Nick Hornby: best-selling author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and children’s charity founder. You may be aware of his more prominent creations: the books Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About a Boy. Or the scripts he wrote for films such as: An Education and Brooklyn. But how about Ministry of Stories? Or Hoxton Street Monster Supplies?
On 11 July, Citywire held its annual 10k charity run in London’s Regent’s Park. One of the causes we raised money for this year was the children’s writing and mentoring charity, Ministry of Stories, which Hornby co-founded in 2010 with Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne.
Ministry of Stories works with young people from eight to 18 years of age through a range of innovative writing programmes that unlock their confidence and creativity. I have been mentoring with the charity for almost two years now and have seen children grow from having almost zero self-confidence to standing up in the Houses of Parliament to deliver speeches about issues important to them. It is an incredible transformation to witness and a real honour to be involved in.
These writing programmes take place on Hoxton Street in East London behind a secret door in a shop called Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
Although this is a real monster supply shop, selling Thickest Human Snot (actually lemon curd), Cubed Earwax (clotted cream fudge) and Fang Floss (string), it is also a façade for Ministry of Stories, which can only be accessed by way of a special password.
On Tuesday 19 September, Hornby came into Citywire’s headquarters to collect an oversized novelty cheque showing the amount raised from the 10k run. It is not every day an Oscar nominee walks through our doors and he was kind enough to take some time for an interview about the charity, his creative process and of course, what it is like to get a couple of Oscar nominations.
Hornby explained how Ministry of Stories reminds children that writing forms the basis of most of the content they enjoy, be it video games or rap music, TV shows or movies. Over the years, local young Ministry attendees have written screenplays for short films and soap operas, written lyrics for the charity’s album ‘Share More Air’ and, most recently, created ghoulish recipes for a monster cookbook.
We then turned to Hornby’s own writing process which, perhaps reassuringly to some, he described as ‘a terrible mess’. He explained that his priority each day is simply ‘to have written something’ and that he does not start until he has carried out a few months of research.
‘The quickest way to run out of confidence is to sit down with only the sketchiest, tiny fragment of an idea,’ he said.
On reflection, this is indeed how Ministry of Stories began, a fragment of an idea that has grown over the years into something that is a key part of many young people’s lives.
I will soon be recruiting team members for their fund-raising quiz night and birthday party on 15 November. If you think you have got the smarts and would like to show support, drop me a line.
If you would like more information on Ministry of Stories, either contact me for details (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit