Birmingham Stories launched

Local role models launch new campaign to change young people’s lives.

On Friday 18th October local role models launched the new campaign Birmingham Stories – a campaign to raise literacy levels for young people and adults across the city over the next decade – in front of 200 school students at an event at the University of Birmingham School.

The event opened with a speech from Preet Gill, MP for Edgbaston, about the importance of literacy in everyone’s lives. The rest of the panel included Aston Villa footballer, Natalie Haigh, member of local singing sensation, Sons of Pitches, Joe Novelli, former Birmingham poet laureate and boxer, Matt Windle, and author and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Ruth Gilligan.

Each spoke to the pupils about their own lives and careers, and how stories, books and literacy have helped to get them where they are today. Matt Windle even performed a poem about his own life journey. Pupils then had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel, and the event ended with Natalie Haigh handing out free tickets to the Aston Villa v Sheffield United women’s game on Saturday 19th October.

Birmingham Stories will build a movement across the city to address its literacy challenges through activities in schools, communities and adult learning services to encourage reading for pleasure and inspire people through storytelling.

Activities already planned for the campaign include literacy training for teachers, a story writing competition, poets’ visits to schools, and bringing the Narrative 4 ‘story exchange’ model to Birmingham to help young people to understand themselves and one another better through the power of empathy.

The campaign will be informed by young people from local secondary schools, who will be invited to join an advisory panel to contribute their ideas and shape the campaign.

National Literacy Trust Chief Executive, Jonathan Douglas, said: “We are delighted to have launched our first university-led literacy campaign in partnership with the University of Birmingham. It is so exciting to be bringing young people together from across the city to shape our campaign, and share stories with one another through activities like the story exchange and our story writing competition.

“By working together with schools, local businesses, adult education services and young people, we have a real opportunity to spread a love of storytelling in the city, raise aspirations, and open the door to a world of work and higher education opportunities for everyone involved in the campaign.”

Birmingham Stories will build on the findings of University of Birmingham researchers, who will work closely with the National Literacy Trust to review and refine the place-based approach. It will enlist the unique resources of the University of Birmingham, from student volunteers and digital reading resources to widening access schemes, to boost the aspirations of people of the city.

University of Birmingham Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts and Law, Professor Andrzej Gasiorek, commented: “We are thrilled to be working with the National Literacy Trust to boost literacy levels in our city. The University of Birmingham was the UK’s first civic university, and by partnering with the country’s leading literacy charity, we can continue to develop our pioneering vision of higher education today.

“Research will be integral to our work together: our partnership will realise the benefits to Birmingham and beyond of the university’s world-leading research in literature, language, digital humanities, empathy and the power of storytelling. By combining the National Literacy Trust and UoB’s research expertise, we aim to generate new knowledge about literacy and create life-changing new opportunities for the people of our city.”

To find out more about the Birmingham Stories campaign, visit