Seven Stories’ Chief Executive Mary Briggs has been rewarded for her contribution to children’s literature by being placed on the 2007 New Year’s honours list. Mary will receive an Order of the British Empire by Royal appointment later this year.
It was the vision of Mary Briggs and Elizabeth Hammill to establish a centre dedicated to the celebration of the books, manuscripts and artwork of British children’s authors and illustrators. Since opening in August 2005, Seven Stories has attracted more than 80,000 visitors from across the UK and beyond. Based in an imaginatively converted warehouse in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley Seven Stories has already won numerous awards for architecture and regeneration.
Mary Briggs Chief Executive says: "Opening the doors to Seven Stories and seeing the people pouring in was amazing. We lived with the idea for so long that to see it become a reality was fantastic. It has been interesting over the 18 months since opening to see how our ideas worked out in practice.
"It is a great honour for me to receive an OBE and came as a complete surprise. This is all down to Elizabeth’s brilliant idea and I don’t think either of us imagined we would come this far we only dreamed Seven Stories would be the success that it is."
Seven Stories is testimony to the fact that dreams can be achieved through voluntary activity and hard work. Eleven years ago a centre for children’s books was only a germ of an idea, and Mary and Elizabeth started the ball rolling by opening a joint bank account with just ten pounds each.
Tim Caulton, Chair of Trustees at Seven Stories says: "The Board are delighted that Mary’s achievements have been rewarded with an OBE, but Seven Stories has been a joint effort by Mary and Elizabeth from its original inception, and we truly hope that Elizabeth’s immense contribution will be similarly rewarded in due course."
American born Elizabeth Hammill, Collection Development Director adds: "Mary and I share a lifelong love of children’s books and a belief in their value in nourishing children’s intellectual, imaginative and creative growth. As an American making my career here in the education and book worlds, I was surprised at the British reluctance to blow their own trumpet and celebrate their achievements in this field.
"I am delighted for Mary to be honoured an OBE as it recognises all the hard work we put into Seven Stories."
The duo’s achievement has been highly regarded amongst peers in the children’s book world. It was recognised regionally in May 2006 when they were awarded Honorary Doctorates of Civil Law by Newcastle University for their outstanding achievement in establishing Seven Stories and their contribution to children’s literature.
Philip Pullman, "The project began with the realisation that priceless manuscripts and original artwork by some of the most important creators of British children’s literature were flooding out of the country and being bought by collectors and institutions all over the world. I am sure that I speak for many of my colleagues in the field of children’s books when I say that Seven Stories represents, for us, the assurance that our work is not going to disappear as soon as it goes out of print. If it were to disappear it would be a disaster; but no-one knew how important it was, or whether such a dream could be possible at all, until Mary Briggs and Elizabeth Hammill showed the way.
"As a trustee during the early stages of the project, it was my privilege to attend many meetings chaired by Mary Briggs, and to be inspired by her wise counsel and clear understanding of how to steer a fragile craft of vision through the rapids of difficulty and disappointment and not lose a single passenger on the way."