Redfern creative hub gives kids a different kind of education

Gushing about a really great TED talk is a state most undergraduates will at one point or another find themselves in. We have all experienced the inspiration hangover – the type that sees you beaming, bouncing and motivated for the next few days. You’re really going to jump in and give IT a red-hot-go.  You are ready to make your mark. Hell, you will probably be presenting your own TED talk on IT next year.

 Actually doing IT, making IT or being IT is something far more unusual.

 But IT is exactly what Cath Keenan, and close friend Tim Dick, did after watching Dave Egger’s TED talk – My Wish: Once Upon A School. Rather than settle for being inspired, they set out to incite change and inspiration in their community – specifically the Sydney community, by starting up The Sydney Story Factory.

 Keenan describes The Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, as a place that “aims to nurture young people’s creativity.”

 “What that basically means is that we are interested in their writing skills and their communication skills… in improving their self confidence, self entity and resilience. [We are] really interested in their engagement with learning, how improving writing skills can help them; how making writing enjoyable can help them engage with learning more broadly.”

 With Australia’s education system being drawn into the headlines weekly, be it Gonski, NAPLAN or debate over public vs. private, Keenan says she believes one of the areas our system could lift it’s game is in the way we priorotise (or rather don’t priorotise)  kid’s creativity.

 “There is less and less space in the curriculum for creativity in primary schools. If you look at the writing that happens, it’s very structured, its very prescriptive, and a lot of it is boring – even if you are a kid that likes writing.”

 Keenan says that if the Sydney Story Factory achieved what they wanted – they would put themselves out of business.

 “ What we would ideally like to do would be to show the importance of the type of creative programmes that we offer for young people… that it would just become part of the school curriculum,” she says.

 “[being a long way from that now] makes organisations like ours really important. There is a lot of international research that looks at the benefits of quality creative arts programmes for young people… if you [young people] are involved in these things you are more likely to go on to Universtiy; at school you will concentrate more; you will watch less TV; you will be totally engaged. It has a huge knock on effect.”

 It isn’t only the kid’s who benefit – just spending an hour at The Sydney Story Factory on a Sunday morning will inspire and invigorate you just as much as one of those much-loved TED talks.

 “20 kids coming in after school… hungry and tired, and go ‘yeah, I’m excited, let’s write a story.’ That is really exciting,” reflects Cath.

 If you are interested in soaking up some second-hand child wonder and creativity, head on over to to find out more.

 Freya King [twitname]@freyaking[/twitname]