When I was little I used to love my mum reading stories to me. The Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt were classics that I asked for again and again. As I learned to read myself I was always found with my nose in a book, escaping into a different world. I could have been climbing the Magic Faraway Tree, or sailing with the Swallow and Amazons. I became an avid reader and would often read a book with a torch at night, pretending I was asleep. I passed the love of reading on to my own son in the same way, sharing the same stories my mum used to read me. In this digital age I am pleased that he loves to pick up a book and read. We were lucky enough to win a golden ticket to visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s books from Benfield Motors, who were involved in the NE1 Motor Show. Recently we paid a visit.
Seven Stories is located in Ouseburn Valley, near to Ouseburn Farm and within walking distance of Newcastle Quayside. The name Seven Stories is based on the premise that there are only seven stories in the world, but a thousand different ways to tell them. Seven Stories is all about the ways of telling them and aims to get people excited about reading.The building is a renovated Victorian mill which also has seven levels. I visited with my son years ago, when he was around five. This was when it had just opened and we found it really interesting then. Seven Stories has just undergone refurbishment and is celebrating its tenth anniversary so we were looking forward to seeing how it had changed. When you first walk in you are enticed to stop and read, with shelves of books and comfy seating.
Level 7 – The Attic
Everyone loves Paddington Bear, the lovable bear from darkest Peru with his duffel coat and passion for marmalade sandwiches. In this gallery we discovered all about him and how different illustrators have brought him to life over the decades. My son was fascinated to find out there is a bear from Peru called a spectacled bear, something he didn’t know. It was easy to spend time in here finding out all about Paddington.
Level 5 – Robert Westall Gallery
This gallery currently has an exhibition called Rhyme Around the World which brings children’s nursery rhymes to life. There are paintings, chances to dress up and explore and scenes which make you feel you have entered the nursery rhyme. For me this brought back many memories of rhymes my mum used to read to me. My son loved exploring and even took advantage of the chance to dress up. This gallery really captured the imagination in a fun and engaging way.
Level 4 – Sebastian Walker Gallery and Story Station
This is a fascinating and thought provoking gallery, the Painting with Rainbows exhibition celebrates the work of Michael Foreman. It shows his original paintings and work and invites us to imagine a world without conflict. Stories of war are explored through War Boy, War Game, The General and Ali Pasha. The paintings are moving, one showing a German soldier coming out of the trenches carrying a Christmas Tree in order to celebrate with the enemy. The stories capture the horror of war but show it in a quirky way. Our imagination was really caught by the story of Ali Pasha. In it Henry Friston a 21 year old seaman was ferrying wounded from X Beach at the battle of Gallipoli. Somehow he found a tortoise in the middle of the bombardments and brought it home with him. The tortoise became his friend for many years, eventually outliving him. The case with the shell and photos of Ali Pasha was fascinating and my son went on to buy the book. We spent a long time in this gallery, there was so much to see.
Level 3 is where you gain entry to Seven Stories and is home to a gorgeous book shop where you could easily spend lots of money. Divided into sections so you can find books for the age of the child you want to get a book for you can spend a long time browsing here. Level 2 is the cafe which we did not visit and Level 1 contains the Studio and World Lab. The studio is a great place for children to stop and be creative, with plenty of seating, costumes, props and craft activities. There is also a great view of the Ouseburn river outside and a fabulous boat moored next to the window. The World Lab showcases some of the original manuscripts stored by Seven Stories for the nation and shows how every writer creates their own story.
Seven Stories is a fascinating place to visit, whatever your age. During the day there are storytime and performance events which are announced on the loudspeaker and also on the website. It is worth checking the times of these to make the most of your visit. There are also special events where writer come to visit and it is worth checking out when these are. You can also find out the opening time and prices on the Seven Stories website. We really enjoyed our visit and will definitely be back.