Seven Stories in Newcastle is an absolute gem of place even if children literature isn’t your forte. I first heard about them three years ago via Twitter and since then I’ve been pining to visit. All I knew was they had so many events and activities, and indeed children’s authors visiting that I wanted to meet and be part of.
As I was up in Newcastle to see Tynseide Cinema’s creative activity, I finally had a chance to see what I’ve been missing and lucky for me there was an Adult Tour available that day.
What. A. Treat.
Before the tour, I had a look around for ½ hour to see briefly what was there. However, I mainly had time to see one floor quickly as I spent most of my time in the lovely bookshop.
The building itself is a piece of art. Cathy Brumby, our tour guide, explained a bit about the architecture. For example, from the outside looking at the building, there’s a long cylinder shaped area. This is to look like a piece of paper wrapped around. She goes on to explain the buildings original function as a flour mill. They have kept, and indeed exposed, Grade II listed building characteristics while bringing it up-to-date with fun and funky characters.
The ethos of Seven Stories seems two-fold. First, it is a living and growing archive for children’s literature (both modern and past writers and illustrators). Second, it’s to inspire children of all ages to embrace reading. How wonderful is that?
The name itself plays on words cleverly. Seven Stories is more than just a building with seven floors, it is actually named after seven basic plot archetypes used in almost every story. It’s at this point you start to realize how much attention went into building it up to the wonderful resource that it is today.
The exhibitions are to the highest of standards. Each exhibition has one main goal – to bring the story to life. For example, we went into Jacqueline Wilson exhibition which talks about her life and how she became a writer. Not only did they have the informational cleverly displayed, but they also recreated her bedroom and house from when she was a child! Each area of the exhibition has something for adults, teens and little fingers.
Ok, I hear you saying you’ve seen this type of exhibition before.
Trust me, not on this level of detail. For Jacqueline Wilson, they also included Nick Sharatt in on biography but not just a picture of him. There is a video diary of him in his ‘office’ talking about how he got into illustration and how he works.
On the tour, we were also privileged to see some of the archives that are stored off-site (they have outgrown themselves in 5 short years). One of the items we were allowed to look at, with white gloves, was the unknown Enid Blyton manuscript that was recently found.
Seven Stories often have children’s authors and illustrators come in and get involved with the exhibition. One very moving exhibition for me was the My Voices, a collaboration with Anthony Browne and children from all over the area, and from all different backgrounds. The project was incredibly moving and shows how much a ‘simple’ book could be used on so many different levels.
I also loved the ‘Attic’ which was created by the creative Oliver Jefferes (The Incredible Book Eating Boy author) for an exhibition. They loved it so much, they have decided to keep it as is for now (and I’m so glad they did!). There were books hanging from the ceiling with kids writing on pages of books for wallpaper.
Seven Stories is something everyone and every age should experience at least once.