My favourite childhood memory is reading with my grandparents. After spending the day in town we’d head home on the Kingsway bus for a glass of cherryade and a story before bed. Technology has come a long way since I turned the pages of those dog-eared books that once belonged to my mum, but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed at all… our love for stories.
This month saw the launch of Story Shed, a storytelling podcast for children of all ages, created by cestrian Jake Harris. To celebrate both the launch of Story Shed and the wonderful creativity that we have here in Chester, I took a short walk across town to Story Shed HQ to meet Jake and family to find out more about his stories and his brand.
What inspired you to start Story Shed?
Story Shed was born from nine years’ of bedtime stories, cuddles on the couch, books on long journeys and seeing the shared joy and pleasure of reading, listening and imagining. I wanted to make stories accessible to all. I have a young family and I know how hard it is to make time to read to my children every night. I think it’s important that a screen is not the last thing they see before they go to bed at night, so a story podcast is a great way for them to wind down and relax.
With a full-time job and a family, where do you find the time to write?
I’ve been thinking up stories for many years and as a teacher, you are always trying to be creative with your lessons so it’s something that comes quite naturally to me. It’s hard trying to fit in a writing session with three small children, however, I tend to formulate the story in my head and then write in short bursts, usually on my phone, and let it come together over a couple of weeks.
What is your writing process, do you just dive in or do you draft your ideas first?
I tend to think of a title or a concept first and then play with a few ideas until I can see a story coming together. With Isabella Umbrella, the first story I wrote for the podcast, it was for my daughter as she’d asked me to come up with a story about her on an adventure – that was my starting point. I love the rhythm of rhyming stories and so the perfect accompaniment for Isabella, her umbrella of course. I also like my stories to have a heart and provoke a bit of discussion; I make sure that those ideas are woven into the fabric of the story.
Do you think that your career as a school teacher helps with the creation and execution of Story shed?
Definitely, before I was a teacher in a primary school I lived and worked as an English teacher in Milan for 3 years. Working with people who have little to no English and trying to get them to engage in communication took a lot of imagination and creativity. Now I work with primary age children and I have three of my own which means I have an amazing test audience to try out my stories. I always read them to the children in assembly to gauge a reaction, children are very honest and you can tell when something works or not from how they react.
What made you take the leap and share your stories on a public platform like a podcast?
I think many people are put off from starting something like this because they fear that they’re putting themselves out there, and it’s a very hard thing to have people hear something that is very personal to you, especially if you think it’s really good! I wanted to hear what people thought but I didn’t necessarily want them to tear it to pieces. I think, as with everything in life, you have to give it a shot because if you don’t try you’ll never know.
How did you come up with the name?
I did lots of brainstorming with my wife Beth. I wanted something that appealed to both children and adults. Beth works in marketing and is a graphic designer, she designed our logo and it’s exactly what I wanted!
Is there a common theme/lesson to your stories?
Yes, about celebrating difference and not being afraid to be yourself. I want the children and the adults to talk about the story and any messages or ideas they have picked up – hopefully, they take that away.
Which one of your stories is your children’s favourite?
Do all of your family get involved in Story Shed?
Very much so, from the ideas to the listening, to the logo and the social media. It is very much a family effort. In fact, I couldn’t do it without them.
In a family home so close to the zoo you can hear the lions’ roar is where Isabella Umbrella, Gary Ballerina and Moon Goose came to life. Who will we meet next? Keep in touch with Story Shed on Facebook and Twitter.