Monday, 13 December 2010

How to turn an author into an engineer - early December 'scenes' - Dianne Hofmeyr

A freezing day in Oxford saw a group of authors become engineers at the stroke of a hat! You’ll recognize a few faces as we tried to interpret the spaces that will become the new Story Museum. The outing was devised by Jacky Atkinson and Kim Pickin, Director of the Story Museum, as part of the National Kids Lit Quiz day held in Oxford.

Herded across a snow-stewn courtyard by the enthusiastic Tish Francis, former director of the Oxford Playhouse, through a maze of winding passageways, rooms, halls and vast galleries of the old Oxford Telephone Exchange and finally up to the attics complete with resident spiders, peeling paint taking on the shape of unknown continents and fireplaces that must have once warmed poor starving artists… our imaginations were running wild. Towers could be added! Secret passageways! Peepholes! Escape shutes! A hoist in the courtyard was already in place to act as a gallows!The spaces are ripe to create magic in. The Story Museum won’t be so much a static ‘museum’ as a living, active place to share story and creativity. All the latent engineers can’t wait to be invited back here to be part of the action in creating a story-rich society!

A few freezing evenings later (London didn’t quite reach the same scale of freezing as the rest of the country) the Illustration Cupboard Gallery in Bury Street, St James was ablaze with colour, light and sparkle (in the proper liquid form!) with their 15th Annual Winter Exhibition and Jane Ray was there signing her latest book out with Frances Lincoln, Ahmed and the Feather Girl … her illustrations a brilliant combination of paint and paper with individual feathers finely cut from patterned paper to create textured collage. A quick visit to the Illustration Cupboard on a dark, cold, wintery afternoon might be just the inspiration needed to get ‘someone’ to buy you a Christmas present.

Not the research rooms inside the V&A, but an off-site, stand alone wine bar/ coffee bar/ reading room/ bookshop all wrapped up into an intimate space on Exhibition Road near the South Ken Tube station that has only been open for a few weeks. It’s filled with an eclectic collection of books, not just V&A editions, and obviously has a book buyer with quirky ideas. Rediscover the delights of browsing and encounter the wonderful and obscure. This is the place to browse through books on lethally toxic plants, a few vintage bindings and graphic novels too with a good glass of Merlot or chilled Pouilly-Fuisse in hand. A bit different to having Starbucks inside your average bookshop. So while the rest of the mob are ice-skating in the cold outside the Natural History Museum, sneak away and take refuge in the new V&A Reading room.


karen ball said...

Ooh, thanks for the heads up on the V&A. I wonder if that's the type of place where I could go and work with my laptop?

Penny Dolan said...

Three very different places - and all interesting! Thanks.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Karen, not sure they have wireless but there's a table in a sunny bay window where you can set up your laptop and do some people watching. There's also a long counter with bar stools. Penny... felt a bit guilty making it a photo blog but I suppose there's a place for book events on ABBA as well as writing 'pieces'???

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

PS Just noticed the lovely green in your 2 pics. Its almost like a celebration of St Patrick's day! I coloured my eyes green!

Ms. Yingling said...

*Sigh* It's so cold and... flat in Ohio. Being in either London or Oxford sounds especially lovely today. Thanks for the little trip!