Half Term at the Barbican Children’s Library

Last week I missed out on all the stunts fun at Stunt Trouble, but I really can’t complain because instead, Sadie, Emily and I were at the Barbican Children’s Library working on a dream of a project.

We spent three days with 48 children creating imaginative adaptations of some of their favourite books. Our time there forms part of an ongoing project to celebrate a love of stories, combining this with the amazing potential for video to communicate and share through storytelling. Each workshop takes inspiration from a different book and last week we looked at The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman, and Crow Boy, by Philip Caveney.

With each group, we looked at different elements from the stories, using them as inspirations to create films that captures and communicates the experience and enjoyment in reading the book. In particular, I really enjoyed creating animated ‘fire’ background sequences to represent the Fire Challenge of Lila in The Firework Maker’s Daughter. Each group we worked with took on a different approach, and in such a short space of time produced some fantastic work. I’m currently in the process of editing this together with some green screen work they produced and each time I review it, I can’t help but smile, because they’ve created something really charming, interesting and fun to work with.

Image of fire stop motion animation sets

Several groups made animated sequences to represent the Fire Challenge issued to Lila in The Firework Maker’s Daughter

It was an amazingly fun few days, and everyone participating contributed really well. We had a range of ages on each day, and very few children knew anybody else in the group, but everyone supported one another regardless and the strength of their teamwork and collaboration shines through in the quality of their footage. It was a real pleasure to shoot and I’m thoroughly enjoying cutting it together.

Along with green screen shots and animated backgrounds, the groups also shot several live action scenes, telling not just elements of story from within the books, but also about their experience of reading them. They crafted their own props, crewed several setups and also managed to deliver some intricate performances to the camera – it was a rich and varied few days and I think everyone participating took a lot away from the experience. I know I certainly did!

Last week follows on from October half term, when Sadie and Emily worked with a separate group to make a film loosely based on Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book:


We’ll be back at the Children’s Library over the Easter holidays and also in May half term, when we’ll be exploring new books and I’m excited to get started reading some of them.

This project has been a real reminder for me about why I got into filmmaking in the first place and why I’m so passionate about stories. A story, or a character can capture our imagination and take up a residency in our minds. Through them we can experience new adventures that we can learn from, discovering things about ourselves and about the world around us.

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
― Patrick RothfussThe Name of the Wind

In the last few days, I’ve seen faces light up as they remember a particular passage or description, words rushing out of children’s mouths so they can pass the story on to others, and queues for them to take the books out from the library.

It’s been incredible, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Donna @ SFS HQ

If you’d like to take part in one of the Barbican Children’s Library’s ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ workshops, please contact Amanda or Joel on 020 7628 9447.


About donnabamford

Director at Studio Film School. Views are all my own, etc etc, nobody else would entertain them.
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