Minister of the Month – Helia Murdock

Posted by theministry on 27th November 2019

Name: Helia Murdock

Volunteer role: Writing Mentor and Shopkeeper

Hail from: Within the Ministry’s catchment area!

Favourite story and why: 

No book has transported me so wholly and avidly into its narrative world(s) as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. It’s a work of speculative fiction touched by just enough realism to make its utopia something that you can invest in, and the possibility of its realisation something to hope for. Le Guin’s ability to suspend her readers’ disbelief never fails to impress me.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: 

I’m a local sixth form student, enthusiast of ideas and writing club alumnus who’s been crafting stories since before I could write (I’d draw the pictures and narrate, while my mum hurriedly scribed). Even now, though I struggle to find time for creative writing, I try to approach everything I do with an out-of-the-box, open-minded attitude informed by my imaginative faculties. 

Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories? 

The Ministry’s been a part of my life since 2012 when I joined an after school writing club as a 10-year-old with a passion for prose. During my time here, not only was this passion nurtured, but I also found myself instilled with pride in what I could create, a feeling consummated when I saw one of my short stories in a published, fully illustrated story map for sale in the shop. I was so inspired by the project that I’ve made numerous returns to 159 Hoxton Street since, once to feature in a Monster Supplies shop advertisement or, on another occasion, to help set up the incredible postal service. However, only recently did I consider volunteering in an official capacity when it occurred to me as a fun way to secure my school-mandated ‘work experience’ hours that would also make for a stand-out activity on future university applications.

Were you nervous about anything before starting?

Yes! Children are supposed to be the harshest judges, or at least the most honest. 

What has been the best experience of volunteering?

How at ease I was made to feel from the start thanks to the unfailingly generous staff, experienced volunteering veterans and approachable young people. When, on my first day as a writing mentor, a child asked if I’d be returning the next week and interrupted my reply to say that they hoped I would, the anxieties I had held coming in that morning were expelled. This warm, welcoming attitude seems to be imbued in the very culture of the place, for it is the only attitude that the good people of the Ministry know, and it’s this that enthuses me to return each week.

What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?

Fortunately, how effortless the whole experience has been! As a writing mentor, it’s the children who’ve proven the workshops’ real creative powerhouse, running off with fantastic ideas that your job is just to keep up with. Likewise, as a shopkeeper, I’ve found that the kinds of people who seek out a monster supplies shop don’t need much persuasion to jump on the banterous bandwagon.

Has volunteering changed anything in your life?

I’ve found myself re-engaging with my creative side in small but significant ways, like by taking real thought and care in composing a poem for an English assignment, or by ordering a novel by an author I’d never read before, simply for leisure. This effect has demonstrated to me how easy it is to lose touch with this side when you’re trying to mould yourself to the ideals of today’s education system. I suppose that’s why spaces like the Ministry are so important, for young people and volunteers alike.

Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words:

Where imagination’s unleashed.

What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering with the Ministry?

Why think? Sign up already! No matter your background or level of experience, you’ll be let in on this remarkable project by the gracious community of staff, volunteers and children that make the Ministry of Stories.

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