Ship ahoy! Hackney Pirates drops anchor at new Kingsland Road home

Hackney Pirates

Young Pirates celebrate the opening of their Ship of Adventures with ‘George the Poet’ and the charity’s founder Catriona Maclay. Photograph: George Gottlieb

Swashbuckling literacy charity Hackney Pirates has ‘commandeered’ a four-storey building on Kingsland Road where it hopes to motivate a creative crew of school children aged nine-12 to improve their literacy skills by publishing and selling their work.

The Ship of Adventures is the first permanent headquarters for the Hackney Pirates and encompasses a book and gift shop that sells the children’s work as well as a café.

The building has been decked out with all manner of creative design features: a boat hangs from the ceiling, a telephone delivers messages from the ‘Young Pirates’, and there is even an ‘underground cave’.

Founder of the charity Catriona Maclay said: “We believe in doing things in a space which is exciting and which inspires the idea that learning is a grand adventure, where discovery and wonder are an essential part of learning.

“The Young Pirates are reminded of the potential they have every time they come here after school and see their work celebrated on our shelves.”

Hackney Pirates works with children on a one-to-one basis and this new enterprise will provide each one with personalised attention and the chance to work on real-world publishing projects including books, CDs and websites.

Adventures in learning are the lessons of the day in this buccaneering after-school club where the volunteers help youngsters with reading, homework and developing real-life skills.

Ms Maclay, a former Teach First teacher, founded the charity in the summer of 2010, and with the help of 250 community volunteers the organisation has delivered over 12,000 hours of time to 150 young people.

At a gala event to launch the Ship of Adventures last month award-winning wordsmith and Hackney Pirates patron George Mpanga, better known as George the Poet, came aboard to listen to the children perform their own work. He then joined them on stage to perform live readings of his own poetry.

He tweeted after the launch: “I’m so proud of my Hackney Pirates, I met them (two years ago) and now they’ve built their ship.”