Running a Narnia Trail

Photo credit: Tatiana Symonds

“Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said” by C.S. Lewis

During lockdown I decided I wanted to do something with our community and for our community. Over the space of 18 months we ran many events that brought families together. I organised this all through a simple Facebook page called Bitterne Park Family Fun.

Three things that are essential

  • Join in first – Find out what your community love. Go their things first. For me this was running a Halloween trail. The more you can get involved in what your community loves, then the easier it will be to find others that want to join in with what you’re doing.
  • It’s all about people – These trails work best when they’re done for the community-with the community. Within your own communities there will be talented, creative people that love contributing to society and to friendship. The more people you can get involved from the start, the more successful the trail will be.
  • Encourage creativity not perfectionism – Families have really enjoyed creating together, using paper, scrap material, recycling wardrobes and the like. Encourage creativity and celebrate everyone’s contribution. I love to encourage an emphasis on building community, praising and celebrating each other and deepening friendship.

I was asked recently do you think the trail has been successful? I answered, well 350 maps were taken over the first weekend and we’ve got a reach of 10k on our Facebook posts. But you know what makes it successful? Hearing giggles and laughter on your porch. Opening up the front door and seeing yet another family taking part. Our community is bringing light into the darkness and hope into the sadness of our current situation. That’s what makes these trails successful.

Hearing giggles & laughter on your porch. Opening up the front door & seeing yet another family taking part. Our community is bringing light into darkness & hope into sadness. That’s what makes these trails successful.

How did it all start?

last year at Christmas time we ran a Nativity trail with a team of 24 local families. We advertised it well and many experienced the story afresh as we walked around our area. As a prize at the end we gave away 600 gift bags with the Nativity story. Here are some of the photo’s from last year and if you want to know more, here is how we did it.

This year two friends of mine Laura and Rachel came up with the idea of running a Narnia trail. We wanted to keep things fresh and felt this story would be something others would love to join in with.

Why do a story like Narnia rather than the Nativity? I’ll be writing a blog post on this soon. Sign up to receive it.

How we did it this year

First and foremost I need to clearly credit the work of Ana Lorena, Laura Waterton and Rachel Stage. They are an incredibly talented group of women that have designed, edited and completed this project to an incredible standard. I’m sure you’ll find others in your community that will step up and join you.

  1. Gather your team. I have a core team of 2 or 3 that help me out with (design, writers, comms, fundraising etc) and a wider team made up from anyone that wants to get involved. I create a Facebook post and encourage people to sign up through a google form. I guess you could use alternative ways to invite others to join in, this is the simplest and most effective way for me!
  2. Organise the core team. The core team then started worked on the content of the trail, the route and worked out how many stations we wanted. This year all of this work was done by my two friends Laura and Rachel. Here is the narrative of the trail, you could simply take this and make it your own!

3. Organise the wider team. By this time we had received a huge response, in the end 46 families got in touch through the google form. We allocated the houses that worked best and designed the route so that it worked for little legs. We also added a mini challenge in St Denys. St Denys is a separate community, but wanted to get involved. The mini challenge was to find letters in the windows. The letters spelt out the name of the place where a prize was waiting for them. The first 10 children were given a free copy of The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, courtesy of a local Independent bookseller. the rest were given a gift bag.

4. Communicate with the team. We set up a whatsapp group to organise the trail and sent through suggested ideas for each house. These groups are more than just communication, they are a great way to get to know other people and build a sense of togetherness whilst you’re getting ready. We use these groups to share ideas, support and encourage each other.

5. Design. We then started on the design work and asked around for artists/designers locally to help us out. We were delighted this time to find Ana Lorena who has hand painted all of our publicity. Ana created images to use for posters and a beautiful map.

6. Build interest. Whilst houses were getting ready for the trail, we built momentum through a social media campaign, sharing photos and ideas of what we were creating. We also set up a FB event for people to register their interest and communicate. We also wrote to local schools and put up posters in shop windows.

7. Do what the community loves. Last year we started doing Father Christmas post and so decided this year to tie in Father Christmas’s appearance in Narnia with these post boxes. So we used similar design work for this. The team for this ran separately but in a very similar way (starting December 1st). There were 16 helping out, some with boxes on their drive, some just writing responses!

8. Create a buzz. Once the publicity was designed, we printed and distributed it. widely. You’ll see we created QR codes which linked to our FB page.

9. Give generously. We wanted to give out gift bags at the end of the trail. So we worked out the budget and approached locally churches to ask if they’d like to give towards this project. In each bag we put a candy cane, festive chocolates, a postcard and a badge. We used Best Badges and the images that Ana had created.

For the postcard we used Solopress. Here is an image of the postcard, the content was cowritten by Nay Dawson and Laura Waterton.

10. Launch well. And finally we were ready to launch. Just for a bit of fun, we added in a launch procession. A local Grandad had a T Ford Car and was more than willing to drive it around, followed by a Samba band and Narnian characters. We also sent out Press Releases to local papers. Here is one that got published.

May be an image of 4 people, people standing and outdoors

You are welcome to use these images. But please credit @AnaLorena

Get in touch if you have any questions

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

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