Story Museum on path to happy ending?

An Oxford-based museum project dedicated to storytelling has received a grant from Arts Council England worth nearly half-a-million pounds.

The museum is one of 35 successful applicants for the Arts Council’s scheme of small capital funding, and will receive £465,000 from the total pool of £12million.

The grants, funded by the National Lottery, are aimed specifically at increasing the sustainability and resilience of arts organisations, and will be used by the Story Museum to fund a new café, shop space and platform lift.

Speaking last week, the Story Museum Co-director Tish Francis said: “This grant is a recognition and reward for all those people, from authors and illustrators to charitable supporters and volunteers, whose ideas and hard work have helped us transform dreams into reality over the past seven years.

”It’s been a tough time and we’re not yet at the ball, but the coach has just been commissioned. Cinderella is now on the hunt for footmen, horses and ballgown. And more fairy godparents to grant more wishes!”

Commenting on behalf of Arts Council England, Sally Abbott, South East regional director, said: “The Story Museum is a valuable asset in promoting the role of literature in young people’s educational and creative development and also in instilling the joy of reading into young lives.” She added: ”We’re delighted to be awarding £465,000 to the museum to support the modernisation of its facilities, to help generate income and ensure the museum’s sustainability for future generations to enjoy.”

The Story Museum’s website says the project “exists to celebrate children’s stories and to share enjoyable ways for young people to learn through stories as they grow”. The Museum’s “permanent home” is slated to open in 2015 as a “magical new centre of children’s literature and storytelling”.

Despite the news of the grant and a total of £4 million already raised towards development, including an anonymous donation of £2.2 million, the museum still needs to raise an extra £7.5 million.

The museum’s co-director said: “We are absolutely delighted with the award, which recognises our vision and achievements and maintains the valuable support which we have and continue to receive from Arts Council England. We faced strong competition for funding in very difficult economic conditions. It has taken a lot of work to reach this stage – and this success will help boost our other fundraising efforts.”

The museum is hopeful of further success in raising the extra funding needed, with further bids in the pipeline. If these bids are successful, the attraction will able to advance an early phase of their development plans in the current year, with the opening of the shop and cafe.

Patron for The Story Museum, the poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen, was equally enthused by news of the grant. He commented that: ”As Curator of Stories, I have loved being a part of the Story Museum right from the off and am delighted by this award from Arts Council England. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank everyone who has made the story of the Story Museum come true.”

The funding was awarded following Oxford City Council’s unanimous approval of the museum’s development plans last December. The whole Pembroke Street site is expected to be open to the public from the end of 2015, with major exhibitions, talks and storytelling events set to continue.