Hornby calls for a nationwide network of story 'ministries'

Author Nick Hornby wants to establish a national network of story centres for children, following a successful first year for the Ministry of Stories in Hoxton, London, which Hornby co-founded with Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne.

Hornby said: "The Ministry of Stories has had a happy, healthy and exciting first year, and there has been overwhelming interest from children, parents, schools and volunteers. We want to establish ourselves even more firmly in the community, involve even more local writers, artists and musicians, and hopefully inspire other Ministries up and down the country."

The east London-based centre includes a monster-themed shop and a workshop area where young people are supported in their creative writing by authors and illustrators. It is open to local schools and families and the events are free.

The initiative also has a publishing arm, which includes work both by children and established authors. This month it has launched its "Tins of Fear" in time for Halloween. Each tin contains a story by authors including Eoin Colfer, Meg Rosoff and Charlie Higson, as well as some "medicine" sweets.

The Ministry of Stories workshop area is accessed through the monster-themed shop. Macnab said: "We see the shop itself as a gateway to imagination, which is why we have the monster theme. It is a joke but it's done with a very straight face, and that has an impact on the children who are coming here to write, because it encourages them to be creative.

"They come into a shop that is for monsters—we have nocturnal opening hours to suit our vampire customers, one of our monster customers has taken a bite out of one of our shelves, and all our products are for monsters." Products for sale include zombie fresh mints, cubed ear wax (fudge), human snot and now the "Tins of Fear", in case a monster is feeling a little low on energy.

The centre was inspired by a series of themed writing and creative centres established in the US by Dave Eggers.