by Salma Barma
Wandering around Oxford always seems to yield some new discovery or other – an independent coffee shop perhaps, or a second hand bookshop. Walking down Pembroke Street on my way to Modern Art Oxford (which is itself worth a visit) a few days ago, I stumbled across the Oxford Story Museum and, intrigued, returned the next day with some friends to experience the immersive ’26 Characters’ exhibition.
Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a photo of Francesca Simon, the creator of Horrid Henry, dressed as Lewis Caroll’s Queen of Hearts.
The premise is simple – 26 storytellers have transformed themselves into their favourite childhood literary characters, and their photographs have been placed in recreated scenes from the characters’ original story. Thus as you wander through, you discover Philip Pullman as Boromir, hidden in a dark forest, Michael Morpurgo as Magwitch, and Malorie Blackman transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West.
The whole experience is a dream come true for your inner child – peek into the Borrower’s home under the kitchen sink perhaps, or step through the wardrobe into frosty Narnia before going straight into Mr. Badger’s cosy home, where the kettle is boiling and the fireplace roaring.
This interactive exhibition promises a fun hour or two for all ages – don’t let the exercise of filling your stamp sheet to win a free sweet (let’s be honest – all of us did it) fool you into thinking only young children will enjoy this. Anyone who looks back to his or her childhood books fondly will be thrilled by the experience. And if I haven’t sold you yet, you can even wander into their dress up room to transform yourself into a character of your choice, and try out their talking throne (though we didn’t actually do that one…)!
The ‘26 Characters’ exhibition ends on 22 February so do wander down and explore – trust me, it’s worth it.
The Story Museum also runs a lot of interesting talks and workshops – for more information, visit their website: http://www.storymuseum.org.uk/