You’ll have been hard pushed to miss the recent press coverage of the Ministry of Stories, a newly-launched volunteer-run initiative aimed at reawakening children’s imaginations and getting them writing creatively. Supported by authors including Nick Hornby (one of the founders), Zadie Smith and Roddy Doyle, the London-based project is inspired by the hugely successful 826 Valencia, a children’s writing centre set up by Dave Eggers in San Francisco.
The Ministry aims to provide a free space for fresh writing by young people, including workshops and one-to-one mentoring. The services are all provided by volunteers, including local writers, artists and teachers, who give their time and talent for free. And at the front of the workshop spaces is a rather unique shop – Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. It’s only been open for a week or two, but anyone is welcome to pop in and purchase anything that the average monster might need – from a tin of Escalating Panic to a packet of Fang Floss.
I went to take a peep at the shop last weekend, and if you’re in London, I highly recommend paying it a visit. It’s enormous fun and incredibly well-thought out: all the staff stay perfectly in role, and there are lots of lovely little touches, from a shelf with a huge bite taken out of it, to a handy noticeboard for monster small ads (e.g. ‘Missing: One Brain…’).
As well as tins of Mortal Terror (the tins, by the way, contain short stories by the likes of Joe Dunthorne and Laura Dockrill) you can buy monster artworks created by illustrators who teamed up with local primary schools, and t-shirts printed with a slogan of what else but ‘Boo!’
My personal highlight is the ‘invisible cat’ that purrs on your approach. “Oh don’t mind her,” said one of the assistants as I stopped, intrigued, to take a closer look. “She’s such an attention seeker.”