Friday Editorial: Story Spark
I’ve asked Mags Walsh from Children’s Books Ireland to write a short editorial on Story Spark.
Stories and books are such a huge part of childhood. Often when I mention to someone that I work for Children’s Books Ireland they immediately reminisce about those books that meant something special to them as children. Politicians, taxi drivers, hairdressers and bar staff have all shared with me the story of how they first became readers. It’s a story many adults are happy to tell.
However working with children and young people is different. Ask them directly about their reading habits and they’ll pause for a while before perhaps listing the name of a book they’ve recently encountered at school. The difference is, of course, their reading story is nowhere near complete yet. Whereas adults, with hindsight, can see the moment their reading habit took off, children are still swimming in the stream of books and stories, looking for a branch that will allow them to climb on the riverbank for a while. Pausing on the riverbank gives them a chance to enjoy the book in their hands, breathe in the story and begin a reading journey that might last a lifetime.
So much of our work in CBI is about finding new and creative ways of bringing children and books together. We believe passionately that a variety of opportunities to connect with story and literature should be part of every child’s life.
So earlier this year The Ark, a Cultural Centre for Children approached CBI and our colleagues in Poetry Ireland about building a season of events focused on literature and storytelling we were eager to be involved. The final result of which is Story Spark a four-week season of events at The Ark, which kicks off next Monday and runs until December 19th.
Working on a project of this size in one location allowed us to approach our work in a new way. Here was a building, designed with children in mind, where we would be free to fill the spaces with stories.
Within the venue, two main spaces have been designed to facilitate the different elements of the programme. The main theatre space has a dual function. Tuesday to Friday it hosts The Telling Point, seeing master storytellers Niall de Búrca, Liz Weir and Pat Ryan taking-up residence for a week each to share their extensive personal repertoires with individual school groups.
Then at the weekends, the theatre takes on its public guise as The Reading Room, welcoming an exceptional line-up of children’s authors and poets from Ireland and the UK for a series of themed events across sixteen days. Each has been selected not only for the quality of their work, but for the experience as an entertaining presenter and it is hoped that audiences will be encouraged to try something new as well as enjoying more familiar favourites. (Download a copy of the Story Spark schedule)
Journey up to the first floor and you will find the Ark’s Long Room has been kitted-out as a fully functioning Story Lab, an interactive workspace complete with mp3 listening stations and a digital recording booth, where you can add your own tale to an ever-expanding audio collection. Visitors to the Story Lab can read and listen to stories already created by previous visitors and then write or record their own stories to add to the collection. Dublin’s new designation as a UNESCO city of literature arrived just as we were planning Story Spark so it’s thoroughly appropriate that all the stories created in the lab during the next month will find a permanent home in Dublin City’s archive.
Story Spark is the last CBI programme of 2010. It’s a hectic end to a busy year but we’re very proud to be finishing the year with a project which will allow so many children and young people to light the spark of story.
Story Spark is presented by The Ark in partnership with Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland. For full programme details see ark.ie or telephone 01-670-7788 for further information.
FAMILY VISITORS to THE STORY LAB
The Story Lab is a specially designed interactive space, where a facilitator will be on hand to guide children and adults wishing to write and record their own stories. You can also listen to a selection of short tales by professional storytellers and members of the public, and read what previous visitors have left for others to enjoy.
The Story Lab is open on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10.30am -1pm and visitors can visit for thirty minutes. Space is limited in the Story Lab so its advisable to book in advance.