Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books is fighting back from the Covid-19 lockdown with a unique initiative that unites well-known celebrities and essential workers to promote the importance of storytelling as a vital source of learning and enjoyment for young people.

Well-known celebrities including Mel Giedroyc, of Mel and Sue fame, Billy Bragg, South Tyneside singing sensation Nadine Shah and even the Director General of the CBI, will join GPs, postal workers, council refuse workers, and teachers from the North East community to narrate I’ll Tell You a Story, a series of videos featuring well-known children’s books that kids and their families can watch online. The aim is to applaud the contribution of key workers, promote literacy and remind people of the incredible value of storytelling.

I’ll Tell You a Story is the brainchild of Nick Kemp, Seven Stories board member and councillor for the Byker Ward, where the centre is located. He said: “My twins girls grew up loving every second they spent at Seven Stories and, even though it’s been closed for the past few months, that doesn’t mean we should lose sight of what it stands for. Literacy and storytelling are so important, so I wanted to think of a way we could reach out, while also recognising the vital role that our key workers have played over the past few months.” 

Other celebrities taking part include Pete Brewis, lead singer of Field Music and former drummer with The Futureheads, local DJ and comedian Alfie Joey, and Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall. They will each read a different story, with titles including Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson, The Fire Eaters by David Almond and Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Sunderland-based musician Peter Brewis said: “As a dad myself, there is nothing better than seeing the look on a kid’s face when you open up a bedtime storybook. Stories are a great way to bond with your children, as well as helping them to learn and bringing their imagination to life. When I heard about the idea for I’ll Tell You a Story, I signed up on the spot.”

In addition to its Newcastle venue, which features unique exhibitions over seven floors, a bookshop and café, Seven Stories is also on a mission to promote storytelling and literacy across the UK, working with schools, authors and publishers to reach and engage as many children as possible.  

Sarah Lawrance, Acting Co-Chief Executive at Seven Stories, commented: “As we prepare to open up again, albeit in a very different social environment, we wanted to find a way to get young people talking about books and stories again. We’re so grateful to everyone who has given their time to take part, both the key workers and the celebrities. It’s a very simple idea that’s going to make a lot of people smile.”

I’ll Tell You a Story, featuring both celebrities and key workers can be found online here.