Where else could you be a children’s story making mentor, book illustrator, fairy-door maker, occasional Graham Grimm, Magic-o-meter technician, Ebenezer the Wizard and general handyman when needed? Not many places, but Grimm and Co opened those doors for me, not counting the secret one, apparently, somewhere at Grimm & Co.
Since the first open day at the ‘Pop-Up-Story Shop’ – soon to become Grimm & Co – with Ray Hearne, Deborah Bullivant and various local dignitaries on Corporation Street, I realised this organisation was rather special. Those early days were a whirl of glitter, coloured paper, cardboard, a handful of mentors and enthusiastic young creative writers. I decided it would be a good place to get my grandchildren’s imagination muscles exercised in the form of creative writing. From then on we became regular Saturday morning visitors.
In the coming months we soon outgrew the Pop-Up-Story Shop and work began in earnest on a building that Graham Grimm had occupied for years under the guise of a haberdashery, trendy clothes shops, pub et al. It was a case of all hands on deck, portals were fitted, beanstalks planted, walls and floors sanded down and shelves filled with potions fit for any self respecting magical being. The transformation was complete, with Graham and Grizelda Grimm at the helm; children from all over Yorkshire now attend the only place in the world where you can obtain free range grandma’s scabs at a bespoke magical apothecary and have a good workout in the Imagination Gym – amongst lots of other magical in and out of school activities.
The children discovering the delights of creative writing and the school teachers’ surprise when a ‘difficult’ child creates a brilliant story with renewed confidence never ceases to amaze and please me. Because there are no rules about spelling etc the children relax more in that environment (not notwithstanding the ever omnipotent presence of Graham and Grizelda Grimm keeping the children on their toes) and it improves my ability to think quickly when dealing with quick witted youngsters. The varied age ranges and different outlooks on life of the volunteers are also very important. The children see the volunteers not as teachers but friends there to help them. All this leads to better written work and an ability to think creatively even into adulthood and the workplace environment.
The rewards of being a volunteer at Grimm & Co are tremendous and the results almost instantaneous. All in all, Grimm & Co really are changing lives one story at a time for all, young and old … better stop now. Quick, pass that jar of ‘Happily Ever After’ before I fall off the edge of this article.
Words by Chris Bilton
If you’d like to join us on this adventure, give us a call on 01709 829750, drop into the apothecary at 2 Doncaster Gate, Rotherham, S65 1DJ, or complete the form on this website!