Story Jam @ Firstsite

As my last post explains, I’ve recently been asked by Karen Cooke, a soon-to-be-author, to illustrate a series of children’s books based around everyday issues children may encounter in their young lives, such as not liking certain foods or behaving in certain ways.

As a sort of branch-off from this, she decided to arrange and host a story jam at Firstsite, Colchester, for children to come along and create stories, characters and settings of their own with the help of myself and her skills in the subject!

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I was naturally excited to be asked to do something in such a nice new venue (if you want a visual mental image of the place, perhaps the description ‘a big, shiny, gold banana’ will help) but it didn’t quite top my excitement when I saw the floor to ceiling full sized blackboard. Which I was able to draw all over if I wanted to. Once day I’m going to have an entire day with something like that to myself with a big ol’ step ladder and a lot of chalk paint. Bliss.

Anyway. The day started off with introducing the kids to the game of consequences which was fun! They drew some really creative and inventive sections for each of the ‘characters’, then they were asked to give them a name before they saw the final outcome of each character. Was a right giggle.

Next we started to build our own characters and their backstories which was fun to watch. The kids came up with some really strange and wonderful ideas, especially when we started to link the characters together on a huge piece of paper we all sat around:

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(the crocodile with a carrot is mine…)

I got to doodle down some of the kid’s ideas as they came up with them, but the real challenge came when they acted out the story, playing each of their own characters!

Karen wrote the story as they acted it out, trying to decypher a children’s story as a child invents it is a lot harder than it seems… I had to draw out the story in a storyboard fashion as they acted it out as well, which was just as tricky! The story seemed to change every two minutes… but I suppose thats the way kid’s brains work, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Eventually, we had a rough idea of the plot they’d created, Karen had noted down the story in writing and I’d noted it down in quick marker pen sketches.

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The kids seemed to really like the drawings, which was nice! The parents seemed to like them too. They were actually really very fun to do, trying to draw down some very strange scenes within the space of about 30 seconds for each sketch was quite the challenge but it was an enjoyable one! (Particularly fond of drawing an alien ordering a new spaceship from a Space Argos catalogue)

Then we rounded the day off with giving the place a quick tidy up and taking down all the brilliant consequences drawings the kids had made! All in all, it was great fun and really interesting to see the kind of stories kids can come up with and how this might reflect what the child is like or what they like in life.

Three aliens, a cinderella (who got eaten), two baby birds, an eagle, a dragon and a crocodile makes for a rather good story, turns out.

I’d also like to say a massive thanks for Karen Cooke for asking me to help at the event and Firstsite for letting us use the venue!

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