Fantastic feast of fairy tales at museum’s new storybook spectacular

Leeds, Leeds Star

Fairy tale fans will come face to face with the big bad wolf at a new exhibition exploring the remarkable history of the world’s best-loved storybooks.

The imposing timber wolf is among a huge selection of objects going on display at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum this weekend illustrating the origins of popular children’s tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin and Peter Pan.

The exhibition, which opens this Saturday, January 21, also features historic objects like a Sleeping Beauty-style spinning wheel from the 1800s, a crocodile, like the one which preyed on Captain Hook, and a beautiful miniature replica of a carriage much like Cinderella’s.

The exhibits will be displayed alongside images from the museum’s fabulous collection of children’s book illustrations as well as a selection of historic toys and games.

And visitors can also find out about more exotic stories from around the world featuring mythical creatures like dragons and phoenixes.

Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history has been putting the exhibition together.

She said: “Fairy tales have given generations of young people and adults the chance to immerse themselves in a faraway land of genies, witches and boys who can fly, with these wonderful stories growing in popularity as they’ve been adapted and updated over many centuries

“But as incredible as these tales are, they often centre around humble, everyday objects and places such as a forest, a lamp, a spinning wheel or a pumpkin. This exhibition will explore how people through the ages wove these stories around those unremarkable objects as a way of escaping from the struggles and hardships of their real lives.

“That link between the everyday and the astonishing is one of the main reasons that fairy tales have remained so popular, relatable and loved by people from so many different backgrounds over so many years.”

Fairy Tales and Fantasy also looks at the different ways advertisers have used the power of fairy tales to sell their products as well as delving into the flamboyant world of pantomimes and fancy dress.

Included in the exhibition is an amazing album of photos from January 12, 1891, captured during an extravagant fancy dress ball hosted by the then Mayor and Mayoress of Leeds Mr and Mrs Alf Cooke as they celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “Fairy tales have stood the test of time in a truly unique way and have been just as captivating for children living in the age of TV and smart phones as they were for those living hundreds of years ago.

“This exciting exhibition is a wonderful way of highlighting how interesting the history of these beloved stories is as well as firing the imaginations of our visitors and making these stories even more accessible to a new generation.”

Fairy Tales and Fantasy runs from Jan 21 until December 31 and also includes a series of adult talks on subjects including dragons and panto.

For more details including admission and how to book, please visit: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Fairy-Tales.aspx