Students from an alternative learning programme in Kingston have helped produce a picture book to aid children’s wellbeing and raise funds for Kingston Hospital.
The book was produced by Bounce Theatre alongside Anstee Bridge in Kingston upon Thames, which works as an alternative education provision for Year 11 students facing emotional challenges which cause them to disengage with education.
Entitled Hope, it tells the story of a little girl struggling with anxiety, who goes on a journey to the bottom of the sea and encounters fantastical creatures, learning along the way to let go of her worries.
Pendry said: “It’s always nerve-racking when something I’ve written is released but I’m excited because it’s been to a primary school already and the children really liked it.
“If it just does a tiny bit of good for a child to read it and think about talking to their parents or their teachers about how they’re feeling, then I think it’s achieved a purpose.”
The team also produced a zine, encouraging children to do what the character does and express things they’re proud of alongside their worries, by writing them in to assigned boxes.
They are encouraging children to take part in a colour-a-thon in aid of Kingston Hospital Charity.
Pendry added: “We hope this is an opportunity to put something back in for the hospital staff’s welfare, as a recognition that everybody is vulnerable.”
Hope was developed after the pandemic meant Bounce and Anstee Bridge couldn’t collaborate on a theatre show as they usually would.
It was launched on Friday 1 October with a ceremony held at John Lewis in Kingston, attended by leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey, 55, a patron of Anstee Bridge.
Although she was unable to attend in person, a speech written by Dame Jacqueline Wilson, 75, who is also a patron, was read at the ceremony.
In her speech, Wilson said that if Tracy Beaker had access to Anstee Bridge she would have blossomed and had no need to ‘write’ all the books.
Katherine Greening of Twickenham, is project coordinator at Anstee Bridge, part of Achieving for Children Education Services, a social enterprise created by Kingston and Richmond Councils.
She said: “I had advanced sight of the speech and I just thought ‘that is incredible’, I cried when I read that.”
Greening said the aim of the book was for the students, many of whom struggled in primary school, to give something back to children who are that age now and are particularly stressed due to the pandemic.
She said: “It’s a story very close to the young people’s hearts and they feel incredibly proud of it.
“It’s been a long road, with Covid we thought we’d never get here.
“But to see the book and hold it in your hand, it’s very rewarding and emotional.”
Looking to the future, Greening hopes that this might lead to further funding to produce a series of children’s books and tie-in plays being performed at primary schools, with the young people leading on it.
She added: “Imagine the confidence it would give them. It would be wonderful, so empowering.”
An initial 400 copies of Hope are being distributed around primary schools and it is available to read online here.