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Meet the authors teaching children about the everyday magic and diversity of London

As part of our Meet the Maker series, we meet authors Sef Townsend and Anne Johnson, the minds behind London Folk Tales for Children

As part of our Meet the Maker series, we speak to the people behind the creations in the Big Issue Shop – a platform for buying ethical products which put people and the planet first. This time, authors Sef Townsend and Anne Johnson, the minds behind London Folk Tales for Children, a collection of stories about the every day magic of London.

How do your products make a positive difference in the world?

Sef: “With our storytelling in London, and our books for children about London, we help to stimulate children’s imagination in thinking about all the other children that have lived and continue to live in this great city.

“The stories are full of adventure and history. Our work aims to make children feel that they are part of a city which always has been, and which continues to be, a place of welcome to all the people who have come here from every place you can think of, from the earliest time of the Romans to the present day.”

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Anne: “Our collections of tales for children – we have two, London’s Folk Tales for Children and London’s River Tales for Children – stress that it is ‘people who came from elsewhere’ who made London what it is and whatever our roots, we are all Londoners.

“There are 300 languages spoken every day in the homes of Londoners. This is something to celebrate and we want the children who read our stories to feel proud of their roots and proud to be Londoners.”

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Anne and Sef with their book. Image: Supplied

What inspired you to start your company and how did it start?

Anne: “Our books are published by The History Press but the inspiration to write them comes from the work that Sef and I do in London’s state primary schools, sponsored by Everyday Magic – a London based charity that I started twenty years ago. “

“I believe that children need stories, songs, poetry, drama, and play like plants need sun and rain. Our partner schools agree and we have established some long lasting connections with our London schools.”

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What is the biggest issue everyone should know about at the moment?

Sef: “That despite apparent differences, were are actually all the same. We are all human. We all experience individual achievement pain, sadness and joy.

“By working together and sharing the resources and the responsibilities of our common planet we all benefit much more than if we only think narrowly about ourselves and what we think of as just our part of the planet.”

Anne: “The biggest issue everyone should know about at the moment is that many Londoners, many London children, are facing hardship and poverty not dissimilar to what some of the characters in our stories faced in Victorian times – the boy chimney sweep, the little girl selling watercress.”

London Folk Tales for Children
The book features illustrations from Belinda Evans. Image: Belinda Evans

What is one thing anyone can do to make a positive difference?

Sef: “Continue telling the stories of all those who have worked, in whatever way, to make our city and our world the wonderful diverse, multi cultural, multi-faith and multi-ability place of welcome and opportunity that it can be.

“It takes people to change the world, but if those people believe that we all have a place here, then everyone will be the better because of it.”

Anne: “What we can all do to make a difference is to be aware of the poverty around us, and join any struggle that will share the wealth of our great city among the many, not the few.”

To find London Folk Tales for Children on the Big Issue Shop, click here.

And to find more ethical products on the Big Issue shop, click here.

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