Just before I went off on my holidays I led an evening session at the  House of Illustration, the establishment in Kings Cross, London currently hosting the latest incarnation of the Ladybird Exhibition.  My talk was on the reasons why I personally find Ladybird Books (and in particular the illustrations) so fascinating.

It was a very enjoyable evening; after my talk and a glass of wine, attendees responded by talking over their own connection with these books or this publisher.  I think you’ll get a taste of the evening in this picture:

In the foreground you can see a lady (and I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten her name!) showing us a 1960s Peter and Jane book that she had ‘modelled’ for.  One day, when she was a school-girl, Martin Aitchison come to her art class (which was taught by his wife) and got a number of the students to pose for the artwork.  She (I wish I could remember her name!) explained to us how the pictures had been amended before finishing up in the book.

In the background you can also see Justin Lumley, the son of Well Loved Tales artist Robert, sharing his memories of his father’s work for Ladybird with Caroline Alexander, herself the daughter of Editorial Director Douglas Keen

Justin brought in some photographs that his father had used to depict a picture from the Well Loved Tales series (I failed miserably to guess which one).  He also talked about real locations that were chosen to illustrate, for example, the street down which the Gingerbread Boy ran or the Little Red Hen’s very quaint-looking village.

The exhibition is going on until 27th September.  There are a few other ‘talks’ to come including one on Ladybird Modernism by John Grindrod which I’d like to try to get to myself.

There’s also some talk of a closing event on 25th September to which I believe I’ll be invited.  I’ll let you know if I hear more.

In other news:

Loughborough (home of Ladybird) has finally got its act together and established a permanent Ladybird exhibition at the local museum The Charnwood.  In addition, Angel Yard, where Wills & Hepworth first became established has been awarded a Green Plaque (why green and not blue?).  The plaque was unveiled by said Caroline Alexander:


In the picture above you can see Caroline and myself together with Roy Smith, who worked over a long period time and in a range of roles for W&H.  He is someone I’ve been meaning to ask for an interview for some time and this gave me the opportunity to make provisional plans.

There was also time for a flying visit to the excellent and massively understated 100 Years of Ladybird exhibition on at The Charnwood.  There’s a wide range of top quality artwork on display at the exhibition including pieces from old favourites such as Tootles the Taxi, Cinderella and other Well Loved Tales as well as non-fiction pieces including some from John Berry’s ‘People at Work’ series.  In addition there are some pretty rare early artifacts, including examples of the very earliest ‘Ladybird Series’ books.  The exhibition sells itself very short – it has top quality artifacts, well-displayed and entrance is free; all it lacks is self-confidence and publicity!

I think the Charnwood exhibition is on until the end of October but there’s also a permanent exhibition now (which includes an audio history narrated by little old me).  If you go with children, (or even if you don’t!) make sure you sit in the story chair, under the giant Ladybird which used to grace the Beeches Road Ladybird Book print works, and let the chair read you a story.

And finally …

I couldn’t find a light-hearted piece about a water-skiing Ladybird for a suitable ‘And finally …’ story but how about a daft name?  “An exciting new annual event for families who love books and illustrated literature” called ‘Loogabarooga’ will hold its first festival in September – again in Loughborough – (hence the odd name).  I’ve had an invitation to do a talk there too (hooray! – somewhere north of Watford!) so will keep you posted but in the meantime you can find out more here.