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04 July 2012

Independent state run by children is launched

HAVE you ever wondered what would happen if children ran the country? Well, Hackney-based charity the Ministry of Stories teamed up with youngsters to set up their own state and find out.

Over the past year, around 200 young people, aged between eight and 13, have worked with the local community, the Ministry of Stories team, and best-selling author, Nick Hornby, to bring to life the Children’s Republic of Shoreditch.

The project, which aims to empower young people through free writing workshops and mentoring programmes, opened its headquarters in Hoxton Street – a building entirely conceived, designed and run by children – to the public on 3 July.

Lucy Macnab, co-founder of Ministry of Stories, said: “We wanted to see what it would really be like if children were in charge. It’s been a whole load of fun. I hope this feels like a place that’s been invented by children so visitors can experience how they think.”

Author and co-founder of Ministry of Stories, Nick Hornby, added: “These are all the children’s ideas, there is so much to recommend it.”

Visitors to the embassy are able to apply for citizenship, receive a passport after passing through strict immigration control, learn about the laws and customs of the state, experience a postal service in which letters can be delivered by helium balloon, request responses from the Children’s Advice Bureau and undertake secret missions designed by its spy network SANT (Secret Agents Never Tell.)

I arrive at the colourful HQ feeling a little nervous. Inside are 23 pupils from St Monica’s Catholic School, N1, whose hands I am now in – for they will decide whether or not I would make a worthy citizen of their carefully planned state-within-a-state.

On entering the building I am read out the manifesto: ‘We believe in fairness, trust, love, education, saving money, clouds, no more violence and no more bullying.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Next, I pass through border control. Luckily, the scanner doesn’t flash red, so I am able to proceed to the passport service without a hitch. The young man in charge of immigration, Mudiaga, 10, is incredibly polite and stamps my new Children’s Republic of Shoreditch passport with a grin. US border control: please take note.

I then stop for a quick chat with the team at the Children’s Advice Bureau. Bede, 10, says: “I’ve made new friends – it was fun. I think the thinking pot was difficult because we needed to think of something imaginative that children would enjoy.”

Anthony, 10, adds: “I loved this because you get to do things that grown-ups can do – like design things. It shows there’s nothing in the world that kids can’t do.”

After filling in the census – with questions which range from ‘can you do star jumps?’ to ‘why do we need education?’ – I move on to the postal service, where I read a letter which says: ‘Dear Mum, thank you for all you’ve done.’ I love this place.

For more info, visit: www.childrensrepublicofshoreditch.org; or pop into the republic's HQ at: 156 Hoxton Street, N1 6SH.

Author Nick Hornby and youngsters wave their independent state passports

Author Nick Hornby and youngsters wave their independent state passports

Author Nick Hornby and youngsters wave their independent state passports Author Nick Hornby helped launched the state-within-a-state Pupils act out the meaning of love, one of the principles on the Manifesto Youngsters take a break from running their independent state

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