Here is Tim Dick’s story of Sydney Story Project’s story which ran in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The research report mentioned in it stresses the importance of arts to education, including literature, and was written by Sydney Story Factory board member, Professor Robyn Ewing of the University of Sydney, launched this week at the Sydney Theatre. It makes interesting reading and has plenty of solid reasons for why our city needs the Factory. Read it here.

Calling all irony workers: new writing centre needs you

Tim Dick March 18, 2011

Dave Eggers, left, author and creator of children’s writing centre ‘826 Valencia’ in San Francisco; and Nick Hornby, right, the founder of its London spin-off, the Ministry of Stories. Photo: Getty Images

WHEN someone has a good idea, copy it, especially if the originator doesn’t mind and when it can transform children’s lives. The fact another famous author has already copied it – Nick Hornby in London – is evidence that something like Dave Eggers’s successful children’s writing centre in San Francisco should cross the Pacific and set up in Sydney. It has.

Until now, the Sydney Story Factory was an idea that existed only in the ambitions of those of us inspired by Eggers’s 826 Valencia centre – which is cunningly disguised by a store selling everything the modern pirate needs, such as mermaid repellent (or attractant) – and the seven centres it spawned in the US and by Hornby’s Ministry of Stories, hidden behind Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, which opened in November.

But yesterday, the Sydney Story Factory won what people like to call ”seed funding”, money from which the tree of a creative writing centre can grow into a real place which inspires kids to tell their stories.

The lord mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, has donated $25,000 from the trust she set up when she took Town Hall in 2004 but stayed on as the member for Sydney. Since then, she has since given away $953,000 of her second salary to charity, and yesterday’s $114,000 instalment included money for the Sydney Story Factory, plus funds to help women on the street, treat mental health in public housing and find new homes for abandoned Staffordshire bull terriers.

The Sydney Story Factory aims to give any child who wants it free help with writing, using volunteer authors, journalists, editors and teachers as tutors. It will also offer storytelling workshops, teaching children to write in all kinds of ways, from fiction to film scripts, and publish them in all kinds of formats, from online zines to the Herald, which supports the project.

Run by an independent, non-profit association, it will target children from disadvantaged, migrant and Aboriginal backgrounds, whose stories aren’t always told or aren’t often heard. Its own version of a fantastical shopfront will inspire young writers and partly fund the centre. Local children are considering three ideas developed by a creative agency, the Glue Society, to make sure what the adults like works for the target audience, too.

The need to nurture creative writing among children is emphasised by a report from the Australian Council for Educational Research out this week, The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential.

Written by Robyn Ewing, professor of teacher education and the arts at the University of Sydney and a Sydney Story Factory board member, it found that rhetoric of putting the arts at the heart of a child’s education has returned.

An increasing wealth of studies demonstrate its ability to develop creativity, imagination and transform lives. A report for the Blair government in Britain found that by adulthood, many had lost the capacity to think creatively as young children do, while research in the US shows that those who have deep art experiences scored higher on standardised tests than those who had little or none.

Two years ago, the then federal arts minister, Peter Garrett, said creativity, innovation and cultural understanding were skills wanted by emerging industries. The man who is now Schools Minister said: ”Arts education provides students with the tools to develop those skills.”

The Sydney Theatre Company has a schools drama program, and the Sydney Story Factory will concentrate on literature, based on the belief that storytelling is critical not only to the arts, but almost any career.

There will be a Factory membership drive in May, when a supporter can become a fitter and page turner, irony worker or syntax collector. By then, it will be running workshops and tutoring with children at partner schools. Later in the year, depending on funding, it will open in its own space in Redfern, a place full of good stories, with many to tell them.

Tim Dick is a Herald journalist and co-founder of the Sydney Story Factory.

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