With the recent celebration of Roald Dahl day – on the author’s birthday, 13th September – and the 50th anniversary of the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it was high time for a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
The museum in Great Missenden is a charming, busy space, with Wonka gates and other donated props from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film adaptations. There are photos and extensive paraphernalia from Dahl’s life with the centrepiece being the idiosyncratic contents of his writing hut (like his old reading lamp weighed down by a golf ball on a piece of string).
There is also a large interactive area where children are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild – from playing word games to creating a stop motion film – and pose in a replica of Dahl’s chair.
When you’ve had your fill of the delights on offer in the museum, you can walk outside to the high street and see the real inspirations behind Dahl’s work – the red petrol pumps from Danny the Champion of the World, the library from Matilda – and explore the countryside he inhabited.
A trip to the museum doesn’t disappoint – it offers an unique opportunity to sit in the chair and walk in the footsteps of a giant of children’s literature.
Continue the Dahl trail with a trip to the exhibition of the work of long-time collaborator and illustrator extraordinaire, Quentin Blake.
Illustration has found a new home near Kings Cross and this inaugural Quentin Blake exhibition is the perfect housewarming.
It is impossible to separate Blake from his magical and fruitful collaboration with Roald Dahl, and a good chunk of the work on show is from such classics as The Twits and The BFG. Alongside this though, we see storyboards from Blake’s own wordless book Clown and his riotously colourful illustrations for the Folio Society edition of Voltaire’s Candide.
For me, the highlight of the exhibition was a look at his work on Michael Rosen’s The Sad Book, an exploration of Rosen’s grief following the death of his son Eddie. Nowhere is the power of Blake’s illustration and intuition felt more powerfully than in the sequence of snapshots of Eddie’s life, where the final frame on the page is left heart-breakingly blank.
In the last room there is a film of Blake in his workshop and a space for visitors to explore the books featured in the exhibition. Although the thoughtful curation of Blake’s work makes it more than worthwhile, I did wonder if more space at the fledgling gallery could’ve been opened up (there did seem to be additional rooms not in use).
However, Blake’s work seems so perfectly-formed that there is a real, rare pleasure in glimpsing the method behind it. I look forward to seeing what the gallery offers next.
Quentin Blake: Inside Stories runs at the House of Illustration until 2nd November.