A while back (well, just over two years ago actually) we posted about the brilliant 826 programme - a series of after-school writing centres set up in the USA by the author Dave Eggers, each of them fronted by fantastical retail spaces, including the original Pirate Supply Store in San Francisco.
While we were out in New York last week, we popped along to the local branch, 826 NYC. The centre is fronted by the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., a shop that stocks everything the modern day super-hero could need, from capes to tins of anti-matter, from secret-identity kits to vacuum suction cups.
There's a capery, where you can try on your cape; and when you make a purchase, you must recite aloud the Vow of Heroism:
"I [your full name], also known as [your superhero name], promise always to use my superpowers for good. I promise that I will use the items I've purchased here today safely and in the name of justice. I promise to remain ever vigilant, ever true."
One of the shelving units doubles as a secret door, which opens up to reveal the writing centre, a brilliantly friendly space that feels more like a cafe than a classroom, where kids can come along to work with professional writers, either on school projects, or on 826 projects - creating their own 'zine, or putting together a literary mash-up. Check out Alistair's Flickr set for more photos.
At the time of our original post, we asked if anyone in London was thinking of setting up something similar. A few people got in touch, and things bubbled along in a gentle kind of way for quite a while.
Recently though, thanks largely to the efforts of Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne, things have started heating up, and a London version of 826 looks like becoming a real possibility, with some initial funding secured from the Arts Council. Lucy and Ben are working with a team of associates to put together the pilot version, and We Made This is helping out.
You can find out more at Lucy and Ben's blog, Word in Progress. If you'd like to get involved, or can think of anyone who would, drop Lucy a line (especially if you know how to get hold of some retail space...)