Sheffield - Magic Worlds at Weston Park's May Fare

Magic Worlds is an interesting exhibition at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, 28th April 2012 - 6th January 2013.
     The information stated: 'For hundreds of years, stories of magic and fantasy have captured our imagination. Young and old alike have delighted in being transported to the fairy tale realms of Narnia, Never Never Land, Middle Earth. Magic Worlds is a brand new family-friendly exhibition created by the V&A Museum of Childhood. Designed around the themes of fantasy, illusion and enchantment, Magic Worlds will feature a huge range of costumes, tricks, vintage toys, paintings, ceramics, illustrations, posters, puppets, and games.

Mark Richards sent me a letter ( 21st April 2012 ) saying that he had been contacted by LCS member Franziska Kohlt who was looking for other members to help her with an Alice-based activity she was organising at the Weston Park May Fayre. I was able to make contact with her through a friends e-mail address and we were able to meet together to discuss the event at my friend Jackie’s flat on Saturday 12th May. She was very enthusiastic about her project and we both agreed to get involved. A further meeting was arranged with Frans friend Richard, the owner of the Rhyme & Reason book shop which specialises in children’s books. The three of us discussed many ideas. I put myself forward to play Lewis Carroll once again.
     The Weston Park May Fayre on Sunday 20th May started at 11am, it was not greatly advertised and was quiet in the morning but by the early afternoon had gathered a reasonable crowd. It included music in the newly restored bandstand, a carousel, classic and vintage cars, a model steam train that carried passengers, ferrets, Star Wars characters, Pudsey Bear, and Victorian characters. Our Alice in Wonderland 150 year anniversary gazebo was situated beside the Victorians. Richards’s book stall was selling a variety of Alice books and children’s classics.
     Our main activity was 'Humpty Dumpty's Poetry Writing Competition'. The examples of nonsense verse to help inspire on the leaflet included Hipporhinastricow from Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Millingan, Edward Lear's The Quangle Wangles Hat, and a limerick by Matt Black. It suggested the poem ought to tell of a new Fabulous Creature. The box did seem to contain several entries on the day, and more have come into the shop, the closing date was 6th July 2012.

Fran had coaxed four friends to come dressed as Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Jackie came dressed as a goth Alice in a blue checked dress, stripy top and stripy stockings, and with a blue Alice band in her hair. She had dressed her Bichon Frise puppy Sparky as the White Rabbit in an Elizabethan collar and a white tunic covered in red hearts, he did steal the show.
     At 12.30, once a small group of spectators were encourage to form, I presented myself as Lewis Carroll with a little talk which included all the various anniversaries this year; i.e. 180 years since Charles Dodgson's birth, the 200th of Edward Lears birth, the 160th of Alice Liddell's birth, the 150th since Lewis Carroll first told Alice's adventures, and the 140th since the publication of Through the Looking Glass.

The poems I recited included 'I have a fairy by my side', the limericks 'There was once a young man of Oporta', and 'His sister, named Lucy O' Finner', 'All in the golden afternoon', 'You are old, Father William', and 'Jabberwocky'. I performed at 1.30 and 2.30 but the groups consisted mainly of young children and so I read an abridged version of Alice in Wonderland. The children were encouraged to pose for photographs with myself, Jackie, Sparky, and the Wonderland characters, and copies would be available at the Rhyme and Reason bookshop.
     In the afternoon the Victorian ladies and gentlemen invited me and Jackie to play a game of croquet, with the hoops set up in front in front of our tents. I had never played before and was not aware of the rules or just how difficult it was to hit the ball straight between the hoops.

This did turn out to be a very enjoyable day and I am very grateful to Fran for including me in it.

Stephen Martin