Fairies and fantasy exhibition set for Newcastle's Great North Museum

An exhibition exploring fantasy, fairies and magic is to be staged by Newcastle's Great North Museum

Great North Museum Exhibitions Curator Lindsey Bruce with the Fijian Mermaid
Great North Museum Exhibitions Curator Lindsey Bruce with the Fijian Mermaid

The fascination over the centuries with fairies, fantasy, magic, witches and wizards will be the focus of an exhibition set to leave the North East spellbound.

The Great North Museum in Newcastle has secured the Magic Worlds exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood in London from March 22 – June 22 next year.

It will delve into the world of witches, wizards, fairies, elves, dragons, fantasy creatures, magicians and illusionists.

The line runs from ancient beliefs and legends to fairy stories, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

The Great North Museum is talking to Newcastle University’s Centre for Children’s Literature on contributing to the exhibition.

“There is the subject of fairy stories which are really morality tales helping children to understand how to behave, and issues such as how belief changes in childhood as when do youngsters stop believing in Santa Claus,” said Great North Museum manager Dr Sarah Glynn.

“Fairy and fantasy stories like Alice still have a nostalgic pull for adults. Most people can name their favourite fairy tale.

“There seems to be something deep in the human psyche that leads us to create other worlds.”

Tyne Wear Archives and Museums will be searching its collections for objects to expand the exhibition,

One of its items is a fantasy animal of the type brought back by sailors and travellers in the 18th and 19th Centuries which were constructed from the parts of various creatures.

Another object from the collections likely to feature is a Chinese robe which tells a dragon story.

The fairy story theme is also present in collection of Royal Doulton tiles which were installed in 1906 on the children’s wards of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

The tiles depict characters like Red Riding Hood and the fairy sending Cinderella to the ball.

They have been restored and are now on show in the Great North Children’s Hospital at the RVI.

On display will be costumes, tricks, paintings, ceramics, illustrated books and posters, games, optical toys and dramatic puppets.

Among the objects on show will be Sooty and his wand, and the bullet catching plate used by magician Chung Ling Soo (1861-1918).

The event will also feature the Cottingley fairy photograpghs.

Beginning in 1917, two English girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths made a series of five photographs that purported to show them with real fairies.

The controversy over whether the pictures were genuine or fakes continued for decades.

The author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed they were real and used two with an essay he wrote for the Strand magazine in November 1920, which sold out.

The exhibition will look at three different aspects of magic that permeate childhood and beyond - fantasy, illusion and enchantment.

For hundreds of years, magic and fantasy worlds have featured heavily in literature, particularly in children’s books and stories. Fairy and folk tales from the traditional oral tradition were collected and written down by writers such as Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.

There are three major types of magical worlds in literature - those that run alongside the real world such as the ones written about by J K Rowling, those into which ordinary children are thrust, such as Narnia and Never Never Land and those that are purely fantasy, for example JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Illusion will look at magic and its practitioners and optical tricks while

Enchantment examines the impact of fairies and other fantastical creatures on both the artistic and the ordinary world. Magic Worlds will be accompanied by a programme of events.

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