Our Inspiration: Dave Eggers and 826 Valencia
In 2002, novelist Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Caligari founded 826 Valencia, a creative writing centre for under-resourced young people in San Francisco. The impact of 826 quickly spread across the USA, inspiring the launch of seven more 826 chapters in places including New Orleans, Boston and Brooklyn, New York.
It wasn’t long before this momentum lead to the opening of similar creative hubs all around the world. These include The Ministry of Stories, in London, established with help from Nick Hornby; Fighting Words in Dublin, established with Roddy Doyle; 100 Story Building in Melbourne, and of course, Story Factory.Learn More
How Story Factory Began
In 2011, Sydney Morning Herald journalists Cath Keenan and Tim Dick visited 826 Valencia in hopes of finding a solution to the growing concern about writing skills rates and limited creative opportunities among marginalised children.
Cath and Tim spent a week immersing themselves in 826 workshops as volunteer tutors and learning all about the 826 philosophy. Once home, they consulted widely with educators, young people, parents, writers and the broader community on how to adapt the 826 model to local conditions.
In February 2011, the Story Factory founding board was established, including chair Michael Gonski, a solicitor and leading young philanthropist; Professor Larissa Behrendt, who lent her expertise in Indigenous education; and Professor Robyn Ewing AM, an expert in creativity in education. In April, our very first volunteer meeting was held with 200 willing people turning up – a flash mob before flash mobs were even a thing.
Support was garnered from prominent writers, including Peter FitzSimons and Markus Zusak and in May 2011, the Story Factory was launched by then Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, to a capacity crowd.
Eighteen months after the first spark of inspiration, in July 2012, the Story Factory was officially opened by Her Excellency, The Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir at 176 Redfern St, Redfern.
For the first couple of years the focus of our work was Redfern/Waterloo but over time we were increasingly asked to work in Western Sydney. To support this work and our ongoing commitment to working across all 7 LGAs in Western Sydney, we opened a second creative writing centre in Parramatta In October 2018.
Together with more than 50 other organisations around the world, we are part of the International Alliance of Youth Writing Centers – a coalition inspired by 826 and united by a common belief that young people need places where they can write and be heard, and where they can have their voices polished, published, and amplified.