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Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival is making hundreds of children published authors

More than 1,400 primary school children from London and the south of England will become published authors through the Imagine a Story creative writing project, announced today as part of Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival

From 12 – 23 February 2020 the UK’s leading children’s festival, Imagine, returns to Southbank Centre for its nineteenth year with twelve days of the highest-quality international performance, music, literature, comedy, creativity, parties, participation and free fun for children aged 0-11 and their grownups. The full programme will be announced on 2 December. 

Culminating at the festival is Imagine a Story: a nationwide creative writing project provided for free to primary schools and teachers devised by Southbank Centre and delivered with author Sharna Jackson (High-Rise Mystery, Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week), illustrator Dapo Adeola (Look Up!; The Last Last Day of Summer) and Brixton-based publishers and founders of #BooksMadeBetter, Knights Of.

In a giant ‘game of consequences’, each of the 33 participating schools – from a state school in Herefordshire to an international school in Westminster – writes one chapter of a story, responding to a brief outlined by Jackson. Once compiled, the completed novel will be illustrated by Adeola and professionally printed and published by Knights Of. 

More than 1,400 children are taking part in the project from now until Christmas. Each one of them becomes a published author, their names printed in the final book which will be on sale at the festival and provided for free to each participating school library. All children will also receive a free copy, and are invited to hear their story performed at Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival in February.

The project aims to inspire and support children as creative writers, as well as support teachers to guide creative writing in the classroom. It also aims to address the chronic lack of diversity in children’s publishing, highlighted in the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) report which found that just 1% of children’s books published in the UK in 2017 featured a BAME main character. 

Jessica Santer, Head of Creative Learning, Southbank Centre, says: “At Southbank Centre, we believe every child has the right to a creative and cultural education, and that it is essential for children’s development and wellbeing. We want children to feel a sense of ownership of creativity: not just to witness and enjoy it, but to hold it in their hands, and pass it on to friends, parents, even their own children. Imagine a Story puts their name in print, alongside professionals and hundreds of their peers, and empowers children to believe that everyone has important stories to tell.”

Author Sharna Jackson says: “I’m thrilled to be the lead author on Imagine a Story with Southbank Centre this year, collaborating with over 1,400 young writers. Creative writing can be brilliant for communication and confidence building in young people, and I’m incredibly excited to see where our story goes.

Bronwen Smith, Assistant Headteacher at Stockwell Primary School in Lambeth, says: “The Imagine a Story project is a truly transformational opportunity for me and the children I teach. Working directly with a writer gives me insight into how an author approaches the creative writing process, and helps me create an environment in school where the children’s writing just flows as an expression of their excitement and enjoyment. Having their finished words read out at Southbank Centre, and published in a book for friends, family and others to read, my children will very tangibly experience being successful writers with an audience and a purpose to inspire them to write. We can’t wait!

Imagine is the annual multi-arts festival produced and hosted by Southbank Centre. It is dedicated to families experiencing and enjoying all kinds of art and culture together, of the highest quality and sourced and commissioned from all over the world. Launched in 2001, Imagine has a long history of supporting reading and literacy for children and families. It held the launch of the 20th anniversary of The Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate in 2019 welcoming former Laureates Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman and Chris Riddell, created The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl in 2016, an immersive exhibition celebrating the centenary of the children’s author, and its legacy projects include Room for Children, a children’s library donated by The Swedish Institute, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern Stockholm and Embassy of Sweden in London and held at the National Poetry Library in Royal Festival Hall.

The full Imagine 2020 festival programme will be announced on Monday 2 December with tickets going on sale to Southbank Centre Members on 4 December and to the general public on 5 December / 0203 879 9555

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