set up shop in Hackney, East London with the aim to inspire a nation of storytellers.

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As a charity model it is a fascinating one. The money generated from the shop goes to running the workshops which are staffed entirely by a team of volunteers. It provides a mix of talented people the opportunity to do a range of things from building websites to advising on financial matters. Fundraising is still important and they have created fun ways to support them, for example you can buy your own ministerial position. Emma Thompson is minister for Imaginative Naughtiness.

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Design is one of the key focus. As Lucy McNab says “the quality of design is a really important part of creating the fiction.” Lucy and Ben are co-directors with Alistair as creative director. One of their rules is that everything that is sold works or can be eaten. Production is small, meaning that each idea is carefully thought out and researched. They sometimes collaborate with others, Studio Weave produced Salt Made from Tears. The packaging is simple and thoughtful and the spaces are beautifully designed. The workshop spaces include wall illustrations made by Heather Sloane.

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Design runs through not only the monster themed products and lovely shop design but also the very high standard of work they produce with young people. From newspapers to books and plays. Taking this professional approach teaches the young participants how to take an idea from that moment of inspiration to the finished product. They produced the Awfully a Bad Guide to Monster Housekeeping written by the children with the help of poets and writers in the workshop.

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For both children and adults it is a place that encourages them to use their imagination. I would love to see a program like it in here in Glasgow, but for now I for one will definitely be checking them out when I’m next in London.

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For more information check out their website

Ministry of Stories http://www.ministryofstories.org/

Horton street monster supplies http://www.monstersupplies.org/

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