We finally visited Seven Stories or the National Centre for Children’s Books, which is (as you might guess) a seven-floor building tucked into a lively, creative part of Newcastle - Gateshead to be exact - just around the corner from the excellent Cumberland Arms, where Ruby will serve a hot vegan full English to your bed. Yes.
In a converted Victorian warehouse, Seven Stories is there to 'champion children’s books as an essential part of our childhood, our national heritage and our culture. We want to inspire a love of reading across generations.'
It’s also the only place in the UK dedicated to the art of children’s books, and one of just a few places like that in the world. They proudly state that ‘we attract some of the biggest names in children’s literature to work with us to stage exhibitions and to take part in events.’
(And indeed they do. look whose name is on the poster at the bottom. Not not that one - the one beginning with Sarah. Go on, look!)
We went of course because it’s in my job description to go to such places, and feed my brain, but also because I have some work on the walls there - my pen and ink designs of Cinderella carriages, skulls, gingerbread men, roses and lions adorn the walls of the One Upon A Time section, which explores fairy tales. Originality created for my Brothers Grimm cover (shown below), they were applied in vinyl though I couldn’t help thinking that good as they looked, a hand-painted version would be so much more…energetic!
Elsewhere in the Centre you can find contributions by a bewildering collection of writers and illustrators, both still working and those who’ve long put the pens down, including Enid Blyton, Leila Berg, David Almond, Eva Ibbotson, Philip Pullman, legendary Puffin Editor Kaye Webb, Judith Kerr and Nina Bawden. There are lots more of course but you’d have to visit to see them all!
While there, we (that’s Leigh, Michelle and myself) sat in the massive wooden storytelling chair on the top floor with its thunderous exposed beams, played with the wigs (check ma dome below) and costumes and looked after the sad bear in the corner. The ceiling of this room - designed by fellow creatives and regular clients Studio MB - is hung with open books and its walls adorned with drawings by illustrations including some by Oliver Jeffers. The view from the windows will show you the little stream and a family of ducks playing in it too.
Oh and on the way back, we went through the Farm and saw the following:
- a baby rabbit, painfully cute
- some goats
- a really hungry tortoise
- a massive squash
then ate chips
then saw the Angel of the North on the way home.
Couldn’t have envisaged as great a day as that.