Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Story Museum

Last week we went on our Easter holidays and, appropriately enough, trotted in the footsteps of our namesake by choosing to spend a few days moving a canal boat through water. Whilst alas, not by means of genuine little wooden horse power; even by diesel engine it was a soothing way to see a very small amount of world move past very slowly.

We had four days of this-
Before setting off the Fellow Reviewers found a copy of the World Wrestling Federation Annual 2011 on the borrowing shelves of the canal boat offices. They both pored over every detail of this find and found it most improving holiday reading. If you want to know the record of The Undertaker versus (sic) Sheamus as of four years ago, they're now your go-to guys.
It also inspired a fair amount of this from alter egos Shucks and Mr Chuckalot-
(insert your own wrestling commentary/screams)
Anyway. This whole holiday, lovely though it was, was ACTUALLY a thinly veiled excuse to get my family positioned in the general Oxford area so that on the way home we could visit the newly opened Story Museum.

I'd been eager as any beaver waiting for this place to open properly. It's hosted the odd event in the last year or so as it was being transformed but '26 Characters' is its first 'proper' exhibition. Twenty-six UK authors and illustrators have been photographed dressed as a character that inspired them as a child. Each photo has then been put in its own story space with props and teasers from the character's book, along with an audio reading and interview.

I'm not clear what the building was before being reincarnated as a space devoted to inspiring story love. Whatever it was it's still a magical rabbit warren full of twists and turns and secret rooms. The transformation is also clearly very much a work in progress; bare bricks and exposed ceilings and the remains of an old canteen kitchen mean that the building itself feels a story. Our exploration had the air of an adventure- with genuine uncertainty about which way to go next or what we'd find round each corner. It's an exciting building.

We all loved the exhibition; highlights including the unexpected discovery of Narnia, brewing tea on a stove with Badger and illicit peeking at what Borrowers watch on telly. Eddie was very taken with all the beds on offer and spent a long time luxuriating amongst the vines in King of all Wild Things, Max's before some pretty vigorous bouncing on Mary Poppins's. I hope she'd approve. Participation is invited; we rode on the White Witch's sleigh (being careful not to take any Turkish Delight) and threw water over the Wicked Witch. We also all wrote our birth details on parcel tags in case we should be left in a station handbag on the way home.
E makes himself at home

spying on Pod and Arrietty
Our favourite thing of all though was, what I assume to be a permanent feature; the dressing up room with announcing throne. This is SO clever and SO much fun we could have spent a whole day hogging it. It's a simple idea that works brilliantly. They have a row of really proper old school dressing up stuff- by which I mean not ready-made child sized costumes but loads of weird old coats, cloaks, hats, masks and dresses so you can really spiral off in mad sartorial directions. Then they have these boards where you select a title and a thing and a place and slot the words in and walk up a red carpet holding your selection. By some total MAGIC these are read and announced with really proper pomp and ceremony and trumpets when you sit on the throne. It's the biggest ego boost I have ever experienced. I would like one in my kitchen to be honest. We had a LOT of goes. Even penguin.

You can find out more about The Story Museum and the exhibition here- and listen to the authors talking about their choices. But really this Fiendish Monkey of the Future commands you just go. It's excellent.


  1. Hi, the Story Museum is fab, isn't it. I believe it is housed in what was once Oxford's main post office and telephone exchange...

    1. aha! Thanks for that. It's a terrific space.