By Katy Cowan

Over the last 16 months Sheffield-based studio Side by Side has been generously donating its time to work with Grimm & Co, a young person’s literacy charity and magical apothecary in Rotherham, crafting its new and magical brand identity.

The writing and mentoring space aims to help young people to acquire skills, unlock potential and develop imaginations. The new charity is part of the Ministry of Stories family and has used the same concept of a workshop and mentoring centre fronted by a magical – but real – shop. Grimm & Co is an ‘Apothecary to the Magical’, selling wild schemes, evil plots and kitchenware.

With over £100,000 worth of time donated, one-half of Side by Side Oliver Booth said the decision to get involved wasn’t easy, but one they could not turn down: “We were recommended by Alistair Hall, the designer behind our London counterpart, Hoxton Monster Supplies. With the guarantee of a blank canvas, free reign and a really worthwhile charity, it was too exciting to say no to. What started out as potential for a great portfolio piece soon became an addictive project, which allowed our studio to develop a lot of skills. As a small studio, time management was crucial. However, we stopped tracking time after a thousand hours, we found it better to not know!”

Side by Side said the core strategy behind the project was authenticity. They started by working with League of Gentlemen writer Jeremy Dyson, to develop the character of ‘Graham Grimm’, the imaginary founder. Co-founder Dave Greasley said: “The backstory we created included lines like ‘Sandpaper, Spit & Sausages for Tea’, which we thought gave a great insight to how Grimm would have ran his business. We constantly had to ask ourselves ‘Would Graham have done it like that?’ We’d portrayed him as an ill-tempered, hard-grafting, thrifty chap, so those traits had to flow through everything, from the hand-torn packaging, to the up-cycled interior.

“To ensure a totally immersive experience we pushed ourselves to become sign-writers, sound-scapers and prop-makers, to accompany our day-to-day skills. Being creative has afforded us a career, so it seemed only fair to give back to a charity that actively stimulates creativity in the next generation.”

Side by Side brought in local makers and artists to create unique items to sell in the shop, from hand-whittled wands to blocks of ‘Human Phlegm’.

Booth added: “To follow on from the overarching story we created, the products celebrate imperfection. Some are misaligned and the ‘Extract of Genius’ is spelt wrong on a few labels. It was surprisingly hard to design things incorrectly!”

It’s expected that over 1,300 young people will be able to take part in writing classes in the first year of Grimm & Co through story-making workshops, school writing programmes, after school clubs and holiday camps for 7-18 year olds. For more information, visit www.grimmandco.co.uk.

All photography by Helena Fletcher

Read more here:: Sheffield's Side by Side craft potent brand identity for an Apothecary for Magical Beings