Nick Hornby helps kids pen internet soap opera

Hornby and Ministry of Stories members. Pic: Ministry of Stories

A new internet soap opera has been written by schoolchildren attending Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby’s Hackney-based creative writing mentoring centre.

The 12-15 year olds created Dead Ends, an four-part mini-series set on Hoxton Street, which in reality is home to Ministry of Stories, the donation-funded centre that Hornby co-established in 2010. Hornby and his colleagues believe that working with young people on their storytelling skills benefits the area.

The show, which is made up of bite-sized five-minute episodes that focus on a web of interconnected characters, and even features a cameo from Hornby himself, has received rave reviews including positive feedback from EastEnders cast members.

Ben Payne, co-director of Ministry of Stories said of the achievement: “Everything in it was created, decided and written by the young people themselves.

“They worked alongside professional writers and were treated like professionals themselves, working as a team to real deadlines.”

One such professional was EastEnders scriptwriter Pete Lawson, who lived locally at the time and has always been involved in youth arts. He said: “It was fantastic to get to work with the young writers from Ministry of Stories.

“Their ideas were so exciting, their characters were so vivid. It’s amazing what they’ve achieved. [They are] soap writers of the future!”

Some of the actors in the soap are members of agency Hoxton Street Management, which is based in youth arts centre Hoxton Hall. Others are Hackney residents chosen by the soap’s director, Charlotte George, who also lives locally.

In the future, the Ministry of Stories crew plan to take their unique mix of free writing workshops and youth-mentoring nationwide, fulfilling their goal to “inspire a nation of storytellers”. Lucy Macnab, co-director of Ministry of Stories, said: “The support we’ve seen from volunteers and donors over the last two years has been extraordinary.

“We have gone from a group of volunteers to a neighbourhood centre that is here to stay. With plans to expand nationally, we need help to engage with more young writers.”

Equally pressing, though, is the creation of the next soap opera. Payne said: “We’ve been in talks with people on the Fellows Court estate [in Haggerston]. They have an extensive youth programme. We’d like to do the same workshop with them, so that they could create their own soap.”

You can watch Dead Ends here, and tweet about it: @Mini_Stories.

Find out how to donate to Ministry of Stories here.

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