Department of Hidden Stories Field Trial

On March 1st, we conducted our first Creative Exchange field trial in Newcastle's West End Library.

Over the past six months, the Creative Exchange team has been working with creative writers from the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts to develop the Department of Hidden Stories, a mobile app designed to engage school children in creating stories and exploring books and libraries.

Rather than attempting to directly encourage children to read books, the app simply aimed to give children a reason to encounter books, which is the first step to finding something that captures their imagination and that they might like to read. 

Pupils from a local school took part in two workshops at Newcastle's West End Library. At the first, they played a card game devised to explore the possiblities of a game in this setting. From a set of character cards, they selected one character who they would write a story about. Then they drew from a pack of cards that told them whether the next step of the story should be fortunate or unfortunate. For each step in the story, they needed to find a book in the library that would inspire their character's next step.

Based on this game, we developed a mobile app that would guide pupils through story creation, and then let them 'hide' parts of the story in the books they find by scanning the barcode. Other players can then find fragments of the story and hunt for the rest of the parts. While the card game had required a lot of supervision, we were suprised at how quickly and independently the children started using the app to create stories. In the second phase of the workshop, they were particularly excited about finding the stories hidden in books.

Because the system is based on barcodes, we can imagine similar games working on a huge scale: someone in a bookshop in Newcastle could find fragments of a story written in a library in London.