Introducing the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, residence of the newly formed Ministry of Stories and the latest site for Dave Eggers’s ongoing 826 literacy program. The branch, the UK’s first, has been fully kitted out monster-style by We Made This…
As the designers explain on their blog, in keeping with the model of the other 826 writing centres in the US (where children aged 8-18 can get one-to-one tuition with professional authors) each is housed behind a fantastical shop-front designed to fire the imagination, and – through selling merchandise – generate income for the centres.
In San Francisco’s Pirate Supply Store you can buy glass eyes and peg-legs, for example; 826NYC’s Superhero Supply Company offers custom-fit capes; while Seattle’s Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company sells – as the 826 site has it – “all your space commuting appurtenances”.
The look and feel of the first 826 site in the UK, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies: Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind, fell to We Made This after they initially talked about the idea of a UK version on their blog – having seen Eggers talk at TED in April 2008 – and noted that several others had had similar thoughts.
Interest in the idea grew and arts entrepreneurs Lucy McNab and Ben Payne were able to secure support for the project from the Arts Council, as well as seed-funding from the JJ Charitable Trust. To help things along even more, author Nick Hornby – a keen advocate of bringing 826 to the UK – lent his support to the initiative.
The Ministry of Stories and its Hoxton Street Monster Supplies alter-ego is the result. “The shop was established in 1818, and ever since then has served the daily needs of London’s extensive monster community,” explain We Made This on their blog. “Step inside, and you’ll find a whole range of essential products for monsters. You can pick from a whole range of Tinned Fears (each of which comes with a specially commissioned short story from authors including Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith), a selection of Human Preserves, and a variety of other really rather fine goods.
“The project has been an utter joy to work on, letting us flex both our design and our writing muscles in equal measure,” they add, “as well as working with a fantastic team of collaborators including architects, writers, designers, dramaturgs (look it up) and others.”
Of course, the shop also holds a secret – a disguised entrance that opens onto the Ministry of Stories. “The Ministry is designed to feel really special,” say We Made This, “the space was architected brilliantly by Andrew Lock, Catherine Grieg and David Ogunmuyiw; with fantastic wall illustrations by the very lovely Heather Sloane.”
The identity for the Ministry grew out of a series of branding workshops where hundreds of names for the project were mulled over, say WMT. “Alistair [Hall] then happened to stumble upon his grandmother’s old post-war ration book, featuring the Ministry of Food logo, and that was that. The Ministry had found its name, mood, and identity.”
You can follow more about the Ministry on the MoS website (designed by Manifest), the MoS Facebook page, and the MoS Twitter feed. More pictures of the Ministry are on Alistair’s MoS Flickr set. WMT would like to thank Benwells, Robert Horne, Fenner Paper and Colorset UVI for their help on the project.