Alice Sage from the Museum of Childhood tells us about the Bedtime Stories exhibition.
The Bedtime Stories exhibition at the Museum of Childhood celebrates the power of stories to inspire lifelong creativity. The centrepiece is a big quilt made by over 60 people from across the UK.
The range of responses is wonderful. Adults and children all created wonderfully individual squares. Some very accomplished artists made exquisitely detailed embroidery and patchwork. Other enthusiastic amateurs used simple felt pen to evoke familiar books from bedtime.
These are very early memories, and often buried quite deep, but one joy of this project was watching people struggle to remember their bedtime stories, and then experience the memories come rushing back. What surprised and delighted me the most was the number of people who remembered the stories their fathers had made up, night after night, coming up with new chapters of ongoing sagas.
Elena Fiorotto grew up in Italy, and her square was called ‘C’era una volta’. Elena recalled, “When I was little my father invented this story for me. There were two young princes who became really really small due to a spell cast on them. To return to their normal height, they had to reach a room with the antidote at the top of the staircase in the tower of their castle. Every step was an exciting adventure, full of great fun but also risks. Watch out for the big mouse!”
Becky Howell’s dad also made up stories “starring the fabulous London Mouse. The little mouse would travel around the UK having adventures, some of which included me (those were my favourites!)”
Kate Hayton’s dad told his children about two characters, “Bill and John, and their adventures together. Every story started the same way, with Bill and John waking up early, coming downstairs, eating a breakfast of porridge and heading out on another adventure. My dad would do the best sound effects for each part of the story and my brother, sister and I would fight to stay awake to hear to the end of every story.”
Now, I can’t remember my parents reading to me when I was little - however hard I try - but I do remember huddling under the covers with a torch and continuing my favourite books far too late, just as I still do now. So I was very pleased when my mum agreed to make a square, and she chose the Very Hungry Caterpillar, which she used to read time and again to me and my sisters, and she could probably recite by heart!
In the exhibition we also have a notice board where visitors can share their own memories of bedtime stories. We’ve had hundreds of responses, with people remembering their favourite books and characters and recalling more of those homespun yarns told night after night by imaginative relatives. Here’s a few of my favourites, including one from a lovely grandmother using modern technology to spend bedtime with her grandkids.
To read more memories from the Bedtime Stories quilt, visit the project blog.