A never-ending story at Grimm & Co

Mortals and magical beings assemble! Grimm & Co’s bamboozling new Emporium of Stories is open at long last to let the wild rumpus start.

It’s not in a kingdom far, far away or some far flung corner of an undiscovered galaxy. You won’t need a pumpkin coach, flying carpet, portkey, or ruby slippers to get there.

A little magic takes you a long way.

Head on up to the hill named after a ship in Rotherham town centre and look for the bewitching gothic building with its imposing spire.

Once upon a time, it was a peaceful place of worship. But following a gigantic renovation project that’s taken thousands of days of sorcery to complete, it’s been transformed into a new gateway to the magical realm.

Oh, the places you’ll go once you step through those shiny red doors.

The old church has become an immersive, multi-sensory bolthole where children and young people can leave the human world behind and escape into the pages of a real-life adventure.

Dating back to 1148, the brainchild of pharmacist Graham Grimm and his sister Grizelda, Grimm & Co became visible to humans in 2016. Grimm’s apothecary to the magical was originally on Doncaster Gate.

In 2020, thanks to a substantial grant from the legends at Arts Council England, they rescued the old Talbot Lane Church, that had closed due to a shrinking congregation, from being turned into a club for knights or non-flying carpet warehouse. They have since expanded their spellbinding offer to make use of the ginormous space.

It’s a wonderous jaunt where legends are retold and ludicrous new stories evolve. The interior concept has been created by the award-winning Lumsden Design, the same design wizards involved in creating the Warner Bros’ Harry Potter Studio Tour and the family kitchen and shop at Kew Gardens.

Like all good stories, the renovation adventure has not been without its obstacles. The whole roof needed repairing and the elves had to deal with a bad case of damp that wouldn’t go away with just the wave of a wand. Accessibility issues have also been addressed, with a lift and changing places toilet installed.

But what has been created is a magical space that will now be used to entice minds young and old with the power of words and imagination.

Whether you’re a witch or a twit, a boggart or borrower, a muggle or a hobbit, visit the Apothecary to stock up on all your potions and magical tools needed for making marvellous medicines.

Play shop detective to find the most disgusting ingredient like goblin mucus, trapped wind, and condensed enthusiasm. Do you need a new giant belly button cleaner or a magical compass ring? And don’t forget to replenish your supply of roasted magic beans, spare dragon teeth, and pearls of wisdom.

Grab a pew in the Book Nook and get lost in the tales of patchwork elephants, lightning thieves, caterpillars with hollow legs, and Peruvian bears with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches.

Plan your next adventure across the Treasures of Rotherham or swap your old books for a free new one at the Forgotten Library.

One of the most exciting new developments is the Feastery, a café area where you could believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The Grimm & Co team have worked with award-winning West Yorkshire coffee roasters, Darkwoods with full barista training. They have also developed a story-inspired menu with lots of yummy cakes and snacks – but don’t eat the gingerbread man!

In the pipeline is an alcoholic license so they can serve ancient beings with frobscottle that makes you whizzpop at small gatherings and spoken word or music performances.

To comply with conservation rules set by the mortal powers that be, many of the church’s original features have been retained. The stained-glass windows, the pulpit, and the grade I listed Harrison and Harrison organ have been incorporated into the new Cliffhanger Castle area.

Think Hogwarts’ Great Hall with house banners. This new function space can be hired out for sproglet parties, mysterious busy-ness meetings, and even intimate weddings for scrollmates.

Those with a golden ticket will have special access through to Graham’s office for a chance to unleash the writer within them. The story stairs lead to Grizelda’s imaginarium, a new mezzanine floor that has been added to the building. A beautifully thought-out space filled with inanimate objects set to inspire.

Here there are three secret writing pads hidden behind the fireplace, bookshelf and wardrobe where children and young people can take part in writing workshops and sensory classes to exercise their imagination and writing skills.

School children can create their own characters and manuscript in story making sessions, design new products that they’d sell in the Apothecary, or try their hand at comedy writing in workshops created by Jeremy Dyson from the League of Gentlemen.

Then it’s back down Jack’s beanstalk slide that’s been replanted in its new home.

There are also after-school clubs and the weekly Curious and Curiouser family sessions for children under six.

From Monday 20th May, Graham and Grizelda are hosting the Rotherham Festival of Stories, a fortnight of workshops, family activities and visits from authors like Michael Rosen.

Behind the mystical façade of Grimm & Co is a literacy charity that has spent the last eight years changing lives one story at a time. An idea conjured up by former educator Deborah Bullivant, its mission is to build confidence, self-esteem, aspirations, skills and resilience in children and young people.

And it’s had us under its spell ever since.

The charity has grown like Jack’s beanstalk over the years to become Yorkshire’s unique writing destination. They work with thousands of children and young people each year from Yorkshire, Humberside and beyond.

There is now a strong team of employees in learning, catering, people and retail positions. They’re also supported by volunteers and artists, from story mentors and illustrators to shop elves and prop makers.

This exciting new chapter has been made possible thanks to generous contributions from organisations like Arts Council England, Rotherham Council, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, BBC Children in Need, the National Lottery Community Fund, as well as a stupendous anonymous donation from a local entrepreneur.

All monies raised through the shop and café are invested back into the charity so they can continue to engage with the community through writing workshops. So, magic beans are unfortunately not an accepted currency!

Grimm & Co’s Emporium of Stories is open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am-4.30pm with late night opening on Thursdays until 6pm

Find out more on their website or follow them on social media for events and updates.