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Newcastle organisations win money to spread a love of books and reading

New Writing North and Seven Stories have been awarded about £500,000 to take their work around the country

Rachel Gay and Jeremy Bradfield as the Princess and the Prince
Rachel Gay and Jeremy Bradfield as the Princess and the Prince

Thursday, March 5 is World Book Day but that isn’t the only reason they are celebrating at Seven Stories and New Writing North.

The Newcastle-based organisations have each received six figure sums to take their highly regarded work out on the road over the next three years, targeting people who have little opportunity to experience the arts.

New Writing North (NWN) is to receive £264,674 from Arts Council England’s strategic touring fund for a programme of work called Literature Touring in the North.

The organisation, which supports and promotes new writing, has been given the money to enable it to tour performance versions of children’s books and other participatory activities to libraries and community centres across the region.

Keith Pattison The Worst Princess
The Worst Princess

NWN has experience in this area. Productions of My Granny is a Pirate and The Worst Princess, based on children’s books by Val McDermid and Anna Kemp, have been well received on tours of County Durham over the past two years.

Anna Disley, NWN’s deputy director, said: “We put in a proposal to build on the Durham model, going back to community centres and libraries where they particularly welcomed our work but also extending the tours to places including Leeds, Hull and Wakesfield.

“The project is two-fold. It’s building up the promoters in Durham so that they will be encouraged to programme more work, not just ours, but also introducing other audiences to our work in places where they don’t necessarily get such opportunities.

“The idea is always to adapt contemporary children’s books and then use that as a basis for other work, such as reading days and encouraging young parents to read to their children.”

Anna said the next tour, of an adaptation of another children’s book, would take place in October to coincide with the next Durham Book Festival.

Seven Stories opens a new Moving Stories exhibition. Lauren Regan

Seven Stories has been awarded £235,910 over three years to take its exhibitions on the road, again focusing on areas of low cultural participation.

It means a double reason for celebration at the national centre for children’s books. Earlier this week it learned it was to receive £93,050 from another Arts Council funding pot to develop its relationship with Newcastle University.

Fundraising manager Amanda Beckham said of the latest award: “This will enable us to extend our touring exhibition programme over the next three years but also, alongside it, to share some of the learning and participation work we do.

“It’s a sizeable award for us. It will help us to build our national profile and also fulfil the remit of trying to reach people who would not normally have the chance to benefit from our work.”

Seven Stories opens a new Moving Stories exhibition. Copy pic of an illustration of The Gruffalo

She said the money would help to ensure the touring exhibitions were robust enough to withstand the tough love of very young visitors.

Already Seven Stories exhibitions are being enjoyed in other parts of the country, spreading an appreciation of books and storytelling.

Amanda said its Enid Blyton exhibition is currently in Canterbury and is going on to Plymouth and Scarborough while its Cressida Cowell dragons and vikings exhibition is in Belfast before going to Kilmarnock, Norwich and Carlisle.

New exhibitions are planned, one featuring the work of author and illustrator Michael Foreman and the other inspired by Over the Hills and Far Away, the nursery rhyme treasury compiled by Seven Stories co-founder Elizabeth Hammill.


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