Celebrate World Book Day 2017

TOAST meets expert storytellers Notorious Kids

As the 20th anniversary of World Book Day approaches, TOAST meets Notorious Kids – the company putting storytelling at the heart of children’s entertaining

Hurrah! World Book Day (WBD), is back and this year, it’s extra special – the annual global recognition of the awesomeness that’s reading, authors and illustrators is marking its 20th year. On Thursday 2nd March, (or the 23rd April in other countries – the Bard’s birthday) children across the UK and Ireland will head to school dressed as their favourite literary character. More importantly, they’ll be given a £1 token that can be exchanged at their local bookshop for one of ten exclusive new titles. The aim, says WBD director Kirsten Grant, is to “create readers of the future by igniting a love of books in young people. We want to empower them to make their own choices about the kinds of things they want to read.”

It’s an ethos Victoria Pearce has long been on board with. The founder of London-based children’s events company Notorious Kids is also feeling celebratory – this is her tenth year in business. “Children are intelligent. They need a space where they can learn and grow and express themselves,” she says. “We always ask them, ‘What do you think? It’s about letting them have their own ideas.”

A love of storytelling encouraged the trained actress to pursue a career in children’s entertaining. “I came out of drama school and did various jobs as a dancer, singer and actress. In between, I worked with kids, teaching them dance and drama, and also helping out at parties. I was surprised by the lack creativity I was seeing. Children’s entertainment at the time was very patronising and there was a lot of screaming and shouting to try to engage them.”

Pearce came up with a plan – she would set up her own events company for little people, putting narrative at its core. “Everything is interactive. We write the script in-house (either an original piece or an adaptation of a book) and use actors, dancers and singers to bring it to life. We offer an immersive adventure through forests and treasure hunts, etc. It’s not a static performance  – the kids are very much involved in the action.” It’s proved a winning formula. Pearce now heads up a full-time team of three, with a pool hundreds of entertainers on standby. 

A Notorious Kids production is entirely bespoke – everything from decorations to the cake and party bags can be arranged to brief, but the events Pearce enjoys most are “the ones where clients let us go a little crazy”.

Notorious Kids Party

Fifi Notorious Kids

Notorious Kids Lego Party Styling

Notorious Kids Parties Lego

Her favourite gig was an Octonauts bash (for the reader not responsible for tiny human life, the Octonauts is a popular CBeebies animation featuring animal sea rescuers). The team conjured up an underwater space in a photographic studio using projections that mimicked the effect of ripples of water. Costumes were made for all the guests, who received Octonaut training before setting off on a deep sea mission to rescue a seahorse. “Every single element was created especially for the client. The birthday boy adored it.”

The storybook parties are particularly in demand – Notorious Kids has been specialising in adapting beloved childhood tales, ever since a client approached Pearce to put together a party based on her child’s favourite book, the Princess and the Wizard. The company recently teamed up with the Bright Group, an illustration agency for children’s publishing, and is set to launch further storybook themes in its south London gallery space over the coming months. It’s a busy time. After our chat, Pearce is off to look at a bigger office space – “we’re bursting out of this one”. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Storytelling and drama and creativity are fundamental to children’s development. We’re about engaging every single child and ultimately, making sure they have a really lovely experience.”

Notorious Kids Capture

Notorious Kids Entertainment

Planning a World Book Day party? Victoria Pearce shares her top tips…

  • Choose a story that’s familiar to most children, so they can dress up as characters. 
  • Put a twist on traditional games – tweak them to the story’s characters. 
  • Get physical with the narrative – if you’re reading the Gruffalo, for example, set the children off an adventure through a deep, dark wood.
  • A crafts table with DIY masks or a storybook colouring in page will keep kids occupied until everyone has arrived.
  • Tie the food in with the theme – cutting out sandwiches in fun shapes always goes down well.

And don't forget the fancy dress, to get you children fully immersed in creative play. 

Notorious Kids Unicorns

Notorious Kids Christmas

Notorious Kids Lego Setting

For more information on World Book Day head over the the official website, or for more storybook party ideas take a look at the experts Notorious Kids in our Little Black Book.