The Story Engine

28 June 2015

Can digital tools help the Ministry of Stories inspire a nation of storytellers?

The Story Engine is a collaboration between the Ministry of Stories, The Workshop, a creative consultancy, and research partner the Institute of Education.

Together they have won funding to investigate how a successful offline writing mentor programme can be translated for digital spaces.

They will design a new digital story-writing and mentoring platform aimed at children in the first year of secondary school.

Working with school students and teachers to co-design the website, they are discovering how young people can benefit from remote access to trained writing mentors’ encouragement and support as part of an online writing experience.

The online writing platform will help young people write creatively – specifically short stories. It will include fun, interactive and varied writing tasks and each young person will have access to a trained writing mentor.

The project is supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts (established by Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts & Humanities Research Council).

By exploring the use of digital tools the Ministry of Stories hopes to learn how story writing and one-to-one mentoring can inspire more young people to improve their writing, particularly those who can’t visit the Ministry of Stories in east London.

The project’s findings and outputs will also be widely shared to benefit educators, researchers and other arts and cultural organisations. The platform will launch (initially as a closed beta) in late spring 2015.

Lucy Macnab, Co-Director of the Ministry of Stories said:

‘We want to give children the opportunity to write with the one to one attention that we know makes a huge difference. We have seen how children’s motivation to write, creativity and resilience improves when they attend our workshops. The big question is whether we can achieve that remotely, with all the possibilities that digital offers.’

Oci Stott, year 7 English teacher from Langley Park School for Boys said:

‘The first workshops went down a storm with my year 7 class. They responded enthusiastically to the idea of an offline mentor and were excited by the prospect of a website that gave prompts and inspiration, particularly as they got the chance to feed into exactly how it would work and look. I have no doubt that such a digital tool would help support the work that teachers do encouraging children to write creatively. My students and I are looking forward to trying out the finished product!’

Professor Andrew Burn for the Institute of Education said:

‘This extension to our 3-year study of creativity and writing at the Ministry of Stories gives us the chance to do three things. We can explore more deeply what creativity looks like and how it can be supported; we can see how the varied skills of volunteer mentors complement the expertise of teachers in schools; and we can see how mentors can work with children in the age of the participatory internet to forge creative language.’

Mark Pearce, Managing Director, The Workshop said:

‘Story Engine will support young writers in London, Yorkshire and Brighton with simple writing tools that possess magical qualities. Mentors and rewards will help to develop the stories and once they’ve been submitted to the Editor stories will be published and shared by the Ministry.’

Notes to Editors

The platform will launch (initially as a closed beta) in late spring 2015. It will be the focus of a day conference in July 2015 [more details to follow]]

For more information, interview requests and images, please contact Lucy Macnab at the Ministry of Stories, or 020 7729 4159, or Mark Pearce at The Workshop, or Andrew Burn at the IoE:

You can follow the project @mini_stories and on Story Engine’s page on the Digital R&D’s Native website.

Story Engine is supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – Nesta, Arts & Humanities Research Council and public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Ministry of Stories

Founded in 2010 by author Nick Hornby, Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne, the Ministry of Stories is a creative writing and mentoring centre for young people in east London. It inspires 8 – 18 year olds through the power of storytelling, unleashing their imaginations, building their confidence and self-respect and enhancing their ability to communicate.

Through weekly workshops with primary and secondary schools as well as after school clubs and with other collaborators, all forms of writing are explored from song writing to speech writing, plays, soap operas, letter writing and poetry. Hidden behind the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies on Hoxton Street, the organisation provides workshops and one-to-one mentoring.

The Workshop

The Workshop have been helping organizations connect to their audiences since 1993.

Our focus is creating exceptional digital and print-based projects which bring fantastic results for our clients. Everything we do stems from understanding our clients, their industry and the people they want to reach.

Our in-house team includes expertise in branding, copywriting, information architecture, learning content, social media, usability, design for print and digital, and development of sites and apps.

We like to combine the best possible results with an efficient and enjoyable process for everyone involved. So our clients tend to come back to us time and again.

We make digital work.

UCL Institute of Education

Founded in 1902, as a teacher training college in London, the IOE is now a world-class research and teaching institution.

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