Photo of Sophie and others balancing books on their heads

Stories Of Care kicks off a second, large-scale writing and outreach project

We’re delighted to announce that Stories Of Care, has been awarded £50,000 from Arts Council England, to kick start our second, large-scale, multi-platform writing and outreach project.

With these vital funds, and the support of our amazing partners, we will firstly be expanding our core missions by working with a new and exciting Lead Artist, which we will continue to do bi-annually.

Each Lead Artist will be a special and original talent, from an underrepresented background, whose voice needs to be heard and whose story needs to be told. We will support this Lead Artist as they explore their personal story to tap into a wider social narrative, to make powerful, ambitious art and instigate positive social change.

We’re thrilled to reveal that this year’s new Lead Artist is our very own Producer, Oliver Sykes. Founder and Director, Sophie Willan adds, “It became clear early on that Oliver was not only a great Producer, but a budding artist in his own right, with an important story to tell – growing up on a council estate, in a single-parent, low-income family on benefits – that couldn’t feel more urgent as we live through the extremities of poverty in a post covid-19 Britain.

Kaye Tew, Director of our Co-Producer, Manchester Children’s Book Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University adds, “Having worked with Sophie and Oliver on the first Stories Of Care project and seen first-hand both the quality of their work and their commitment to creating opportunities for social change, I was delighted to support Stories Of Care again. Sophie is absolutely right to nominate Oliver as the Lead Artist; the writing that he has shared with me over the last couple of years is touching and inspiring and I can’t wait to see what this year’s participants produce after working with him.” 

With Oliver as our new Lead Artist, the Stories Of Care’s original remit (working exclusively with Care Leavers) will be widened to include young people from low-income and non-standard families. 

And over the next 18-months, led by Oliver, we will deliver…

  • A brand-new writing development programme for twelve diverse new writers from Greater Manchester. They will work closely with the Stories Of Care team to develop their first short children’s story and get it ready for publication. We intend for every one of the writers to ‘graduate’ from the programme with their first publishing credit, working in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
  • Our second vibrant children’s anthology for 7-12 year-olds, written by our participants.
  • 1000 free copies of the book to children for Care Experienced, Low Income and Non-Standard family backgrounds.
  • Oliver’s debut children’s novel ‘Alfie Shields and the Iron Pants Switcheroo’, from creation to publication. The novel follows 12-year-old Alfie on an epic boxing quest as he discovers the true meaning of the word ‘family’. It draws on Oliver’s personal story, being raised without a mum by his single-parent dad in a large family of amateur boxers. 
  • A solo-theatre adaptation of ‘Alfie Shields and the Iron Pants Switcheroo’, created and performed by Oliver Sykes and directed by Dominic Berry (an established theatre performer/director from a low-income, single-parent family).
  • A national tour of Oliver’s theatre adaptation to libraries, boxing clubs and theatres, with a robust and unique outreach package that continues to engage communities and develop young people. Both activities will raise awareness of the struggles young people from low-income and non-standard families face today.
  • Three brand-new paid (at living wage) positions, ring-fenced for previous Stories Of Care participants. As Young Company Members, they will receive mentor support and specialised training, to work across different departments such as Youth Liaison, Marketing and Project Management.