The Sydney Story Factory is a place for children to develop their love of words. It’s a not-for-profit creative writing centre, where children get free help to write stories of all kinds. Programs are targeted at disadvantaged children, particularly those from indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, but are open to all. Their aim is to kindle the spark of creativity in every child.
The Sydney Story Factory is inspired by novelist Dave Eggers’s hugely successful 826 Valencia in the US. In 2002, Eggers opened a tutoring centre attached to his publishing company in San Francisco. To comply with zoning laws, the centre also had to sell something, so it included a Pirate Supply Store, stocking everything the working buccaneer needs: peg legs, wooden planks, eye patches.
The shop became an integral part of the operation, providing a child-friendly street-front, and soon generating revenue too. The model was so successful that 826 went national, and seven more centres have opened across the US, each with its own shop. In London in 2010, novelist Nick Hornby opened The Ministry of Stories, behind Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
The Sydney Story Factory will bring the model to Australia for the first time, adapting it to local needs. The shop will be The Martian Embassy and Gift Shop, and it will sell everything a child needs for space travel and interplanetary exploration.
The Sydney Story Factory plans to open in Redfern in early 2012, but is already running pilot programs at Tempe Public and Our Lady of Mt Carmel, in Waterloo. It ran very successful two-hour workshops in June, where every child left with his or her own bound and illustrated book, with a photo of the author on the back.
Nearly all tutoring at the Sydney Story Factory is done by volunteers, and nearly 600 people have asked to help out. It has the support of writers including Markus Zusak, Malcolm Knox, Deborah Adelaide, Peter FitzSimons and Anna Funder.
The Sydney Story Factory will improve children’s writing skills, and increase their confidence with language. More importantly, by publishing their work in as many ways as we can, they will show these children that what they think and imagine matters. They will open new paths for them into the future.
They need your help to get our doors open. Donate now at www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au.
But first watch this extraordinary video clip