“The bridge cracks under your feet, chunks of rock free-falling into Death Canyon below. You hear shouts of friends as they sprint ahead. One of them trips, falling towards the precipice. You’ve still got that rope: Maybe you can stop and throw it to them? But if you fail both of you will fall to your doom.”

It’s Friday afternoon and we’re apparently watching a maths and English after-school club – though from the rapt attention of the children at the table, they’re somewhere completely different.

“C’mon guys – think fast!” This from the ‘GM’ (games master) – one of the professionally trained teachers, actors and writers at Flamethrowers & Dreamcatchers: a kids club unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The GM taps the sand timer menacingly: “You have about ten seconds – or you’re toast!” There’s a flurry of movement as kids check character sheets and pick up dice.
What happens next is like watching strategists negotiate the climax of an action movie.

Max: (9 years): I’m throwing the rope, I’ve got three points in physique!
Lucy: (10 years): You don’t have the range, just leave me!

Max leans over a table of grids, lines and tokens that represents the story occurring in their collective imagination, his face scrunching as he works mental sums.

Max: 18, 27…yeah I’m throwing the rope then swinging us to the cliff.
Lucy: Max you’ll die!
Tam: (10 years): Use my Help Spell! That will double your result!
GM: You’ll need alliteration for that Tam.
Tam: Ok um, I turn the rope into a lasso – a long er….luscious lasso?
GM: Ooh I dunno – can a lasso be luscious?
Tam: I make it out of like…marshmallows and silk!
GM: (laughing) O.K. very good! I’ll give you that. But (he points to the timer) you’re out of time.
Tam: Nooo!
GM: Max? Let’s see what you got!

The table falls silent as Max rolls his dice, the whole table leans in to count the result. Then an explosion of noise and cheers as Max jumps up like an athlete landing an impossible shot.

Max: “TWO SUCCESSES!!”

The GM smiles, narrating the outcome as the kids fall about excitedly chattering.

This is the kind of club we wish was available when we were kids: children create heroic characters and play them through a two hour episode of puzzles and monsters at a weekly drop-in or term-long epic narrative journey.

It’s rare to see kids get this enraptured by a game where you win by pursuing a shared goal and it clearly knocks the socks off any video game: kids together, telling a story, making strategic choices and none of them seem to mind that it’s educational!

Alexander, FTDC co-founder explains: “We wanted to create something that fosters pro-social behaviour and promotes imaginative expression while incentivising learning. It’s simple really: create an atmospheric scenario where knowing the difference between an obtuse and an acute angle will determine whether your character survives. Make learning matter.”

Parents are delighted at the dedicated attention on offer: one adult to each group of no more than six children, and integrated key stage learning.

 “We’ve tried numerous clubs over the years, but none have created the excitement or captured the imagination in the way FTDC has for Lilia. Over the past few months Tam  has learned about strategy, problem-solving, improvisation, and character development. She’s developing skills that we know will be useful to her in the future, and she’s also quite clear that FTDC is the most fun she’s had in any out of school activity she’s ever done. She’s excited about every session, and returns home happy, relaxed, and full of stories. The staff are also, without exception, warm, friendly, on the ball, and passionate about what they do. Totally different. Totally brilliant.”  Jenny M- Parent.

There seems to be a deeper thread of learning here too, one taught through story. As the session comes to a close on a cliff-hanger, with the kids about to split up at a crossroads, the GM reminds them: “You want to go fast? Go alone. You want to go far? Go together.”

Flamethrowers & Dreamcatchers reopens in Muswell Hill from September 7th 2020, adhering to government guidelines and continuing their online club which has kept members connected  throughout lockdown. Quote MHM to receive a 50% discount when booking your first session.

To receive your exclusive 50% discount off your first session, quote MHM50 when you contact play@ftdc.club.

Your FTDC quest awaits!

play@ftdc.club
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