The StoryParks project is less than a month from launch. July and August will see a five-week interactive outdoor pop-up reading and numeracy camp of stories, activities and games take place in five of Nottingham city’s Green Flag parks.

Image from the Samuel Fox themed story created

The city council is partnering with Nottingham Building Society – known as The Nottingham – for this innovative new project aimed to get more young families developing their reading and mathematical skills in the beautiful settings of the city’s parks. The Nottingham is supporting StoryParks with a donation of £17,500 and some of its team will be volunteering during the course of the project, too.

StoryParks carries the slogan ‘A summer of imagination’, and as well as reading activities people will have the chance to take part in arts and crafts, music, park ranger sessions, nature trails and more.

Part of the inspiration for the project is the story of the building society’s founder, Samuel Fox. Born in the city in the 1700s, Fox was an abolition Quaker, keen philanthropist and supporter of education for all. He started the first Adult Schoolin 1798 to enable factory girls to practice reading and writing. Professional storyteller Nicky Rafferty, who hails from Nottingham, visited The Nottingham’s head office recently to engage the team in the art of storytelling with a series of workshops. Rafferty is also passionate about the legacy of Samuel Fox.

His story has been developed by the project into a story for children – The Tales of Sammy Fox. It is one of the major inspirations for StoryParks, an idea which originally came from Nottingham City Council’s Libraries Service.

The story will form part of the education programme associated with StoryParks, running for two weeks before the project opens to the public. In the tale, Sammy the grocer stands for fairness and equal rights for all. He is keen to solve problems in the community and offered support wherever possible – just like Samuel Fox did years ago. Characters and items from this and other stories will be the inspirations for large wooden sculptures which will be installed at each of the sites.

Work has begun on transforming each venue, with interesting sculptures in place in each park that are well worth seeing and taking a selfie next to when StoryParks gets underway for all on 29 July.

Forest Recreation Ground will have a hedgehog, there will be an owl at Wollaton Park, Highfields Park will house a boat, a chair will be placed at Vernon and a stack of books will be installed at Woodthorpe. They will serve as aides in sessions themed around nature and the environment and people will have the option to drop in and use the project resources, but also to get involved with programmed activities including storytelling, park ranger sessions and much more.

Support of £20,000 has also come from the Nottingham City Council’s Nottingham Together project which supports activities specially designed to connect communities, bring people together and make the city a great place for everyone to live.

The Nottingham’s Chief Executive David Marlow said: “We are thrilled to be supporting Nottingham City Council to help the StoryParks project come to life.

“Sharing the story of our founder, Samuel Fox, and the positive impact he had on the lives of people in Nottingham, by encouraging reading and literacy seems a very fitting tribute in our 170th year.  Our contribution is a demonstration that, 170 years on, we remain committed to supporting the communities we operate in.

“Our Society was built on positive social purpose and today we provide products and services built on advice to help our members strive for a better financial future, which numeracy and literacy skills are integral to. We hope the residents of Nottingham and beyond enjoy StoryParks this summer.”

Storyteller Nicky Rafferty explained: “When Samuel Fox died in 1868, he was described as the most respected and well known man in the city, yet today little is known of his character and legacy.

“What he did was truly inspirational, in terms of his desire to improve adult literacy levels and in turn give Nottingham people much better life prospects, as well as helping them to own their own homes and so much more besides.

“The city – all of us – should feel very proud of Samuel Fox and The Nottingham should feel especially proud because they still operate according to the ethos and values of their founder.”

Cllr Dave Trimble, portfolio holder for leisure and localities added: “It is fitting that this project takes place in our city as Nottingham is also one of four UNESCO Cities of Literature in the UK. We’re very excited about this really different approach to learning and very grateful to The Nottingham for assisting us in making this happen.

“We know that reading more will expose a person to more words. This contributes to better everyday vocabulary and long term employability. Learning as a family also really improves results. Numeracy is important too, for developing logical thinking and reasoning strategies in everyday activities. Learning like this – through fun and play – is ideal, and what better setting than in our beautiful parks.”


To get everyone in the mood for StoryParks, The Nottingham is keen to find out which books the public most enjoys. David Marlow’s number one choice is Made in America, the autobiography of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. His favourite book as a child was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Find The Nottingham on Facebook or Twitter to say which book you most like reading and why.