The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is a great little place in the Buckinghamshire village where Roald Dahl lived and wrote for 36 years. The Museum was founded by his widow Liccy Dahl to inspire creativity in everyone, by preserving and sharing his personal archive which features a lifetime’s worth of letters, manuscripts and memorabilia. The Museum galleries look at Roald Dahl’s life and inspirations, include oodles of activities to get your creative juices flowing, and have at their heart the amazing interior of his famous Writing Hut, just as he left it, with strange and curious objects from his life that he used to fire his imagination.
When the Southbank Centre in London first suggested the idea of an immersive exhibition inspired by the work of Roald Dahl, we jumped at the chance to be involved. We knew it would be a fantastic opportunity to make the Roald Dahl Archive accessible to an audience beyond Great Missenden. We were even more delighted when the Wales Millennium Centre came on board as a second venue. What a marvellous opportunity to take Roald Dahl ‘home’ to Cardiff, the town where he was born and spent his early years. The exhibition is just a few hundred yards from the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, where Roald Dahl was baptised as a baby.
The fun part was working with the Southbank and Wales Millennium Centre teams to devise the exhibition, linking archive pieces to key moments in the life of Roald Dahl and finding new ways to bring the collection to life. The result is Wondercrump, a journey through the mind of this much-loved author, from his school days, through the Second World War and the aeroplane crash which became a catalyst for his writing career, to the people and places which influenced his work.
This exhibition is the biggest loan of original Roald Dahl material to ever travel beyond the Museum. As far as possible, we identified different pieces for the London and Cardiff shows to make each version of the experience unique – but also to help protect the fragile archives for future generations by limiting the time each piece would be on display. The exhibits include Roald Dahl’s school reports, letters home to his family, early drafts of the stories which often show surprising differences from the published books, and a special item of footwear…
2016 is the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, with a year-long programme of gloriumptuous treats, surprises and Roald Dahl-themed events. Wales is undoubtedly the hotspot for so much of this fun: please see the Roald Dahl 100 in Wales website for the most up to date information about what is going on in Cardiff and around the country: www.roalddahl100.wales.
We hope that The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl will inspire people to improve their own writing. Maybe you will start by compiling a collection of interesting objects to keep in your special place for writing, or, as Roald Dahl did, keep a notebook for jotting down sparky ideas for stories. The most important thing – as Roald Dahl reminded us in The Minpins, his last book - is to watch the world with glittering eyes, and find magic where you least expect it.