South Shields pub boss restarts online storytelling channel to help parents during Lockdown 3

A borough pub boss has restarted a home-recorded reading and storytelling broadcast which drew in thousands of listeners during the first national lockdown.

Stephen Sullivan, who runs Ziggy’s Bar in South Shields, set up the ‘Storytime with Stevey’ broadcast in March 2020.

During the first national lockdown, Mr Sullivan says the storytelling streams pulled in an audience of nearly 20,000 at the highpoint of the quarantine period last year.

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"This is something I started on the very first day of lockdown in March last year,” Mr Sullivan told The Gazette.

Stephen Sullivan, who runs Ziggy’s Bar in South Shields, is bringing back the ‘Storytime with Stevey’ broadcast he launched in March 2020.

"The idea was, for one hour a day, we'd go online and read stories live – so people could interact with it. And it meant that for an hour a day kids got entertained and parents got an hour’s peace to go and have a cup of tea.”

Mr Sullivan said the new broadcasts, a ‘free public service’ he says he is offering while learning and leisure activities are done remotely, are to be split into three different categories.

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The ‘standard storytime’ sessions, aimed at children and adults alike, will be broadcast at 5pm on weekdays during Lockdown 3.

At 1pm on weekends, there will be a storytelling programme specifically aimed at children. And, as of next week, a virtual reading group for adults will also get going.

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Mr Sullivan started the storytelling broadcast during the first national lockdown last March

"It got to the point where, at the peak of the first lockdown, we had something like 17,000 listeners,” Mr Sullivan also said.

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"It fizzled out towards the back end of last year. But now we’ve decided to bring it back.

"This time around, the majority of the stories I’m covering for kids are the ones that are on school syllabuses. So they’ll be ones they’re reading at school.

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"I’m a believer that we need routine to help us get through the lockdowns. So I hope this helps re-establish some kind of routine that’s been lost for some people because we’re no longer in work or at school.

Mr Sullivan's homemade logo for the Lockdown 3 storytelling broadcasts
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"It's great to see that some of the books I read when I was at school – like ‘The Iron Man’ [by Ted Hughes] and ‘The Twits‘ [by Roald Dahl] – are still on syllabuses. And the amount of parents that have got in touch with me saying the channel is encouraging their children to read has been amazing.”

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Mr Sullivan says he was pleased to learn some of the books he had studied at school, like 'The Iron Man' (pictured), were still on syllabuses
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Mr Sullivan with some of the books he plans to read during the upcoming broadcasts