Seven Stories is situated in Ouseburn, in the east of Newcastle right on the doorstep of Byker and Walker. We work closely with neighbouring schools and community organisations to use children’s book inspired activities to improve the lives of children and young people.

The strength of these partnerships meant we were able to respond quickly to the disruption caused by covid-19 and find new ways of working to meet the needs of families at home in lockdown.

Keeping children happy, active and busy through this unsettling time is essential for their mental health. However many families that we work with have few resources at home to keep children entertained. Food and holiday hunger is a key concern. Seven Stories has been supporting local families through this difficult time by providing online storytimes and delivering packs with books, craft materials and creative play activities directly to family homes that needed them the most. 

Families from Byker Primary School have been taking part in our exciting new food-themed project Story Kitchen. Fabulous food-themed children's books and creative activities are paired with recipe kits from Food Nation for a family meal inspired by the story.

Packs were delivered to the doorstep of each family home by Seven Stories and Food Nation staff. For each pack a video story time including songs and games was recorded and Food Nation also recorded ‘how-to’ cooking videos.

This family shared a film of themselves making homemade fish fingers after receiving a recipe kit from Food Nation and a copy of Lauren Child’s I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato.

We are working together with the Barnardo’s team who run Newcastle Community Family Hub East to give babies and children under 5 the best possible start in life.  In lockdown we have been distributing books and family activity packs for young children and their older siblings and providing facebook storytimes. Delivering packs to the door had allowed us to check-in with parents who may be feeling isolated and deliver impromptu storytelling to individual family groups.

“We have loved the packs. Thank you. He has really enjoyed the stories and is obsessed with the flowers he received and planted. The snacks always go down a treat as well. Xxx"

Seven Stories Reader in Residence programme usually places a member of the Seven Stories team into a school every week with an activity programme designed to develop a love of books throughout the school and at home. During lockdown, we have moved online. We shared amazing storytimes and creative activities for all year groups at Byker Primary School and St Lawrence Primary School to be used with key worker children and with families at home. 

The Reception children LOVED Fridays and looked forward to it all week. Megan's arrival was always greeted with excitement and anticipation. During lockdown Megan has still been reading stories and developing activities for us online. One parent has emailed me to say 'My child absolutely loved seeing the story from Megan, it was nice to see a familiar face. St Lawrence Primary School

During the school summer holidays we worked with the Byker Children and Young People’s partnership to deliver fun outdoor story times on the Byker Wall Estate and provided books, creative activities and healthy meals to help feed a total of 400 people during August. 

This work has been delivered at a time when the need for improved wellbeing, positive family interactions and connectedness with the local community has been most urgent. Through feedback, families have shared with us that relaxed, joyful experiences inspired by children’s stories have improved wellbeing, enabled positive family time and built confidence in sharing books with children.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our work with the local community and health partners please contact Sarah Cotton, Seven Stories Creative Producer (Partnerships).

Thank you to BBC Children in NeedWell Newcastle Gateshead for supporting this work and to Arts Council England and Newcastle Culture Investment Fund whose regular support makes our community programmes possible.