Richard O’Neill, a Literacy Trust National Literacy Hero, is to be the first Creative Lead-in-Residence at Seven Stories, starting work this month with the team to catalyse our impact in the region and beyond.

The sixth-generation Master Storyteller was born in the North East and brought up in the Romany tradition of storytelling. He is passionate about accessibility to, and representation in, stories and will be building on the work already underway at Seven Stories to ensure stories and books are available to all children and young people.

Richard explains:

“I was born in Peterlee right next to the Tudor crisp factory, but I’ve travelled around the UK my whole life, most recently working in the arts and schools, and writing and illustrating children’s books. I’m a complete ‘book head’, and have had my head stuck in a book at every opportunity since being a youngster, so the role at Seven Stories really completes the circle for me. 

He added:

“We didn’t have a television until I was nine so stories were what I grew up with - but I didn’t see a lot of people like me in the books. Sadly that’s still the case for lots of children. It’s crucial to me that all young people can be proud of their background, whatever and wherever that is, and that they are positively represented in books. Nobody should feel that reading isn’t for them, so in coming back to the North East and working with the Seven Stories team, I’m keen to make sure that the Centre plays a huge part in the lives of children and families from all backgrounds. I really think we can do great things together.”

Wendy Elliott, Interim CEO at Seven Stories, said:

“We’re thrilled that Richard is collaborating with our team and bringing his unique creative talents as both a writer and story creator to our work in schools and communities, as well as our Visitor Centre in Ouseburn. In the wake of the devastating impact of the pandemic on children and young people, we believe that we have a responsibility to reach more of them than ever through children’s books - to fire imagination and creativity, and to help young people to understand themselves and the world around them. Richard will be working with our teams across the organisation to connect with our growing and increasingly diverse audience in creative and accessible ways to ensure this happens. It’s certainly an exciting start to our Creative in Residency Programme.”

Richard added:

National Storytelling Week starts this weekend, World Book Day is fast-approaching and Half Term is around the corner, so expect plenty of fun from Seven Stories over the next few months!”