There’s no question that COVID has taken its toll on children’s mental health all over the world. One joint mall initiative, however, gave youngsters in Stockton-on-Tees, UK, a creative outlet to express what life during the pandemic had been like for them. Castlegate and Wellington Square asked local children to share their experiences in writing and note what they’d like other youths of the future to know about that period. From more than 600 stories, poems, and pictures submitted, the mall teams selected their favorite ones to include in Stockton Stories, a book whose sales proceeds would benefit the volunteer-led Bookmark literacy charity.

“We were overwhelmed not only by the number of entries we received for the competition but [also] by the high standard of the entries. It made it very difficult to choose just 50 stories to include in the book,” said Castlegar and Wellington Square’s marketing manager, Chantal Taylor.

The properties officially launched the book this past June 4 & 5 at a special event that all featured writers were invited to attend to highlight their contribution and give them a chance to read their stories out loud in the Story Book Corner, as did a few characters from the book who came to life. The contributors also received a prize and a certificate, while attending children got a free craft bag with everything they needed to make their own bookmarks.

According to the malls, more than 100 copies of Stockton Stories were sold at that launch event and further copies found their takers in the weeks that followed, generating much-needed funds for Bookmark—shoppers can visit the malls’ websites to find out more about the title and where to grab copies. The book also earned Taylor a few accolades, including an Unsung Heroes nod at the Knight Frank Promise Awards, and both properties earned Customer Experience and Employee Excellence awards that same evening. 

“The Teeside community is so important to us and is at the heart of all the campaigns we run at Castlegate and Wellington Square,” Taylor said. 

“We are all very excited for more community initiatives in 2022.”

(Photo credit: Dave Charnley Photography.)