My origami inflatable fish! #creationstation @7stories (Taken with Instagram)
So, on Friday I finished my five day work placement at the amazing Seven Stories gallery.
For those who are unaware, Seven Stories is a book museum/gallery aimed predominately at children but still plenty interesting to people of all ages. It is situated in Newcastle along the Ouseburn Valley in a Grade 2 listed refurbished factory. It covers 7 floors of a building but their name also refers to the idea that there are only 7 basic narratives possible to chose from when writing a factional story.
The top floor is an attic space with an array of books hanging from the rafters and filling the ceiling with a visually engaging collection of old novels. In the sprawling room are plenty of sofas and a small library of books from picture books for the very young through to Young Adult books such as His Dark Materials. In the centre of the back wall is a magnificent oak throne of a chair which, throughout each day, is inhabited by a storyteller who will engage visiting children in a short story or two.
This floor also contains a vast collection of dressing up clothes including a hugely intricate Gruffalo costume (from Julia Donaldson’s modern classic) and a small stage area for acting out all sorts of imaginings.
Down one floor are the offices and a small room for viewing originals from their huge collection, mounted into cases and sometimes to be handled in white gloves if a session is being run. I also helped run a session called “Story Party” in this room as it is suited to crafts and storytime for a small group of visitors.
Floor Five currently boasts a Jacqueline Wilson installation. The walls are expertly covered in Nick Sharratt illustrations, original drafts of certain passages of stories from Tracy Beaker to the Illustrated Mum, video clips of the author’s various interviews, explanations of authorial decisions and letters from editors. The room is also split into sections so that there can be a replica of Jackie’s bedroom, a living room where clips of Tracy Beaker play, tables for interactive worksheets and of course to provide even more wall space to display as much content as possible.
Floor Four is dedicated to a Julia Donaldson display as her children’s books have been hugely influential recently. Original illustrations by an array of contributing artists and sections of her manuscript plans adorn the walls between the dressing up clothes, dolls house, giant Gruffalo and further interactive tasks for the younger audience.
On the 3rd floor is the reception and a well stocked bookshop. A visit to floor two allows access to a most suitable cafe.
Down in the ‘basement’ on the 1st floor is the Creation Station. A place where every day children and adults alike have access to at least three craft activities. Cutting, sticking, drawing, folding, designing, writing are just a few that I experienced while working there.
Such a genuinely enthusiastic staff make the building a joy to visit and work in too.
I spent a lot of time in the Creation Station helping and guiding children through crafts, teaching them origami or scissor skills, discussing their lives, their favourite books, their summer holidays. I helped stock the bookshop, price items for the sale, and keep the displays tidy. In the exhibition rooms I restocked the activity sheets, hung up fancy dress and collected soft toys to return them to their rightful area. I also got to sit in on a few story sessions too. In the offices I helped to prepare for crafts at upcoming Birthday parties, search the local newspapers for mentions of the gallery for their archive and collect visitor information for questionnaires. I aided the running of “Cave Baby”, “Story Party” and “Story Explorer’s” as well as a “Clowning Around” session run by some professional clowns!
Overall the experience allowed me to reaffirm my belief that gallery experiences for children and teens are vital and they can be tailored to suit. That interactive sessions and exhibits are superb ways to engage younger children but that they definitely don’t have to be dumbed down. That fancy dress is a winner and that books are so so so important and that I love children’s literature immensely.
Thank-you Seven Stories, Liz Creaghan.