About us

Our Mission

First Story changes lives through writing.

We believe that writing can transform lives, and that there is dignity and power in every young person’s story.

First Story brings talented, professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities to work with teachers and students to foster creativity and communication skills.

By helping students find their voices through intensive, fun programmes, First Story raises aspirations and gives students the skills and confidence to achieve them.

What we do

First Story arranges and pays for acclaimed writers to run creative-writing workshops for students in state schools across the country. Over the course of an academic year, each writer-in-residence leads weekly, after-school workshops for a group of up to twenty-one students. We publish the students’ writings in a professionally produced anthology for each school, and the schools host book-launch events at which the students read their stories to their peers, friends, families and teachers.

We focus on schools in which more than 50% of pupils are considered deprived according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index and/or GCSE results fall in the lowest third of the national distribution.

First Story has been an absolutely wonderful chance for our students, especially considering they are on free school meals, live in tough areas and have really challenging lives. It has been a chance for them to really express themselves and to develop a love of language, of writing, to enjoy reading and the process of expressing themselves in a way that is so safe and so freeing. (First Story teacher)

Find out more about our schools and writers-in-residence.

IMG_0069 copyOur Story

Former teacher Katie Waldegrave and the writer William Fiennes met in the autumn of 2007 and fell into conversation about Fiennes’s work as Writer-in-Residence at the fee-paying American School in London. Of course, not every school can afford to have a writer-in-residence. William and Katie started First Story in the hope of bringing such an opportunity to state schools around the country.

2008 First Story becomes a registered charity. Eight creative-writing residencies take place in eight London schools.

2009 First Story launches three residencies in Oxford and holds its first Creative Writing Residential.

2010 First Story launches in the East Midlands with four residencies.

2011 HRH The Duchess of Cornwall becomes Patron of First Story. First Story holds the first Young Writers’ Festival in Oxford.

2013 First Story celebrates its fifth birthday. We launch the programme in four schools in Bradford, running a total of 40 residencies in schools across the UK.

2014 First Story forms a partnership with Cheltenham Festivals to launch residencies in three Gloucestershire schools.

TODAY, First Story is running creative writing residencies in 49 schools across the East Midlands, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, London, Oxfordshire and West Yorkshire. We are helping young people to find their voices and realise their voices have value.

Charitable Objectives

First Story’s charitable objectives (as set out in its Memorandum of Association and approved by the Charity Commission) are:

  1. to advance the education of young students in challenging UK secondary schools by providing and assisting in the provision of facilities not required to be provided by the local education authority for education in creative writing;
  2. to advance in life and help young students in challenging UK secondary schools through the provision of support, opportunities and activities which foster their creativity, literacy and talent to build self-confidence, skills and aspiration so they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society; and
  3. to promote the arts and, in particular, literature, poetry and creative writing by: (a) inviting, commissioning and maintaining services of British writers whether such services require the payment of fees by the charity or otherwise; and (b) encouraging and assisting in promoting, advancing and publishing the works of British writers.

‘First Story’ is a business name of First Story Limited, a private company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, whose company number is 06487410 and registered office is First Story Ltd, Omnibus Centre
39-41 North Road, London, N7 9DP. First Story Limited is a registered UK charity, number 1122939.

Photos © Richard Budd