Ministry of Stories & Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

So, we’ve been kinda quiet here of late on the We Made This blog (for which you have our deepest apologies) but we can now reveal why – we’ve been entirely occupied with setting up a fantastic new project.

It’s a bit of an epic tale, so, if you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin…

Way back in April 2008 we posted on our old blog about Dave Eggers’ inspiring TED talk about his brilliant 826 literacy project, and asked if anyone was going to be setting up something similar in London. On the back of that post, thanks to Andrew Hinton, we met up with the wonderful Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne, and chatted loosely about how a London version of 826 might work. Things pootled along gently for a while, until Lucy and Ben secured support for the project from the Arts Council, as well as seed-funding from the JJ Charitable Trust, and things suddenly stepped up a gear, particularly when author Nick Hornby, who had been thinking about setting up something similar himself, joined the gang.

Cut to November 2010, after many, many, many meetings, and gargantuan efforts from Nick, Lucy and Ben (and a veritable host of others), and this morning saw the launch of the Ministry of Stories on Hoxton Street in east London.

The Ministry follows the model of the 826 centres: a writing centre where kids aged 8-18 can get one-to-one tuition with professional writers and other volunteers; with the centres being housed behind fantastical shop fronts designed to fire the kids’ imaginations (and generate income for the writing centres).

In our case, the shop is Hoxton Street Monster Supplies – Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind.

The shop was established in 1818, and ever since then has served the daily needs of London’s extensive monster community.

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.

This is our favourite product though (unsurprisingly, it’s a real delicacy amongst monsters):

The project has been an utter joy to work on, letting us flex both our design and our writing muscles in equal measure; as well as working with a fantastic team of collaborators including architects, writers, designers, dramaturgs (look it up) and others.

Anyway, once you’re done shopping, you might notice that the shelves hide a secret – a disguised entrance that opens onto the Ministry of Stories.

The Ministry is designed to feel really special: the space was architected brilliantly by Andrew LockCatherine Grieg and David Ogunmuyiw; with fantastic wall illustrations by the very lovely Heather Sloane.

The identity for the Ministry itself grew out of an extensive series of branding workshops where hundreds of names for the project were mulled over. Lots of Post-It notes later, we eventually gravitated towards a group of names that had a slightly tongue-in-cheek air of authority about them. Alistair 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.

The Ministry has already hosted a series of workshops with local children, all of whom seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And the press, including BBC NewsThe Today Programme, and The Guardian, have naturally enough, taken a fair interest.

You can follow more about the Ministry (and get involved!) on the MoS website (designed by Manifest), the MoS Facebook page, and the MoS Twitter feed. Check out more pictures of the Ministry over on Alistair’s MoS Flickr set.

We’re dead chuffed to have been involved in such a fantastically exciting and collaborative project. It’s utterly inspirational to see how freely people have given their skills and time to the project. (A big shout to Benwells, Robert Horne, Fenner Paper and Colorset UVI by the way – cheers gang!)

And if you’re out and about over the weekend, do drop by…

  • I LOVE this, such a gorgeous concept and execution – echoes of
    Is it only open for this weekend?

  • wemadethis

    Glad you like it Katie. Nope, the shop will be open for a long time to come we hope. The opening hours are currently Saturdays and Sundays, 11am to 5pm. And yup, the Super Hero Supply Co is a (brilliant) part of the 826 programme we mentioned.

  • Lloyd

    So inspired and so proud of this setup. Made my week reading and seeing where this evolved to. And look forward to hearing about where this goes. Brilliant.

  • Andrew

    Well done great to see it all come to fruition in such an imaginative way and hope lots of kids will go away enthused about the written word. Love the typefaces!

  • Brilliant :)

  • Tom

    Brilliant work sir.

  • Ulf

    You are mad. Wonderfully mad. Can we buy on the web?

  • wemadethis

    Thanks for the kind words folks. Ulf, we haven’t quite sorted our online sales side, but we’re looking into it. We’ll be sure to let you all know as soon as we do.

  • jane owen

    This is such a good idea I am jealous that I am too far away to at least come and have look at you…we really need to inspire young people…hope it continues to thrive and grow

  • Dan

    Brilliant and inspiring!

  • Heather

    It looks awesome! Well done everyone.

  • Roald Dahl would be rubbing his hands with glee.

    You done good. I shall be visiting the shop with my children – and definitely not telling them where we’re going beforehand.

  • A fantastic piece of work Alistair (and team). I can’t begin to imagine the amount of time you guys must have spent working and crafting it. Totally brilliant. If my flying carpet wasn’t at the cleaners I’d pop over and have a proper look in a jiffy.

  • Gemma

    Do you guys do mail order/online ordering? Bit far for me to come even though I’d love to check you guys out!!

  • Guido B


  • Chamo

    Inspired! Whimsical and practical in equal measure. I suspect the products will sell brilliantly online. Can you get the shop going in the next couple of weeks as they’d make great Christmas presents?

  • What a fantastic idea and presentation – can’t wait to visit. Love the brand, too.

  • Leslie B.

    How fun!! I want to fly from the US just to check it out. Great job!!

  • Handsomely magical, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  • This is so engaging! Thanks for sharing the brillant delights on your blog. How can I get the poster from that last photo for my office? It is so inspirational! Even if I can only purchase as a download, I’m in!

  • This is WONDERFUL! I wish you the very best and hope for your continued success. (I’d love the door warnings as a poster myself.)

  • Aww fab! Just my sense of humour! Im going to serach out some magic beans! Well done guys! x

  • valentina

    Congrats! Brilliant design for a fantastic project.
    I have always looked at the 826 schools with envy, and now there is this M&S in London… hope they will spread around Europe soon.

  • James

    This is the bestest thing in the multiverse.

    You are my heroes.

  • SJ

    This is amazing and I would love to come and visit some day.

  • Dear Sir/Madam

    Do you have any highly un-dis-explosive dehydrated mangled powdered tadpole’s eyeballs, please?

    Yours Sincerely

    Hollingsworth Fweepleshorts

  • Tragically just found out about this tonight (Sunday) and am leaving London for the States tomorrow, but I LOVE this. Any chance you will sell posters or other items of the Ministry of Stories “will bring you victory” sign? I do a huge amount of work on how just because something’s fiction doesn’t mean it isn’t true, and I’d love to have something like this over my desk, especially considering the good cause.

  • Love it. I wish you well!

    Assuming edibility of the bottled products how do you get past the labelling laws? Is there a back label?

  • Lovely ideas and design – looking forward to visiting in the future.

  • phil

    beautiful answer to a tough question. both the idea and the delivery. fantastic.

  • JC

    A wonderful insight into the darker humour of our lives and sumptuously executed. All round brillance. I shall visit next week…in the meantime I’ll salivate over the prospect of Brain jam on my xmas turkey

  • Lesley Byles Dawson

    I would love to help.

  • Marie

    A friend passed on the link to your site. Wonderfully done! Love the idea. Perhaps this shop will one day leap across the pond to an American city, like Chicago?

  • wemadethis

    Hey there Marie – well, the USA is way ahead of us with the 826 National programme which inspired us to set up the Ministry. And there’s already a branch of that in Chicago!

  • Fabulous idea and really inspiring. I am a children’s author who also does mentoring. Happy to help with this anyway I can. It would have to be via e-mail because I live in Perth WA but if there is a programme for kids who want ongoing support I’m more than willing.

  • I am a longtime fan of The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, but I think this may have eked ahead of that for my love. <3

    I know where I'm headed the next time I visit London!

  • oh my gosh this is amazing i am so totally going there to expereince it for myself!! genius. xxxx

  • looks fantastic! good luck with the project :o)

  • Tess

    Very very very cool!

  • Annie Darkhorse

    Ohhh, I sooo want a jar of Brain Jam. Am pre-menopausal and suffer from this condition often. I’d love to buy this product for my husband so he can eat some on his toast and experience it for himself. Please get mail order up soon!

  • What a great idea! Please keep us updated on how the workshops come along.

  • Dracula’s mum

    All aboard for the abra-cadavera transylvania-bound imagination train !!(Free for all phlebotomists!).Incidentally,Dracula,my first born, is SUCH a lovely boy and SO misunderstood…….just has difficulty “con-neck-ting” with people.
    Seriously,folks….brilliant ideas…keep up the good work…well done.

  • Wonderful. I live across the street from the Superhero Supply Co., & some backdoor trade has made my career in villainy much easier, but a Monster Supply Co. is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Binky The Bomb

    I cannot believe in this day and age they don’t accept human sacrifice as payment.

  • vlad

    disappointing. i was in london for all of 6 days last week, sans damsel hair. if only i had known sooner. my local store closed some 182 years ago, and i thought it was now a barren marketplace.

  • Kathy Beadle

    This looks fantastic, it’s about time someone bottled human snot, my 5 year old certainly seems to love it! Have you thought at all about what you might be able to offer to the Home Schooling community? Is the Ministry only open on weekends like the shop?

  • Beautifully art directed.

  • Fangtastic! But monstrously frustrating as I live in San Francisco. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against pirates ( but monsters are my bag. Good luck with your program.

  • Nem

    After reading this article I wanted to visit the shop but my dragon has once again disapeared. I use my dragon to fly me around, you know. Because I live in the Netherlands and hate swimming across the Channel I hope he’ll be back soon.

    PS: If you see flames in the sky, dont’t worry: It’s just Willem, my dragon.

  • I absolutely adore this – everything about it. Here’s to other cities following suit, I’d help out in Sheffield like a shot!

  • Maria

    Can’t you chaps open a European branch in Rome so my students at St George’s can be so inspired?? PLEASE..with lashings of venom and everything visceral…

  • Wow. Just wow. This is amazing. I hope to be in to visit soon. Congratulations on getting it up and running.

    (And Nem, my son’s name is Willem, so he is super-impressed there is a dragon out there with the same name as him:) )

  • Laura

    Dying to visit your shop and purchase some of your fabulous wares, but don’t think I’ll make it there before Xmas. Please tell me that you’ll still be open in the New Year??!!?

  • wemadethis

    Hey there Laura – don’t worry, the shop and the Ministry are going to be around for quite some time; so do drop by in the New Year.

  • Congratulations! I am definately going to stop by on the next London trip :) Your project is fun, inspiring and very creative. I wish you the best :)

  • 23/12/2010 at 1:58 am

    My apologies! I put this in the wrong spot. Yes, I am blonde.

    I’m Australian, living n working in America and let me just say your site – especially the Ministry of Stories brought tears of joy! EVERY English speaking country needs this! Imagine an exchange program! Britain, the Americas, Oceania, Africa . . . an international convention of kids swapping stories! World Peace IS in our grasp. All cheeziness aside, the last is true. Perhaps this is something that could be lobbied for during World Peace Month. We have those things here in America, I don’t know about there. Think of the diversity brought to light. Let’s tweet the good thought/idea.

    Thankyou, this is truly inspiring.

  • Catherine Baird

    Just terrific.

  • Ah this store is brilliant…. It mustve opened semi recently because I dont recall it back when I was there in 2009? Truly a clever idea! Do they have an online shop?

  • Maralynn

    I love your store! Being in the US, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage…any plans to sell your products on the web any time soon? I must buy some things! :)

  • Hey there Maralynn – we’re going to be getting an online shop up and running when we can – we just have to raise some funds for it first! In the meantime, do check out 826 National for some great stuff in your country!

  • Love this idea *so much* :-)

  • Tessa

    I love it! I’ll be in London end of march and have to see it in ‘real 3D’.
    Greetz from Hamburg!

  • Love it!

  • This is so incredibly imaginative and inspiring. Amazing work :)

  • Really really inspired by this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Silvia

    Amazing, truly genius… Should you ever think of conquering the rest of the Old Continent, such as Italy perhaps… let me know and my monster army and I will gladly make it happen.

  • Regis

    Yeah good work !!! Like that soooooo much but far far away from London, from England … So looking forward for the online shop.

  • Amazing work! I’m in love to the concept, execution, everything!
    In my next travel to london this place is in my “must go list” in London.

  • Lily Jennings

    HAHAHA! LOL! my favourite was the Thickest human snot!

  • Fantabulous !!!

    Such genius minds.
    I’m always looking for inspiration especially for me and my artistic and curiously-minded niece.

    A visit there shall be coming into play.

  • Terrific!

  • Simply brilliant!

  • This is one of THE COOLEST shops I’ve ever seen. If I ever make it to London, I’ll be visiting. Do you ship your goods to the United States?

  • this is fantastic! when i saw this on Guardian I thought its the most amazing thing ever! such effort and detail!

    just out of curiosity, whats in the thickest human snot and deeply congeale earwax? can you actually eat them?

    • wemadethis

      The Thickest Human Snot is oddly similar in taste to the human food Lemon Curd (sometimes called Lemon Cheese); and the Deeply Congealed Earwax is peculiarly similar to fudge. Both are delicious!

  • Stephan Grundy

    Ooo, this is priceless!
    Do you sell werewolf grooming supplies too? It’s so hard to get the mud and blood out of my fur after a good night’s run, and as I get on in years the thought of a good pelt-thickening shampoo starts sounding better as well. And sometimes my throat is a bit sore after the monthly three nights of howling, so some lozenges suited to the werewolf physiology and non-vegan philosophy would be nice – woof! (Also, werewolves in human form are exceptionally fond of chocolate, as we can’t safely eat it while in wolf-shape. Just so you know)
    Anyway, you can count on the were-creatures of Ireland to support your project to the tips of our tails. And, if you can think of any way in which mythic/historical fantasy author Stephan Grundy (Rhinegold, Attila’s Treasure, Gilgamesh, Beowulf) can help you out (giving a talk when I’m next in London, donating copies of my books, or whatever), just let me know – sometime when the moon isn’t full. – Stephan Grundy

  • Lucy

    This is an inspiration! I want to write a story about monsters. NOW!
    Lucy Hennessy