November 19, 2013
Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle Upon Tyne
Last Saturday morning before heading west again to Oswestry, Ian and I visited Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle Upon Tyne. We’d spent the morning wandering about in the city centre, marvelling at the Christmas food market and the stunning architecture. We bought a large half round of French brie for three pounds! (At home the same cheese would cost us around $30.00 at least. It’s the most delicious cheese I’ve eaten in years too). We had breakfast at Carluccios which is a chain of restaurants here. Chains in the UK don’t have near the same connotation as at home or in the US (ie not fast food) as these are absolutely outstanding. The décor is beautiful, the food delicious and I wish Carluccio’s would open in Sydney!
We stopped in to say hello to the lovely Kristine at Waterstones who we’d worked with in February and who supplied the books for Friday’s school event. She said that Alice-Miranda was selling well for them and she loved the series. We discussed that we’d be back again in November 2014, all set for lots of events, then wandered down to TM Lewin where Ian got his shirt fix before making our way to Avis to pick up our hire car. That was a lovely surprise, as the mid sized manual Seat sedan we’d booked had miraculously transformed into a brand new automatic Audi A4 with quite possibly the best sat nav system I’ve ever seen.
We drove back to the hotel and picked up our bags then made our way the very short distance to Seven Stories. Housed in a stunning old warehouse, you access the building on the street at level three. I had hoped to meet Lorna Duncanson who I’d emailed with earlier in the week but she doesn’t usually work on Saturdays unless there is an event. However. we met the duty manager Jane Nicholson who took my details and said that she’d pass them on. We then met Charleene Creasey in the bookshop, who absolutely made my day, when not only did she know who Alice-Miranda was, she promptly found me a pile of books to sign. I was so thrilled! Hopefully they will have Clementine Rose soon too.
I was really excited to learn that the Enid Blyton Archive was upstairs as well as a Judith Kerr exhibition. I spent the whole time smiling as we wandered through the Enid Blyton floor, recalling the stories I had loved as a girl. The Secret Seven and Famous Five and her Faraway Tree books. The exhibition contains some original manuscripts and art work but I was sad to read that much of her original work was destroyed. The typewriter on which she typed her stories (using two fingers) sat under a glass case and there were school photographs of Enid and her two daughters. I recently watched the Helena Bonham Carter biopic of Enid’s life and by all accounts her relationship with her children was strained at the best of times, quite horrible at others. I can’t even imagine writing 700 books in my lifetime – and on further investigation it seems that she wrote most of them in a 30 year period. She was certainly a woman ahead of her time – imagine if she’d had a computer! Ian bought me the 2014 Famous Five Annual – and I felt like a nine year old again!
The Judith Kerr Exhibition is gorgeous with loads of original artwork and photographs and the most beautiful little kitchen containing a giant tiger – children would just love this place, as so much of it is hands on. Judith is 90 now and according to Carrie and Tim from Booka Bookshop in Oswestry is one of the most charming and funny ladies you’ll ever meet. They had the pleasure a few years ago.
Up in the attic you’ll find the event space with a gorgeous story chair and little nooks and crannies. There’s a whole wall of dress up clothes and I do hope that one day I can have an event here – it’s enchanting and just perfect for storytelling.
Sadly we didn’t have a huge amount of time as we had to get across the country to Oswestry but I know I’ll be back again in 2014. The centre is stunning – I wish there was something like this in Sydney. Maybe one day…