Another day of inspiration at the Story Museum

I blogged last year about our trip to the Story Museum in Oxford and how much I loved visiting. Today I went back with Jemima (nearly 7) to check out their latest exhibitions. And they’ve done it again.

Jemima and I both loved the Time For Bed room. There’s a row of pegs just before you go in, with dressing gowns for all ages, so you can select one to suit…and then you go into the room and you’re faced with THIS:

OK, you're not faced with my daughter on the bed. Unless you go the same day we do. In which case you may very well see her in exactly that position.
OK, you’re not faced with my daughter on the bed. Unless you go the same day we do. In which case you may very well see her in exactly that position.

That’s a giant bed. I mean, really giant. I gather you can fit an entire class of kids on it. This morning, we were the only ones in the room for several minutes, and oh boy, did I want to do the whole spread-out-like-a-starfish thing right in the middle. Dressed in a fetching pink gown, it was a good thing no one snapped me…

There are a couple of rooms opening off the big one too. The one playing lullabies kept Jemima chilled out for quite some time, which meant I could have a bit of a kip on the biggest bed ever…and despite it not being a sprung mattress (because then everyone would just jump up and down on it instead of reading stories to their toys etc) it was definitely comfortable enough for me to feel my eyes closing… And it’s so pretty! Fairy lights and chiffon draped around, and the biggest globe lampshade I’ve ever seen, like a glowing moon.

Upstairs, there’s another huge room, this one entitled ‘Extreme Reading’. It’s full of niches and reading areas, each with their own personality. And a ‘whispering tube’ that goes round a corner, so you can whisper to your friend from several metres away (insults are handily provided on a sheet). I was thrilled by the ‘secure books’ area, where there are sixteen numbered and locked boxes on a table. The keys are hanging on pegs nearby and on each tag there’s a teaser about the book in the relevant box. I felt smug that I could identify almost all the books from the teaser tags…

There’s a large magnetic board for those poetry magnets too – the ones you buy for your own fridge (or some well-meaning friend does, saying ‘you’re a writer; you’ll love these!’) and play with half-heartedly for a few days before the novelty wears off. Well, it wasn’t my fridge, so I was delighted to have a go at some poetry:

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I rather liked it. Jemima felt it was missing something though, so she added another line:

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I admire her practicality, I guess. If you’ve got a thousand charms coming to you, you could use one of them to clean the streets. Especially outside parliament.

We were both very pleased to see that the sensible Museum people have kept the fantastic Talking Throne and the dressing up costumes.

Jemima takes it all very seriously
Jemima takes it all very seriously
I...er...don't. The Screaming Cheese of Space! Sounds like a Steve Cole book to me...
I…er…don’t. The Screaming Cheese of Space! Sounds like a Steve Cole book to me…

And then there’s the really wonderful ‘Draw Me A Story’ exhibition, containing artwork from lots of illustrators (I particularly enjoyed Korky Paul’s contributions, showing rough artwork for some Winnie pictures along with the final versions – amazing!) and a room where the kids can do lots of colouring. And the Illustrator Zoo, where you can watch a real artist doing real grown-up artwork (Hi, Gemma!) which is pretty exciting.

We spent a happy couple of hours there and Jemima is already keen to go back. There’s the very nice cafe too, of course, which serves excellent cake. And I even got to have a chat with the lovely Tom Donegan, who organises their events. Watch this space for something I’m hoping to do there before too long!

The Story Museum has something for all ages. Even littlies will love the Time For Bed room (there are lots of soft toys you can put to bed in baskets, and a whole fabric mural which is very touchy-feely), and the older ones will appreciate the Proper Artwork (and probably, if egged on by their friends, get very dressed up in the Throne Room). Do go, folks! Places like this are SO important, to help young people develop a love for and understanding of stories – and, along the way, develop their own empathetic skills by imagining themselves to be other than they are. Hurrah for the Story Museum! (And when can I have a bedroom like that?)

Find out all about opening times, location and what’s on at http://www.storymuseum.org.uk/

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