Seven Stories Business Challenge


Seven Stories is looking for a digital solution that will enable it to adapt its exhibitions to the digital environment, increasing revenue and the number of visits despite social distancing restrictions.

This opportunity is part of the North East Social Tech Fund. The budget for the solution is £10,000 and the deadline for submissions is 29 January 2021. Apply via:

You can read the brief below or download it via PDF.

Charity background

Name of Charity:

Seven Stories

Registered Charity Number:


Charity Background:

Seven Stories works hard to preserve the heritage of the written word and illustrations for current and future generations. The museum holds a unique and ever-growing national archive of modern and contemporary children’s literature, including original artwork and manuscripts of great importance to the history of children’s books in Britain.

The Seven Stories visitor centre in Newcastle showcases these extraordinary collections through a vibrant programme of exhibitions, events, creative activities, performances, and storytelling. Seven Stories is the leading producer of family friendly children’s literature exhibitions, and tours to museums & galleries nationwide. Its exhibition programme has been enjoyed by over 1M visitors within Seven Stories premises alone, and 2.25M visitors nationally, since 2005.

Seven Stories has a strong track record in work that contributes directly to cultural opportunity in the North East. Its work builds bridges between communities and generations, encouraging a lifetime’s enjoyment of books. Seven Stories’ creative learning outreach in schools and communities, involving 25k+ people pa., supports literacy and wellbeing outcomes.


Summary of the Challenge

Seven Stories is looking for digital solutions to help it generate income and attract new and repeat invitations in a COVID world.  The solutions should re-imagine the delivery of Seven Stories’ hands-on exhibition experiences post COVID, whilst retaining the magic and interactivity for which the museum is known.

Seven Stories is open to solutions that utilise its unique collection in ways that could:

• adapt the way Seven Stories presents its physical exhibitions through digital interactives. Participation within the space will be COVID-secure, but most importantly stimulate an intuitive exploration of our physical collection that inspires enchantment and wonder.
• create alternative and immersive digital story worlds inspired by Seven Stories’ unique collection of artwork from leading children’s illustrators, including for example Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
• move exhibitions online to create innovative experiences that bring their collection to life for their core audiences of children and families – keeping them engaged without being hands-on

This need has risen over the past few months as restrictions on activity following Covid-19 prevents Seven Stories from affording families the same opportunities to physically interact, explore and play in its museum building.

Pre-COVID, Seven Stories relied predominantly on low-tech and hands-on solutions.  Post Covid there are substantial restrictions on the design of tactile and interactive family friendly exhibitions with significant modifications necessary. By working with tech partners, Seven Stories aims to develop new and sustainable digital creative experiences that enable families to interact and play within the world of children’s books.

Another key tenet of the exhibition programme is the engagement of young audiences in shaping exhibition content and expressing their views.


Things to Consider

Solutions must provide access to and improve visibility of Seven Stories’ unique collection of original artwork, manuscripts and other material by leading British authors and illustrators for children.

The development partner needs to understand Seven Stories’ audiences (in particular under 5 years) and must engage with the specific challenges of working with and for young children and families. Solutions need to robust and intuitive.

For any technical solutions, Seven Stories requires the development partner to work creatively with the physical infrastructure of its building. Work designed for exhibitions at Seven Stories may also travel to other venues as part of its national touring exhibition programme; in this case the solution would need to be capable of being moved and re-installed.

Solutions must require minimal ongoing maintenance, as Seven Stories has very limited technical support on site.

It’s critical that whoever Seven Stories works with spends time understanding the most suitable spaces for exhibitions that will support the right technical solution. Seven Stories has two gallery spaces where environmental conditions are controlled, light being the most relevant for this project. The galleries have an average ceiling height of 2 metres along with various fixtures and fittings, like air conditioning units for example, that must be accommodated. The galleries have a universal track lighting system that can be utilised for lighting effects and also as a power source. This digital solution does not, however, have to be contained solely in a gallery setting. The visitor centre also includes a bookshop, café, attic and ‘bookden’ area.

Seven Stories will be responsible for supplying digitised content from its Collection, which may include images of sketches and preparatory artwork as well as final illustrations.

Seven Stories would prefer the experience to be based around a single title or theme but ideally the tech solution would be adaptable for use with other titles in future.

Examples of suitable titles from their artwork collection are as follows:
Tim and Charlotte (1951)/Tim in Danger (1953) by Edward Ardizzone
Rosie’s Walk (1968) by Pat Hutchins
The Tiger Who Came to Tea (1968) by Judith Kerr
Mog the Forgetful Cat (1970) by Judith Kerr
Dr Xargle’s Book of Earthlets (1988) by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Seven Stories will be responsible for securing permissions to use images from its Collection to create the work. This will involve liaison with rights holders and publishers so it will be important to identify suitable content at an early stage to allow sufficient time for this.

Previous Digital Projects:
Seven Stories has housed a small number of successful digital installations in the past and it has made a number of its exhibitions available as online digital resources.

Most digital installations have centred around projection in the galleries. In its Puffin Books exhibition, Seven Stories projected tiny Borrower characters to peer out from behind framed artwork and jump from one frame to another. In other exhibitions it animated original artwork and projected the artwork ‘appearing’ across the gallery wall, featuring animated characters to move within a digital image. Seven Stories often utilises motion sensors to activate sound in a space.

These previous digital items were popular but also limited in terms of how much visitors could actually interact with them.  Also, the low gallery ceilings and Seven Stories’ lack of know-how around creating different lighting effects have meant that the spaces concerned have never been fully transformed by the projections.

Mostly recently, Seven Stories has installed a digital interactive ‘machine’ that appears to listen and then repeat words that the visitors say. The museum has also created a projection of a basic cityscape that visitors can move through using a joystick.

It is the interaction between the visitor and the digital installation that excites Seven Stories and we would like future items to allow for maximum visitor agency and responsiveness.


Impact of Solving the Challenge

There would be both organisational and social impact when solving this challenge.

It will help futureproof Seven Stories’ exhibition programme, enabling it to re-connect with existing audiences and to reach new audiences, while supporting income generation. Seven Stories has an extensive exhibition touring programme that has been disrupted by Covid-19, with attendant loss of income, so it will need to re-start or develop alternate income streams.

This proposal has potential to significantly develop Seven Stories digital capabilities, advancing both digital skills and infrastructure. Seven Stories’ workforce brings knowledge and passion to encouraging childhood exploration and curiosity and has extensive experience of co-curating exhibitions with children and young people. This project will marry this existing specialist expertise with that of the digital producers that Seven Stories work with to support development of curatorial, technical and interpretive skills. In the longer term it will help build organisational capacity for digital experimentation.

Wider social impact:
The work will widen access the Seven Stories Collection, developing imaginative new ways to engage its core audiences (children, young people & families) with original illustrations and archives from Seven Stories’ unique collection, firing imagination and creativity. It has potential to reach a wider number and more diverse range of children and families.

Seven Stories’ exhibitions support reading for pleasure and learning objectives with school and family audiences and empowers children and young people to better understand themselves and the world around them. Post Covid-19, Seven Stories was focusing on concepts that support wellbeing, and resilience; social justice and diversity. Prior to the pandemic, its extensive education programme engaged over 35,000 school pupils pa., including 6,000 pupils visiting Seven Stories taking part facilitated workshops as part of our exhibition programme.


Project Roles 

Sarah Lawrance, Seven Stories Collection & Exhibition Director will lead the project.

Seven Stories will be able to draw on the experience of other key staff including:
Gillian Rennie, Seven Stories’ Senior Creator.

Matthew Stanbury, Visitor Services Coordinator

Victoria Sanderson, Seven Stories’ Marketing & Communications Manager (in the event of a website based solution)

The Budget

This charity was awarded £10,000 (including VAT) from the fund to be allocated to development of a prototype solution. All funds are classed as restricted and therefore 100% will be paid to the supplier upon completion of pre agreed milestones.



Open Call Deadline29/01/2021
Companies Shortlisted 05/02/2021
Pitch Day09/02/2021
Company Selected 12/02/2021
Solution Complete04/06/2021
Evaluation Report30/06/2021


Evaluation Criteria

InnovationLikelihood of solving the challenge and the opportunity for the charity to receive scaleup funds to develop the prototype into a complete solution25%
TeamExperience of the solution & the sector 25%
TimescalesAbility to meet timescales25%
ScopeHow much of the brief will be met in the budget 25%



To apply, please complete the form on Airtable by 29 January 2021.

For more information, contact Anna Malley, Project Manager at Digital Catapult NETV, at or by calling 07850327911.



Intellectual Property

All Intellectual Property will reside with the charitable organisation unless otherwise agreed in writing between the charity and the supplier. Therefore we would advise if you wish to pitch a solution that is based on your current infrastructure and therefore your existing Intellectual Property please state this clearly in your application form so that your IP can be protected and the charity is aware.

Pilot Fund Background Info

The purpose of the North East Social Tech Pilot Fund is to help charities and social enterprises in the North East and Tees Valley explore how challenges within their organisations can be addressed through digital technology and ‘open innovation’. The pilot programme has provided Innovation Grants of up to £10,000 to each successful VCSE which will be used to commission a solution and digital prototype. In addition, all VCSEs receive dedicated hands-on support from the Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley’s expert Innovation Teams.

At the current stage, all VCSEs have identified and explored key challenges within their organisations which they wish to address through technology. These challenges have been outlined within the innovation calls. It is up to you; the creative, digital and tech SMEs, to come up with creative solutions to these problems and, if successful, develop a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP).


Programme funders

The North East Social Tech Fund is supported by Comic Relief, County Durham Community Foundation, Newcastle Building Society and Northstar Foundation.