Q&A: Magic and Mortals with Grimm & Co

Mon, June 29, 2020 by Jessica

Like us, Grimm & Co love story. They are a Rotherham based charity whose core purpose is to change lives one story at a time. They support children and young people aged 7 to 18 to develop their confidence and skills around creativity and writing.

It was incredibly exciting for me, a mere mortal, to get to chat with a magical being from Grimm & Co’s Apothecary Shop.

Q. Grimm & Co is extremely imaginative in their approach to working with children and young people. What was the inspiration for the fantastical existence of Grimm & Co? 

Magical answer: Grimm & Co was founded by my boss, the esteemed Graham Grimm, all the way back in 1148 (just before lunchtime). Graham is a human being, albeit an extremely long-lived one (he’s still around to this day!). As well as being probably the oldest mortal alive, Graham is different from other humans in another way, too. Graham Grimm is the seventh son of a seventh son, which – as you’ll know, if you’re up on your folklore – means there is something a little special about him. In Graham’s case, it is that he can actually see magical beings! And it was this knowledge of the magical world that led to the founding of our Apothecary, which for nearly nine centuries has been providing quality goods and services to all magical beings, from the wicked to the sickeningly virtuous (we don’t discriminate).

Mortal answer: Grimm & Co is built on a rich foundation of research that defines the way we work, enabling us to deliver innovative, exciting and engaging workshops that champion the writer in every child, and change lives one story at a time. We’re also inspired by Valencia 826 (check out Dave Eggers’ ‘Once Upon A School’ TED Talk to find out more about this fantastic organisation’s inspiration and beginnings), and are proud to be a member of the Ministry of Stories family.

Q. Both Settle and Rotherham are classed as Yorkshire towns, but they’re very different. How does place inform the work you do? What about Yorkshire is inspiring to you?

Graham Grimm is Yorkshire-born and -bred, he’s extremely proud of it, and he never lets any of us forget where we’re from! And no wonder: the thought of helping to grow and diversify our region’s great literary legacy is a deeply inspiring one. A child’s sense of their place in the world, and more specifically of the place they’re from, can have a huge impact on their confidence, esteem, and aspirations. As such, we do lots of creative work that focuses on exploring and celebrating where we’re from, and dreaming big about what we’d like from our futures! We love exploring the living heritage of Rotherham, our wonderful home town, in our workshops.

Q. What advice would you give a young person who wants to write stories, but has never tried before?

All human beings have imaginations, and children and young people have the best imaginations of the lot! And you don’t need to have visited lots of different places or had lots of different experiences in order to unleash your imagination, either: the world around you and the things that you are excited about are the perfect fuel for a story. If you look closely, you can find inspiration in the most ordinary, even boring-seeming things. It can be hard not to worry about what other people think, but just know that you’re in charge of your own story and are free to write whatever you want, no matter how silly or weird it might seem to someone else! Focus on what excites you, and follow this passion as you discover your own story.

Q. Grimm & Co is devoted to nurturing children and young people’s writing skills and creativity. What do you think are the real life-long benefits of exploring creativity, imagination and writing? Why is it important?

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  He also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” The power of creativity is vast – from enabling us to envisage and work towards better futures, to helping us look inside ourselves, giving us tools to understand our emotions and building our own sense of worth – and as such Grimm & Co believes that nurturing this power in children and young people is hugely important.

Communication is one of the essential building blocks that opens up opportunities for children and young people. It also helps them to understand themselves and to develop stronger relationships with others. We therefore think it’s crucial that children and the young people are given the opportunity to develop a real love of writing; to value it, to enjoy it, and to truly see themselves as writers.

Q. Congratulations on recently acquiring a new, much bigger, building in Rotherham to expand the Apothecary Shop! What are your hopes for Grimm & Co over the next few years?

Thank you! Our magnificent new building will give us the capacity to reach far more children and young people from Yorkshire and beyond. Our new home will also be developing into the National Centre for Folk and Fairy Tales, and as you can imagine this is something we’re incredibly excited about!

These enchanting new premises will include a cafe, an independent bookshop, and a dedicated performance space to showcase young people’s creative work. Our beloved Apothecary to the Magical retail shop will also find a new home in this beautiful gothic building, and will be offering even more fantastical experiences for children and their families. All proceeds raised from the cafe, bookshop and gift shop will help to fund Grimm & Co’s programme of free writing workshops, allowing even more children and young people and their families to take part in our innovative and inspiring literacy sessions for ages 0-18. We can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve got planned!


Q. We can’t let slip too much of the magic that you’ll be giving us at the festival! But just quickly, what are you excited about delivering online?

I’m pretty excited about helping children and young people activate their time travelling abilities! And I’m sure they’re going to fill our 2020 art gallery with an absolute smorgasbord of creative genius, too.


Q. And finally, as a fellow story lover, we have to ask- what story, or author, sparked your love for tantaslising tales in the first place?

Hearing stories read aloud was hugely important to me as a child. There were so many books that meant something to me when I was young, but I’ve recently been listening again to some of the Alan Garner audiobooks I grew up with – The Weirdstone of Brinsgamen, Elidor – and I can see now how these stories deep sense of place and of ancient but living legend (all with a deliciously eerie, otherworldy edge!) has shaped so much of the things I’m drawn to.

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