THE SYDNEY STORY FACTORY
The Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people at 176 Redfern Street, Redfern, Sydney. Our trained volunteer tutors offer free help to write stories of all kinds. Programs target marginalised young people, and those from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, but are open to everyone.
We run programs for upper-primary and high-school students who have learnt the basics of writing. Our programs develop students’ use of expressive language and improve their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings. We aim to increase enthusiasm for writing and boost confidence, thus allowing students to find their own voice.
All our programs are project based, so every student walks away with a published piece of work.
We run three main types of classes:
- Term-long after-school programs during term-time
- Two-hour workshops during school hours, where a teacher brings in a class of students
- A range of programs on Sundays and in school holidays
If you are a teacher wanting to enquire about bringing a class, click HERE
If you are a student wanting to enrol in a class, click HERE to see what’s on.
The Sydney Story Factory acknowledges and pays respect to the traditional owners of the land on which the SSF is built, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. As we share our own knowledge, teaching, and learning practices within this space may we also pay respect to the knowledge embedded forever within the Aboriginal Custodianship of this Country.
WHY WE DO THIS
A growing body of international research strongly supports the potential of quality arts experiences to improve and enhance students’ learning and creativity. There is also an increasing awareness that the ability to think creativity and flexibly is key to preparing young people for a future we cannot yet imagine. Yet a focus on high-stakes testing in schools runs the risk of reducing opportunities for creative activities like creative writing.
At the Sydney Story Factory all programs are designed to nurture the creativity that is innate to every young person. We foster creative thinking in a fun environment, with one-on-one or small group tutoring to help students put their creative ideas into a story format. Through our trained tutors, many of whom work professionally with words, the students are exposed to people for whom writing really matters. This encourages their creativity and opens new paths for them into the future.
Writers who support the Sydney Story Factory include Markus Zusak, Peter FitzSimons, Anna Funder, Leigh Sales, James Bradley, Malcolm Knox, Gail Jones, Debra Adelaide, Michael Robotham and Drusilla Modjeska.
To read more on the benefits of quality arts programs, read a paper by Sydney Story Factory vice president, Robyn Ewing: The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential.
Our inspiration came from 826 Valencia, a writing centre for young people founded by novelist Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Caligari in San Francisco in 2002. The model was so successful that 826 went national, and seven more chapters have opened across the US. Each chapter has its own unique shop: San Francisco has a Pirate Supply Store; Brooklyn has the Superhero Supply Co. Novelist Nick Hornby was also inspired by 826 Valencia and in 2010 opened The Ministry of Stories in London, behind Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
The Sydney Story Factory brings the model to Australia for the first time, adapting it to local needs. Our shop is The Martian Embassy and Gift Shop.
The Sydney Story Factory is not officially affiliated with 826 Valencia, though we think that what they do is fantastic. We are also a little different. We do not run the homework-help programs that work so well for 826 centres, as other organizations in Redfern already have effective programs in place. The Sydney Story Factory is purely focused on writing and creativity.
Sydney Story Factory Incorporated is a not-for-profit association incorporated in New South Wales and is governed by a board comprising:
Michael Gonski – President
Michael Gonski is a solicitor with the employment team at Freehills, one of Australia’s leading law firms. He is heavily involved with the Freehills Foundation and is a former president of the University of New South Wales Law Society.
Robyn Ewing – Vice President
Robyn Ewing AM is Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney. She is a former primary teacher, recognised expert in arts and education and immediate past president of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association. In January 2015 she became a Member of the Order of Australia and is a previous winner of the prestigious Lady Cutler Award for services to children’s literature.
Catherine Keenan – Executive Director and Co-Founder
Catherine Keenan was formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, working as an arts writer and as literary editor. She has a doctorate in English literature from Oxford University. She is the co-founder of the Sydney Story Factory, and has volunteered for a week at 826 Valencia. She left The Sydney Morning Herald in February 2012 to work as executive director of the Sydney Story Factory.
Tim Dick – Secretary and Co-Founder
Tim Dick is a criminal lawyer with Legal Aid. He was formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, where he worked in a variety of roles, including as opinion editor. As a lawyer, he is admitted in both Australia and New Zealand. He is the co-founder of the Sydney Story Factory and has volunteered for a week at 826 Valencia. He is the incorporated entity’s public officer and is responsible for its administration and legal compliance.
Mark Forrest – Treasurer
Mark Forrest has over 20 years in experience in commercial environments. He is a Chartered Accountant with 10 years experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers and 10 years as Finance Director of Fitness First Australia. He has had experience in providing leadership, strategy and guidance to work through key periods of change, capital raising, turnarounds, acquisitions, consolidation and growth. In 2011, due to his contribution as a board member of the Fitness Industry Association, he was the recipient of the inaugural Fitness Industry Roll of Honour Award, and of the Outstanding Contribution to the Fitness Industry Award.
Larissa Behrendt is Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is also the author of the novels Home, which won the 2005 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and Legacy. She was winner of the 2011 NSW Australian of the Year and the 2009 NAIDOC Indigenous Person of the Year. She is on the boards of Sydney Festival and Museums & Galleries of New South Wales, and the Major Performing Arts Panel for the Australia Council.
Markus Zusak was born in 1975 and is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which is translated into more than forty languages. First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and still remains there eight years after it first came out.
Teya is Executive Director of the Dusseldorp Forum, a foundation established by her grandfather which has worked to improve the life opportunities of young Australians for 25 years. Teya was inspired by her visit to San Francisco’s 826 Valencia and the Dusseldorp Forum is proud to be a foundation partner of the Sydney Story Factory in Redfern.
Gail Hambly is General Counsel and Company Secretary for the Fairfax Media Group and is responsible for the provision of legal, company secretarial, corporate governance and internal audit services across the Group. She is also a member of the strategy team. Gail is Chair of CopyCo Pty Ltd which is a joint venture intellectual property licensing company for Australian newspapers and magazines and up until 2015 she was a Director of Company B Limited (Belvoir Theatre Company).
Jonathan is an established entrepreneur having grown and exited one of Australia’s first e-commerce businesses, Fast Flowers. He is currently the CEO and founder of Sydney based technology startup up Local Measure. Jonathan was a finalist for BRW Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 and was called out as one of the top 20 people to watch in the IT industry by The Australian. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours and a Masters of Political Science from University of NSW and a Masters of Commerce from Sydney University.
Angus Stuart is Director at Wolseley Private Equity, a leading Australian mid-market investor. He has extensive board experience as Chairman or director of the businesses owned by Wolseley. Previously Angus was a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. Angus is actively involved in mentoring young people through various initiatives such as SURPASS and The King’s Kitchen.
Annie Baxter has been Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Google in Australia and New Zealand since February 2013, a role in which she oversees media relations, community relations, and non-profit outreach for Google in Australia/New Zealand. She trained and worked as a journalist in New Zealand before moving into corporate marketing and communications. While living in Silicon Valley she worked with Cisco, eBay, PayPal and YouTube, including putting together YouTube’s first ever global education summit, with Sal Khan of Khan Academy and Sir Ken Robinson. She is on the board of the Sydney Renewable Power Company.
ABC News came in to see what we’ve been up to, and had a chat with Richard, our Story-Teller in Chief, our Co-Founder Cath, and some of the students. Watch the story online here.
Samantha Jonscher from Honi Soit – the weekly student newspaper of the University of Sydney – visits the Sydney Story Factory. Read more here.
THE SOUTH SYDNEY HERALD
The South Sydney Herald reports on the Sydney Story Factory’s competition ‘Judge a book, buy its cover’. Read more here.
Sean Monney describes Sydney Story Factory as ‘a factory that’s cranking the cogs of kid’s creativity’ in the September issue of Sydney’s Child. Read more here.
ABC RADIO – LIFE MATTERS ON RADIO NATIONAL
ABC Radio’s Life Matters producer Gina McKeon came along on our opening day for a tour of the Sydney Story Factory and the Martian Embassy. You can hear her interviews with volunteers and students here.
SBS WORLD NEWS
Sydney Story Factory’s community launch day was attended by SBS World News. You can see a clip of the story here.
The 826 National June Newsletter
We were thrilled that the Sydney Story Factory was featured in the latest 826 National newsletter.
COMMUNITY HIGHLIGHT: THE SYDNEY STORY FACTORY
This month we couldn’t wait to interview one of the co-founders of the Sydney Story Factory in Sydney, Australia. Cath Keenan and her business partner Tim Dick attended our 826 National 101 Seminar in April of 2011, and on July 21 of this year will open their 826-inspired writing project and Martian Embassy gift shop to the public. Cath Keenan, a former reporter for the Sydney Herald, left her job with the newspaper to start this project. Here’s what she had to say about her journey:
826: What prompted the idea of the Sydney Story Factory?
CK: We watched Dave Eggers’ TED talk about 826 and thought it was such a great idea. It seemed natural to want a place like that for young people in Sydney. The more we spoke to teachers, the more we believed it needed to be done. When we realized there wasn’t anything quite like it here, we decided to start it up ourselves.
To read the rest of the interview, click here.
At the Sydney Story Factory, our goal is to create a welcoming place where children’s creativity can flourish. We aim to be as inclusive as possible, and value equally contributions from all cultural groups. We welcome feedback from young people, their families, volunteers, and community members.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we work, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay our deepest respects to the elders.
To read our code of conduct for staff and volunteers click HERE.
To read our child-safe, child-friendly policy click HERE.
To read our volunteer agreement click HERE.
To read our copyright policy click HERE.