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Science and Story: creative engagement at the Francis Crick Institute

by Guest Author on 22 Aug 2013

A snapshot from one of the books

A snapshot from one of the books (Image copyright: The Crick Institute)

Building work on the Francis Crick Institute in central London is continuing apace, but how much do local residents know about the institute and the huge building which will be their new neighbour? Here Lex Mannion, the Crick Institute’s Public Engagement Manager, explains a recent project getting families involved in telling the story of the institute.

We recently celebrated the success of our most recent community outreach project, Science and Story. Between March and June this year, we worked with more than 60 children and their families from Somers Town in Camden, alongside a children’s writer and three illustrators, to create a series of comic books to tell stories about the new institute.

With the construction of the Crick having progressed so much recently, we wanted to ensure that local children fully understood what this big new building in their neighbourhood is actually going to do. We realised that all of our publications were aimed at an adult audience, and that we had no literature or information for younger people. That’s when we came up with the idea of creating comic books for local children and their families (and we’ve since found that they have a much wider appeal!).

In early 2013, we teamed up with Pop Up Projects CIC (a social enterprise which aims to engage communities through books and stories), to recruit three local community groups onto the project.

(Image copyright: The Crick Institute)

Groups from the Working Men’s College, local youth arts centre One KX, and Somers Town Community Centre all started work on their unique books in March. The participants were made up of children and their families who lived locally to the site, and they attended workshops with artists to learn about illustration, sculpture and screen printing techniques. We held further sessions for the participants where the groups found out more about the institute from an award-winning children’s writer and scientists (including Dr. Robert Moon from the MRC National Institute of Medical Research

Once the workshops were complete, and we had illustrations for all of the books, we worked with a local publisher to collate the groups’ illustrations and the writer’s stories.

The three books are based loosely around the themes of past, present and future, and are now being distributed to local schools, libraries and community groups.

How Crick Cracked the Code looks at the life of Francis Crick, his role in the discovery of DNA, who he worked with along the way, and the modern day applications of his research.

A New Neighbour explores the institute in more detail; its architecture, construction, sustainability, and how it has been designed to help scientists work together to find cures for some of the world’s most common diseases.

(Image copyright: The Crick Institute)

Finally, A Crick Encounter delves into the research of our two founding institutes — the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research and Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute — and looks closely at both malaria and cancer. Focusing on the science, this book examines the work that will take place in the Crick once it opens in 2015.

The illustrators and children’s writer were fantastic to work with — the children and their parents really enjoyed the workshop sessions, and everyone is thrilled with how the books have turned out. We hope they’ll be used in schools, libraries, and community centres both now and for many months and years to come.

Lex Mannion

If you would like to request a copy of the books, please email education@crick.ac.uk.

The MRC is a major funder of the Francis Crick Institute, along with Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King’s College London. It is due to open in 2015.


Congratulations for this excellent project. I’m a researcher doing some work about storytelling through videos about science R&D and I would like to receive from you, if possible a copy of these books.

Thanking you in advance. Kind regards, M. Alexandra Abreu F. Lima, Ph.D.

author avatar by Alexandra Abreu on 22-Apr-2014 11:10

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