Hoxton Street may not exactly look magical, with its standard East London assortment of rundown corner shops and takeaways. But look closer and you'll find a very peculiar shop which boasts of being able to cater to 'monsters of every kind'.
It would be easy to walk past Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, but if you did you'd be missing out on a sweet shop like nothing you've ever seen.
Inside, the shelves are piled with delightfully gruesome products, including such delicacies as Fang Floss, Picked Eyeballs and Thickest Human Snot. Open up the jars and boxes, of course, and you'll find what look like chocolates, toffees and sweets - but we bet you'll still think twice before biting in!
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is all part of a project called the Ministry of Stories. Created in 2010 with the support of Nick Hornby, the award-winning author of Fever Pitch and About A Boy, the Ministry is dedicated to promoting storytelling and imagination among school-age children
Behind the store, volunteers lead workshops to encourage and mentor young writers, helping them to express their ideas through stories, comics, songs, scripts and poems.
It's the little touches that make the tiny store such a magical experience. Visitors to Hoxton Street Monster Supplies are warned about stroking the shop's 'invisible cat' - a seemingly empty basket which frequently emits a purring sound, to the delight of visiting youngsters.
Elsewhere, a notice board affixed to the wall seems much like one you'd see in any corner shop - until you get closer and read some of the messages...
Emily Murdock, who has worked at the shop for a year, explains that the 'official' version of the shop's origins - the one told to young visitors - is that the store was founded in 1818 by a refugee monster named Igor. "To ingratiate himself with the local monster community," she explains, perfectly deadpan.
The real history of the store, while a little less fanciful, is no less interesting. Hoxton Street Monster Supplies takes its inspiration from a US project called 826 National.
Founded in San Francisco, the 826 group planned to establish a creative writing workshop in the city - only to be told the land they had bought had to be used for commercial purposes. Undeterred, they established a 'pirate supply shop' alongside their workshop space.
What started as a loophole became a key part of the project's identity, and now 826 outposts across the States can be found lurking behind 'businesses' such as the Superhero Supply Company or the Bigfoot Research Institute of Greater Boston.
The Hoxton Street continues this ethos of blending the commercial element of the venture into their stated mission to 'inspire a nation of storytellers'.
Nowhere is this better exemplified than in one of the store's most unique and interesting products - a range of sealed cans with labels such as 'Escalating Panic' and 'A Vague Sense of Unease'.
They actually contain the beginnings of a spooky story, written by a children's author, with the young buyer encouraged to complete the tale themselves (there are also sweets in the tin, you'll be pleased to know).
Thanks to its brilliant range of gruesome goodies and dedicated army of staff, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies manages to create a quirky, clever and astoundingly detailed supernatural world in just a few square feet of East London.
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