A Tribute to the Collection of the World's Best Children's Stories Published by Marshall Cavendish
When I first had internet access in the early 1990s, one of the first things I tried to do was get information on Story Teller. At that time, I was the only Story Teller fan I knew and I was keen to make contact with others who remembered this magical series. I was disappointed when I could not find anything, except perhaps a mention of it on the Marshall Cavendish website. Story Teller was listed as one of their publications – and that was it.
A few years after my initial search, I was delighted when I came across a website that was dedicated to Story Teller. Finally! I almost mewed with joy like Gobbolino when I saw the familiar Story Teller logo on a webpage for the first time, and it felt like Christmas had come early when I saw pictures from the magazines. The website was called the Story Teller Archive: it was incomplete with just a few pages with a short history of the publication and a rather impressive searchable Access database listing all the stories from Story Teller 1 and Story Teller 2. The webmaster promised “more updates soon” but unfortunately none ever came. In fact, the website eventually disappeared as though Abigail the spider had magicked it out of existence with her wand.
The First Website
It was around that time when I recalled an interview with CS Lewis that I had read when I was a teenager. Lewis said that he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia not for children to read but for himself. Nobody was writing the sort of books he wanted to read and so he wrote them himself, and the result was the seven classic Narnia books. I decided that I could do something similar with Story Teller. If nobody was creating websites about it, then I had to do it myself. And so I did!
In 2007, I uploaded my first website dedicated to Story Teller. It immediately attracted the attention of Story Teller fans from around the world and very soon my inbox was filled with emails from fellow fans expressing their delight and gratitude in finally seeing Story Teller online. A writer/blogger in Malaysia interviewed me for an article and I even received emails from people involved in Story Teller. One of them was Peet Ellison, writer and illustrator of Timbertwig, who wrote to say how wonderful it was that there was finally a UK-based fansite. There had been a few websites dedicated to foreign editions of Story Teller, but not to the original UK edition.
Notice from Marshall Cavendish
The owner of the Partworks.co.uk website also wrote to congratulate me. For the uninitiated, Partworks.co.uk is a website that sells second hand copies of partworks. The owner was so impressed with the new ST website that he provided links to it on his own Partworks.co.uk website. He also eagerly emailed the managing editor of Marshall Cavendish to tell him the “good news”.
It was all very flattering but sadly the managing editor of Marshall Cavendish did not share the enthusiasm of the owner of Partworks.co.uk. In fact, the managing editor was far from happy: he pointed out that the images and audio I used on the website were in breach of copyright, unless I could produce evidence to prove that I had permission to use them. I panicked for I was young and ignorant about the law and I thought that I was in serious trouble. I apologised to the managing editor and then, with a heavy heart, I took down the website.
The Facebook Group
However, I continued to receive wonderful emails from ST fans. Several wanted to collaborate with me with various projects such as digitising the whole collection. A couple of months after I took down the website, I created a Story Teller group on Facebook. Membership growth was slow because Facebook wasn’t yet the social network giant it is today. And so I created another group on Yahoo!, then a much more popular platform. It grew very quickly and within a year it had more than 500 members.
The Yahoo! group became the place to be for ST fans and it generated many passionate and animated threads. However, after a couple of years, interest in Yahoo! groups waned. At the same time, Facebook’s popularity grew and grew and slowly but surely, the Facebook group that I had been neglecting started to attract more members. I was thrilled when the 100th member joined. I did not think the group would get much bigger … but it did. Much bigger.
The Second Website
As the Facebook group became established, I thought the time came to attempt another website. The Facebook group was doing well in providing a venue for ST fans to interact, but I still wanted to create the “ultimate Story Teller resource”, a depository of all knowledge relating to the series. I thought that Story Teller deserved nothing less and so I created a second website, this time making sure that I would not be breaching copyright laws. I designed a simple and plain website, using as few images as possible and ditching audio altogether.
Despite its simplicity, the website flourished and it is the website that you see today.
Now and the Future
Story Teller’s online presence did not stop there. Thanks to the passion and talents of ST fans from all over the world, brought together by the Facebook group and the website, Story Teller has been preserved for future generations. Story Teller may never be re-released because of various legal hurdles, but at least now we have the fan-made digital collection which offers crisp MP3s of the audio and PDF versions of the magazines that will never deteriorate. Today we can also enjoy most of the stories on video via the Story Teller YouTube Channel, and there’s even a database listing the music tracks used on the tapes.
I continue to get emails thanking me for putting Story Teller in cyberspace. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of wonderful people, fellow ST fans whose childhood was also enriched by such a unique collection.
Today, Story Teller still weaves its magical spell. And thanks to the magic of the internet, it will continue to do so … forever and ever.