Guest Post + GIVEAWAY: Melanie Smith on 'Story', its Kickstarter, and three amazing Brighton tales to tell your kids

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Post updated 23/03/15: Congratulations to Louise Porter for winning STORY ‘Adventure to the Woods’ on Saturday (and apologies for not updating this post until today – we were away this weekend and nowhere near a computer)! 

Last week, Melanie Smith contacted me via Twitter. She’s a designer and mother-of-two from Brighton who’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money for STORY, her amazing new children’s book concept, to go into production.

I watched the above video and was so charmed by Melanie’s presentation. It’s the anti-iPad, a book that’s been ‘pulled apart’ so that children can let their imaginations run free with the use of a map, mask, story-starting cards and a little stuffed character – all portable in a small suitcase.

I’m behind this – will you be? Melanie has four days left until her Kickstarter ends… At the time of writing she had £2,266 to raise – and there are some rewards still. Pledge £45, for example, and you’ll receive a ‘STORY – Adventure to the Woods’ for yourself and one will be donated to a library, school or children’s centre in the UK.

Just click on any of the STORY images in this post to be taken to the Kickstarter donation page. 

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SOCIAL MEDIA GIVEAWAY

If you love the look of STORY, please (of course) pledge. If you’d like to win a copy, leave a comment on the post or even better, share it to help Melanie spread awareness of the Kickstarter campaign before 11pm, Friday 20 March.

Do this in the following ways and you could win a STORY suitcase for your child – a winner will be picked at random this Saturday 21 March, the day after the Kickstarter campaign ends.

* On Facebook (liking welcometoSTORY when you do – please comment on this post to let me know so I can log your entry, as I’m not on Facebook)
* On Twitter (following @littlelewes and @WE_ARESTORY with #STORY)
* On Instagram (following and cc’ing @LittleLewes and @weare_story with #STORY)

Over to you Melanie, and welcome! x

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Stories have always been a big part of my life
. As a child I was forever at the local library, maxing out my card and devouring all the books they had. And as an adult, not much has changed, except now that I have children, I read their books more than my own.

Having recently changed careers from arts producing to designing and illustrating, I began writing bits of stories and creating walks – based on stories of a particular place. This came naturally, because for my final major project at Brighton University, I’d written and designed a set of three walks for the city.

One was set in the past, and wove stories about some of Brighton’s more colourful characters, with a hand-drawn map of the city as it was then, in the 18th century. I wondered if, by reading about the history, and walking the very streets and gardens where the events had taken place, people could connect with the past and experience it more directly.

The second walk was a present-day walk, and the third was a walk for the years ahead, wondering (or wandering!) what Brighton would look like as a futuristic utopia!

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After graduation, I began looking again at some of the walks I’d written and designed. Could I translate them for children? Create a new world, and provide children with prompts – or parts of stories, so they could use their imaginations to dream up new worlds? After months of tinkering and writing, I came up with the concept of my ‘walk-in books’.

They’re partly inspired by my childhood love of C.S. Lewis books about Narnia, but this time you open a suitcase and not a wardrobe, and you can literally step into a whole new world of your own making.

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I started writing some story beginnings, and a set of story locations on a map to create an environment to encourage and inspire children to make up their own stories. I felt that these ‘walk-in-books’ could have endless story possibilities, like a great iPad game but better because they’d include some lovely creative interaction between parent and child that wouldn’t involve staring at a screen.

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My daughter, who’s five, loves that I draw and write stories now. She’s taken some of the STORY characters to school to show her friends what her mummy has made.

So all of this has culminated in me creating a storytelling product, which I’ve just launched with Kickstarter. The first limited edition ‘walk-in book’, ‘Adventure to the Woods’, is available exclusively via our Kickstarter campaign at bit.ly/wearestory, running until 20 March.

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I’d like to share with you now some of my favourite child-friendly stories about some of Brighton’s most interesting characters from the past…

MY TOP THREE BRIGHTON STORIES TO SHARE WITH YOUR KIDS

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Volks ‘Daddy Long Legs’ stilted Victorian railway attraction Image via mikeperris.com

1) In 1883 a rather splendid fellow called Magnus Volk opened the first public electric railway in England.

To this day it’s the oldest electric railway in England. It ran along a two-foot gauge track laid directly on to the beach and ran from where Sea Life Brighton (the aquarium) is now, to where the old Chain pier was (roughly 330 yards). Trains still run every 15 minutes from Sea Life to Black Rock. It’s a treat not to be missed! (volkselectricrailway.co.uk)

But Volk was ambitious and invented another railway – this time with its tracks laid over the sea. It was advertised as offering a ‘sea voyage on legs’, and nicknamed ‘Daddy Long Legs’ by residents. The train ran on stilts along a track from Brighton to Rottingdean, and its one ‘car’ accommodated 150 passengers at any one time. It had its own captain! But it was fraught with problems due to adverse weather conditions and storm damage, and closed for business in 1901. It’s rumoured that H.G. Wells was inspired by the tall long-legged contraption when writing The War of the Worlds in 1898.

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The Haunt Image from designmynight.com

2) The Haunt public house in Pool Valley is near to the site of one of Brighton’s oldest pubs – The Rising Sun – and also the site of the infamous ‘Old Strike -a- light’ ghost.

In the 19th century a seven-foot-tall figure called Old Strike-a-Light was seen striking flints inside the closed pub by French fisherman Sivan Jervoise. The ghost was said to be wearing a cloak and a white conical hat. Sadly the fisherman died from shock two days later and in 1869 the pub was demolished. Old Strike-a-light was never seen again.

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Pavilion Gardens today Image copyright pavilionfoundation.org.uk

3. Did you know that Pavilion Gardens used to be a dairy field full of cows? And after that it was used as a pleasure garden where people would watch concerts, have breakfast parties and ride on carousels?

But the Prince Regent wanted the gardens all to himself, so he closed them and had some rather beautiful stables built for his horses. The building now houses Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and Brighton Dome.

And in 1821, a secret underground passageway was built which connected the king’s new ground floor apartments to the stables, so he could sneak out without anyone seeing him!

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Please go check out the Kickstarter campaign by clicking any of the images of STORY and help Melanie hit her £7,000 target to have her suitcases of adventures made! You see read more about Melanie and STORY at wearestory.co.uk

If you’d like to write a guest post for Little Lewes about something you like doing with your kids, food, craft or anything else relevant to the blog’s reason for being, please get in touch through the Contact page.

Disclosure: Melanie contacted me on Twitter about the STORY suitcase and I was pleased to invite her to write a guest post for Little Lewes, not only to promote her product but to introduce some unusual stories about Brighton for my readers to share with their kids. No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or accepted for the writing of this post.

>> Little Lewes is currently on a break. If you’d like to know when the blog is back in full swing, hit the ‘subscribe’ button in the bar to the right on desktop, or below if on mobile to receive updates in your inbox <<

Posted by

I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

3 thoughts on “Guest Post + GIVEAWAY: Melanie Smith on 'Story', its Kickstarter, and three amazing Brighton tales to tell your kids

  1. sooooooooooooo completely magical! good luck melanie. i love it!
    i have always been a sucker for a good map in a book and have been doing map stories in my book events with school children- so know that this is a fab way of engaging with children and sparking their imaginations.

    1. and I have entered comp and spread the word via twitter, facebook and instagram – I hope it works out for you.

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