26 goes on an adventure to the Oxford Story Museum
Like the letters that once travelled through the giant doors in its former life as the Post Office, writers swept into Oxford’s Story Museum from far and wide. Of the 26 plus one intrepid scribes who were matched with author portraits and letters of the alphabet, 20 of us made it to celebrate the 26 Characters project in its home.
I explored. I walked onto the deck of a pirate ship, to the creak and groan of timbers to see Long John Silver stepping out from the cabin. I crouched low to peer into the Borrowers home; ruffled the fur of a Wild Thing on a bed growing jungle vines; settled down in a comfy chair in Badger’s den while the kettle whistled on the hearth.
And I fulfilled a childhood dream, when I finally found the right wardrobe…
The 26 Characters exhibition is a magical experience for anyone who loves stories. Each character portrait is brought to life in a highly imaginative setting, with plenty to keep small explorers interested. For a pretend grown-up like me, it really was like stepping into the pages of some well-loved books.
It was a day of discovery. Of meeting people I only knew from their writing, and the characters they were matched with or chose as their inspiration for their own childhood memory blogs.
As we gathered for a picnic, we heard the sestudes, inspired by the authors and the characters who had, in turn, inspired their childhood imaginations. For my first public reading, it was an honour to pay tribute to one of Lewis Carroll’s most memorable characters in the city where he was first imagined to amuse a little girl called Alice. I was so full of joy and inspiration that I quite forgot to be nervous.
I left pondering which stories and characters would remain if we came back to the exhibition in 10 or 20 years time, and which new ones would, by then, seem as familiar and welcome as those of our childhood imaginings.
We are developing a 26 Stories of Christmas for 2015 in tandem with the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. It will be an extension of our existing online-only project with Sam Gray’s beautifully designed digital advent calendar tying in with an exhibition at the museum. Local children’s charity, It’s Good 2 Give will also be taking part. Watch this space… we will recruit writers for this project through the newsletter in a few months.
I’m also looking into organising a literary London walking tour. I only spoke to a tour company about it yesterday, but the general idea is that we’ll spend about two hours in the evening walking around Bloomsbury (with a couple of pub refreshers along the way). I haven’t set a date yet, but watch this space for more details.