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English Classic Story Time – Getting Lost in Stories

21 Oct 2020 | Industry News

As part of the Open Accelerator, we are privileged to meet some great people within our community, all of which have a goal to start up their own business based on their passion and/or experience.

Cecile Trijssenaar is no different. Experience in film making and a passion for stories, is what has brought her to the Open Accelerator. Hoping to share the joy of books she has, with other households all over the world.

Read the interview to learn more about Cecile, her experiences as a film maker and just the beginning of English Classic Story Time.


Silicon South

Morning Cecile, thank you for joining us today and on our Open Accelerator Programme. To start with, it would be great to learn more about you, the industry experience you have and about English Classic Story Time?


I’ve always worked for myself since I came to the UK with my £52, apart from a one years contract. Apart from then, I’ve always generated my own work and income in various fields. I came to the UK as a film maker and editor, so I have made a few documentaries. So stories are basically my theme throughout life. I trained to become a film maker and editor across many broadcast agencies, and made a couple of films, won a couple of awards and then when I was researching and making a on the Vietnam, I met a Russian man who was also a film maker from Vladivostok. We decided to make some films together, and whilst I was doing the research on the films, I realised there was over 1 million children in orphanages in Russia – which I found truly and profoundly disturbing. As I was doing more and more of the research, for those films and the documentary, more and more personal it became.

Cutting a long story short, I decided against making the film, and adopt one of the children, so I adopted my daughter from Russia. 15 years ago on the 1st November. Because I found there was so much difficulty with the information about adopting the children, I set up an information website called International Adoption Guide. Which I have been working on consistently for the last 15 years. To help people navigate the complex path of international adoption. The arena of adoption has drastically decreased, so I am now working with a very small team as it is not financially viable.

When lockdown came, countries locking down, things came to a halt and it gave me the opportunity to review my work. Then whilst I was sitting there thinking, ‘OK, what do we do now?’ one of my colleagues that I work with, her daughter who is 8 or 9 in Italy, I often do reading to her through Skype to help her improve her English through the power of stories. That was just a nice thing to do, but as time went by, I really started to get into this whole story thing. I’ve always loved stories, and telling stories, and one of the best things that happened to me as a kid was my mum telling and reading me stories. With fantastic authors, numerous adventures, and a great way to escape. Especially during lockdown, and you want to get away from the same four walls. So I thought, well there we go, there is the stories which people need to hear and to feel like they’re getting wrapped up in it and lost along the way, and if I can bring the story to the people in a way which is embracing, engaging and encompassing then we can spread those messages which those authors started to do. I felt it should be delivered in a truly intimate way, as it was when my mum would read me stories, to build a relationship between the author and the reader.


Silicon South

Quite a lot of stories are now read digitally, so it takes away a lot of those intimate moments between a parent and child, so that’s one challenge. Another, which I’d like to understand a bit further is the power of learning a new language through hearing a story read to you, like this girl you mentioned in Italy. How did it help her?


With the product, you can listen and read it at the same time. So in this instance of learning a new language, you have two ways to develop to whatever works as the best form of practice for the reader. English is a beautiful language, and it has so many subtleties, and what I wanted to create was that relationship between the author and the reader. Where you actually really want to hear the reader, so you can see them, hear them and learn the way they speak. So this will enable you to incorporate aspects of the reader to enhance the story. Also, the value is that you think, instead of audio books where the whole idea of audio books is that you’re doing something else. I think one thing we learnt whilst in lockdown is the importance of just slowing down. It was such a pleasure. So I think the whole idea is to help people slow down and sit, listen to the voice, read alongside the reader – create your own experience.

I believe there will also be different segments of people who will be interested. The busy mums, making dinner, and don’t need to feel guilty about not reading to her child as they can still learn in an independent way through reading and listening. That bonding feeling that comes with reading is really important. Many people feel like they cannot read out loud – therefore will feel uncomfortable when reading, and lose part of that experience. The main purpose of my English Classic Storytime is about entertaining, educating and empowering. So those are the 3 key issues. Whilst enabling new conversation to be had inside households.


Silicon South

From the idea that you have discussed, what made you want to apply for the Silicon South Open Accelerator?


I love to learn, life is learning, it’s just continuous. To be with a group of people who are also moving ahead and doing their own projects and being creative, it’s a fantastic resource to be a part of. To learn from everybody else, we’ve already had one meeting, and I’ve already come out with so many new ideas and ways of thinking. Not only from the instructors, but from what everyone else had said together. I feel like I have worked in isolation for a very long time, with my adoption, and now to be in a group that are all working together to achieve our personal aims to bring benefits to other people is awesome. So I’m very grateful.


Silicon South

You highlighted the resource of learning off of one another, but what else do you hope to get out of the Open Accelerator, either personally or professionally?


Well I want everybody, in the whole entire world, to be part of the English Classic Story Time. So I’m hoping to be able to overcome my limitations, and to actually be big. I want this to reach as many people as it can, for other people to have to joy with stories like I did when I was younger and learn the lessons that there are to learn from different authors and books. Also give families that time to bond in the literacy, the use of language and spark new conversation is households. With the older stories, they are very articulate, so everybody can relate to them in one way or another. Which I think is very important in the world where there is a lot of fragmentation, to be able to bring everybody together.


Silicon South:

Final question for today. Starting up a business can be seen as quite a daunting thing to do. What would you recommend to someone, who is thinking about starting up their own business with an idea they have?


The first piece of advice I would give to someone is go for it. If you have an idea that you are passion and committed to, that is you, that is your purpose. You have to follow your purpose in life, otherwise you’ll never be satisfied. Yes it may be risky, but life is and can be risky. You have to atleast set out to achieve your objective, your purpose, to find true happiness.


Throughout the Open Accelerator, we’ll be documenting Cecile’s journey to see how the programme has helped her business, English Classic Story Time, so make sure you return to this page.