The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl begins at the Southbank Centre today, kicking off a year of celebrations for Roald Dahl 100.
This interactive exhibition takes visitors on a magical journey through seven different immersive worlds that explore Roald Dahl’s life and the world of his iconic books, and features exclusive archival material from The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, children's author Laura Dockrill, who scripted the part of a mischievous virtual narrator voiced by the actor Peter Serafinowicz, described it as something that "has not been created to throw factual information down your throats", but tries to "capture a feeling and set it free into a room, just like a bottled dream".
"I just want to say that in all the many meetings we’ve had about The Wondercrump world of Dahl, the obstacles and deadlines…ALL everybody has done is smile the entire time. We walked around the construction site last month and all of the builders were literally whistling while they worked. It has been a special project like no other and I can’t help but feel that it’s the Dahl effect, the nature of his nostalgic touch that casts some kind of dreamy happy spell over us all.
"I know I am not alone when I say that I am a crazed, sycophantic- verging on stalker- fan of Roald Dahl’s work. Roald Dahl, for me, has been there from the very beginning. He taught me how to read, he gave me independence and freedom in the palm of my hands, his books would flood around my head, enveloping me away to some new- slightly twisted- magical land, stuffed with weird and wonky characters and warped worlds. His books were a friend across the classroom- an aeroplane ride out of Brixton to somewhere fantastic.
"I owe him. Big time.
"It was Roald Dahl’s writing that influenced me to be a writer for my real life actual job. When I was young I never used to say ‘when I grow up I want to be a Spice Girl or a football player or a movie star.’ I just wanted to be like him. (And I’m lucky I found his work because before that I wanted to be a Granddad.)
"Dahl never patronized his readers, if you read his adult work it is mostly written with the same engaging and loveable voice, the untrustworthy naughty narratives and glimpse into the dark, the grotty, the funny and gross. His books taught me how to stretch my imagination, that it was ok to make stuff up, that it didn’t matter if you weren’t confident with language- you could just invent a new language altogether! That is was IMPORTANT to be curious. That it was IMPORTANT to be different, IMPORTANT to be YOURSELF and BRAVE about it too. Mainly…he did actually just teach me that stuff was going to be alright in the end. That the baddies would always get what they deserved and promised us that even the tiniest crumbs of people in a story would always get their moment to shine.
"Roald Dahl is an example of how precious and valued writers are in the world. When I think of all the beautiful art that has grown from seeds of his work, all of the adaptations that have become successful plays, musicals, films…I realise the endless bounds that words can travel and the storm of inspiration and magic that can hurricane onto a planet because of them. And ALL of that came from one person’s brain.
"This exhibition has not been created to throw factual information down your throats, we’ve just tried to capture a feeling and set it free into a room, just like a bottled dream. And if a child walks around this exhibition and doesn’t learn a single fact about Roald Dahl then WHATEVER but if they find something funny or scary or weird or disgusting or unusual or curious and can trace that feeling back to an author. Back to books. Then, I think we’ve done our job.
"This hopscotchy paradise is where words come to life, for squibbling and reading and dreaming.
Every line is a mine into the mind, every spine is almost breathing.
Two hairy twits play trick or trick, a glass eyeball, a wonky leg.
Or watch out for the witchy toes stuffed into heels, and the scratching of wigs on heads.
A magic finger, a giraffe, a newt inside a jar,
A bone-crunching giant, two mean aunts and a sawdust running car,
The crocodile’s teeth, the tortoise back or a rickety bed for four,
All hide inside the world behind… the creak of Roald Dahl’s door..."