Tomorrow (Friday) at 11am sees the launch of Stay at Home Storytime, a collaboration between the Pavilion at the Park and Booktastic Children’s Book Festival.
While both the Pavilion and the book festival have been hit by the current COVID-19 restrictions, the two founders, Pavilion owner Emma Garrett and Festival Director Rachael Rogan, have created the initiative as a way to bring the community together despite the lockdown.
Emma recognised the hole that had been left in her regulars’ lives when the Pavilion had to temporarily close its doors, as the cafe is a popular meeting place for Bedford’s families and community groups.
“I was trying to think of something we could do to help our community through lockdown,” said Emma.
“Our storytime sessions have always been much-loved by families and I knew that Rachael’s annual book festival had moved online for 2020, this seemed to present the perfect opportunity for us to work together.”
The plan is for local businesses, artists, creators and community champions to read their favourite children’s story online at the same time each weekday, throughout lockdown.
“Things that felt like small luxuries; taking a few moments out of our busy lives, sharing a coffee, a book, catching up with friends, or just getting out of the house, have suddenly ceased to exist,” said Rachael.
“In these strange times of social isolation, we hope that our new initiative becomes an opportunity for the Bedford community to keep in touch with each other,” said Emma.
“We’re inviting our storytellers to be as imaginative as they like in their short films – Bedford is full of creative minds, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store.”
Rachael and Emma have a wide network of local contacts, as well as links with award-winning writers and illustrators from across the world, meaning that they have already signed up over 40 storytellers, including HM Lord-Lieutenant Helen Nellis, children’s authors and volunteers from local organisations including The Higgins, The Circus of Illustration, Access Bedford and The Place Theatre.
The two entrepreneurs have been busy since lockdown began.
Emma has been in regular contact with her customers, sharing some of The Pavilion’s top secret recipes with her social media audience, while Rachael is planning the first ever virtual children’s book festival on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May.
Live-streamed through their YouTube channel, they have an exciting programme of authors and illustrators delivering online events throughout the weekend..
‘Stay at Home Storytime’ will go live on Friday 1 May at 11am with Emma and Rachael setting the scene, and will take place five days a week.