Today our last day in London was visit to Bag Books HQ in Clapham - a charity which creates be-spoke sensory books especially for children with learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning disabilities. http://www.bagbooks.org/
The workshop Manger Sophie Baker , trained in fine arts with experienc in set design and carnival(festival parade) workshops leads a team of experienced "craft artists" and volunteers who hand make each book.
We had first come across Bag Books in the Carson Street Library and Bec Bradley and Francis had read a couple of the stories to a class of students. We had throught to make our own bag-style- book resource to accompany the performance of the Jub Jub Tree. During the residency it became apparent that this was not as simple as it had first appeared and we ran out of time. It felt surreal to be entering their workshop in real life!!!!
We were lucky to come in on a day when they were inducting some other new volunteers, so not only did we get to spend time n the workshop but we also heard from the CEO about funding and witnessed the telling of a brand new story Aladdin.
We learnt from Services Manager Stuart Cummings, Workshop Manager Sophie Baker and craft artist (of 8yrs) Magda about some of the considerations that go into choosing what elements are created for each page. Some principles:
Repeatabiltiy( sure supply)
Time (goes with affordabilty and ease)
We were curious as to how books were developed - were they written first and then designed - or the other way around??? The answer it seems was both. Of the three recent new books - One had been written first(by Stuart Cummings) and then designed - and the other tow which had been written and designed by Sophie and Magda respectively had taken their impetus from a more "making" place. We asked " were there many books - that were adaptations of other books or stories?" - and the answer was not as many. For example there was an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda - but this was very long with many pages and expensive to produce. (Hmmm - I remember the difficulty to reduce Jub Jub to 15 "pages")
In general stories worked well when they had 8-12 "pages" and one to two sentences corresponding with each page. Audiences tended to be between 6-12 also.
It was fantastic to see the range of books and the different ideas for different pages. We got very excited about these small sensor pad things - which could record different sounds (they had recorded a squeaky door for the ghost train in the Fairground story)
As CEO Dean explained - each book is sold for around 30% of it's actual cost - and books take an average of 8 hrs to create. Book sales are only 15% of their annual income - the rest comes from charitable foundations, Lottery, Corporate and individual donations.