Magic of childhood conjured up by Norwich exhibition

Magic Worlds: Fantasy, Illusion and Enchantmen at Norwich Castle Museum

Magic Worlds: Fantasy, Illusion and Enchantmen at Norwich Castle Museum - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2013

From Harry Potter's broomstick to magic lanterns, Alice in Wonderland's tea party to a witch's lair, the new exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum is sure to enchant every visitor. STACIA BRIGGS took a trip into Fairyland.

Walk though the wardrobe to Narnia, crawl through the oven in the gingerbread house to escape the ravenous witch, huddle over the cauldron to cast your own spells and immerse yourself in the magic of childhood at a wonderful new exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum.

Magic Worlds: Fantasy, Illusion and Enchantment is a spellbinding V&A Museum of Childhood touring exhibition which will transports visitors to the fantastical world of fairytales, illusion and the creatures and characters which have filled dreams – and nightmares – for centuries.

Two galleries have been transformed into a magical fairyland split into three themes: fantasy, illusion and enchantment. Designed for both children and adults, there's the chance to wander into Narnia, visit fairytale houses, slip into an array of costumes and even create a little magic of your own.

With an enchanting soundtrack which includes fairytales, an introduction to the exhibition and the sounds of a forest, it's impossible not to feel as if you've stumbled into a fairytale.

Norwich curator Heather Guthrie explained that the exhibition – which opens tomorrow - would give the young, and young at heart, a chance to escape into a magical world where nothing is quite as it seems.

'Magical worlds appeal to all ages – everyone remembers their favourite fairytales and the worlds created by JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling which have been made into films have made magic even more accessible to a wider audience,' she said.

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'The first gallery is filled with rooms to explore – fitting them into the space has been like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle but the effect is absolutely wonderful.

'You can literally walk into the gingerbread house where Hansel and Gretel fooled the witch, sweep the floor with a broom and escape through the oven door when you hear her say 'I'm coming to eat you!' or you can have tea at Alice's tea party, put on a fur coat to visit Narnia or try on a wizard's cape and hat.

'It's a very different exhibition to those we've put on before – something memorable and very special.'

Stephen Nicholls, exhibitions manager at V&A Museum of Childhood, said: 'We are delighted to bring Magic Worlds to Norwich. This evocative subject matter has already captured the imaginations of adults and children in London and Sheffield, attracting over 300,000 visitors. We are sure that it will do well at Norwich Castle. Whatever inspires you — from witches to wizards, fairies to pixies, magicians to dragons — Magic Worlds has them all.'

Characters from fiction from Frodo Baggins to Snow White feature in the exhibition as well as films, photography, beautiful story books and ceramics, toys and games, film props and merchandise.

A wealth of childhood favourites will to steer a fascinating journey through magical worlds past and present for all to enjoy.

In addition to an enchanting array of magical artefacts from the V&A collection, Norfolk's own Magical Worlds' Collections are also on display including fascinating objects from the toy gallery at Stranger's Hall.

A wax fairy doll ornately dressed in lace, farm animals, puppets, dolls' houses, Noah's arks and even a Jabberwocky can be admired.

To tie-in with the exhibition the Castle Museum is also hosting an extensive programme of events and activities — from creative writing workshops to magic lantern shows, roving magicians, literary lectures and much more — aimed at all ages.

On display visitors will also get to see fairy costumes, magic tricks, paintings, ceramics, beautifully illustrated books and posters, games, optical toys and dramatic puppets.

Rachel Kirk, Norwich museums manager, said: 'We're really excited to have the Magical Worlds. The show creates a really dreamlike atmosphere which we hope everyone will enjoy.

'Many of us can get easily bogged down with the tasks of everyday life and this will hopefully provide a real sense of escapism for visitors. There will be lots of amazing things to see packed into an 11 week period which includes the February half-term and Easter holidays. We hope this will encourage people to come along and make the most of all of the wonderful events which will be on offer.'

Among the events will be a special reading by Norfolk children's author and Bewilderwood creator Tom Blofeld. 'I love this exhibition, it's an incredible use of space and it gives you a real feeling of exploration,' he said. 'I love that it tries to immerse you in each world and I like the way that little spaces have been included for children so they can become the white rabbit escaping through holes made for little people.

'Children see the world very clearly in certain areas, particularly when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. Magic in one's life is essential and should be taken seriously because it will return you to a place where you can make better decisions and see the joy in life.'

t Magic Worlds runs at Norwich Castle Museum until April 14. Special exhibition only admission £3.50 (£3 cons), £2.60 children, under-4s free, 01603 495897,


Enchanting Storytelling

Norwich Castle Museum, February 2, 11am/2pm/3pm, normal museum admission prices, 01603 493625

Readings by two brilliant Norfolk children's authors; Tom Blofeld (11am/3pm), creator of the Bewilderwood books and Sheridan Winn (2pm) of the Sprite Sisters series. There's a chance to join in with craft activities too.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Norwich Castle Museum, February 9, normal museum admission prices, 01603 493625

Meet Alice, the Mad Hatter and the March hare as they prepare for their unbirthday celebration. Help set the table, check out some fabulous teapots and design your own to take home with you. Plus gather round as the Mad Hatter tells tales of Alice and the Jabberwocky.

Lewis Carroll and Alice, Games and Magic

Lecture Theatre, Norwich Castle Museum, February 9, 2pm-3pm, normal museum admission prices, 01603 493625

Talk by Dr Thomas Karshan, lecturer in literature UEA, related to the exhibition and its literary links including to Alice in Wonderland.

Tea, Cake and Conversation

Norwich Castle Museum, February 13, 2pm-3.30pm, £5, pre-book on 01603 493625

A discussion and celebration of children's literature with Dr BJ Epstein, writer and children's literature specialist at UEA. Take along your favourite editions.

Magic On The Move

Norwich Castle Museum, February 18/20, 11am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm, normal admission prices, 01603 493625

Roving magic in the exhibition with local magicians Martin and Joe. Can you guess the secrets behind some of the tricks featured in Magic Worlds?

Magic Lantern Shows

Norwich Castle Museum, February 19/22, 11am/12pm/2pm/3pm, normal admission prices, 01603 493625

These ingenious early projectors have been around since the 17th century and still delight today. Listen to fascinating stories and see beautifully coloured and animated pictures projected in our darkened lecture theatre.

A Magic World for Norfolk

Norwich Castle Museum, February 18-22, 11am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm, normal admission prices, 01603 493625

Help us create our own mystical and fantastical world. Throughout the week we'll be constructing a large 3D artwork with artist Emma Jarvis.