diamond geezer

 Friday, January 30, 2015

It is the dream of every gallery curator to come up with an exhibition that everyone will want to visit.

"So, how about Ladybird books, then?"

And that's the majority of Britons over 40 hooked. We grew up on Ladybird books, either reading them or reading them to our children, and they represent something safe and cosy from our past. So the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill is onto a winner, aspirationally at least, between now and the middle of May.

If you've never visited the De la Warr before, it's gorgeous, a sleek Art Deco swoosh on the East Sussex coast. As well as an auditorium (coming soon, Alan Davies and Rick Wakeman) there are three galleries, with the largest on the ground floor current devoted to the humble Ladybird. I mean, what's not to love? [8 photos of the DLWP]

The introductory section of Ladybird by Design is brief, but includes the hand-drawn mock-up for the very first ornithological tome and an example of the single printed sheet that was chopped and folded to make each 56-page book. There's also a video, not the same as the recent BBC4 documentary, plus a terribly nice exhibition guide, fully illustrated. At £1 it's eight times more expensive than a Ladybird book used to be, but a delightful keepsake of your visit.

Along the main corridor are approximately 500 Ladybird books, cover by cover, from the curators' personal collection. This is a proper step back in time, with titles of books I once owned jumping out with a smile. Understanding Maps, Play with us, The Night Sky, Flight Four India, 'How It Works' Television, oh yes oh yes oh yes.

The main part of the exhibition, however, features over 200 original illustrations used across the series. These are the illustrators' final works, in enlarged size, with scribbled notes around the edges in the guillotine zone. And each is very much its own work of art. The wildlife scenes in What to Look for in Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter are intricate, the characterisation in Well-Loved Tales: Cinderella accomplished, and blimey did they really use Letraset to label the diagrams in The Public Services: Electricity? As a representation of mid-to-late 20th century Britain, and middle class sensibilities, the Ladybird images are unparalleled social documents.

Three books have been selected for the full treatment, with each of their 24 illustrations presented sequentially. First up is Shopping with Mother, its sequential panels detailing a trip along Every-High-Street circa 1958. This is a retro treat, with a Julie Andrews-esque mother cajoling her perfect offspring from one generic shop to the next until they return home heavily laden to share their treasures with Dog and Cat. Wonderfully evocative of an era of drapers, grocers and ironmongers, it's hard not to imagine how tedious a hypermarket edition fifty years later would be.

From the early seventies we get every page of People at Work: In a Big Store. This visual trawl through a very different consumer experience features shopfloors and canteens, cashiers and storemen. Although only the pictures are present it's all too easy to imagine the words that would have accompanied them, so well drilled are we in Ladybird style. And the third volume to be so honoured is Tricks and Magic, from 1969, which was one of my very favourite books at the time. Many of these images are imprinted deep on my memory - how to switch two matchsticks, how to trace a magic square, and how to shake a wand to create a highly unconvincing wobble.

It being midweek, most of yesterday's audience was well past retirement age. The gallery was also relatively empty, which I doubt will be the case at weekends when nudging through to view the full sweep of images may be more difficult. The shop at the pavilion is very good, currently with a wide range of Ladybird-related stock, and the curator's £20 tome already out of print before the first week of the exhibition is up. If a trip to the De la Warr is always a pleasure, for the next few months upgrade that to a delight.

And OK, so Bexhill is a long way from London, if that's where you are - almost two hours by train. A ticket's not cheap either, more than £30 even for an off-peak return, perhaps putting this free exhibition out of reach. But I got there for only £17.90 by buying a Southern Offpeak DaySave. This can only be used after 10am (or any time at weekends), and has to be booked online at least three days in advance. But the ticket then allows you to wander anywhere on Southern's network, which is how I visited Bexhill and Eastbourne and Brighton yesterday before heading home. Plan ahead and the south coast is nearer, and cheaper, than you think.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards