Curiouser and curiouser

Round & About

Susannah Steel explores the veritable Wonderland of adventures awaiting Oxford on Saturday, 7th July for the 2018 celebrations of Alice’s Day.

With the warm weather, sea-blue skies and stretching evenings, Oxfordshire has given us a wonderful precursor to summer. Indeed, many of us may have been inspired to take to the outdoors; perhaps a stroll in Abingdon’s Abbey Gardens or a picnic on the riverbank in Christ Church Meadow.

While we may think nothing more of these activities than of the soft touch of the sun on our skin or the taste of homemade sandwiches, it was just one such sunny Oxford day that led to a seismic shift in children’s literature, a tale which would pave the way for Secret Gardens, Narnia, Middle Earth and many more adventures.

In July 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) took to the waters of the Thames with three of Henry Liddell’s children. After tea on the riverbank, the girls demanded a story and the adventures of Alice (named after Alice Liddell), the white rabbit and the Mad Hatter emerged. More than 150 years later, we are still celebrating the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, now a classic of children’s literature, its characters instantly recognisable thanks to the numerous illustrations and films associated with the tale.

Alice’s Day, this year on Saturday, 7th July, promises another fine celebration of all things Wonderland, with Alice-themed fun planned around the city. Dress up as your favourite character, enjoy scavenger trails, street shows, the mysterious Voyage of La Sibylle, and the acrobats of the Circus Raj, to name but a few of the exciting entertainments that await.

As always, The Story Museum, our southern sanctuary for children’s literature, will take the lead, with activities linked to a ‘journeys & adventures’ theme. The day will also mark the final public opening of the Story Museum’s exhibition spaces before an exciting redevelopment begins. Head along there on 7th July to enjoy the museum, the Alice-inspired illustrations exhibition and the rest of the madness. Children will be given free entry to the museum on the day.

Other venues joining the fun this year include Alice’s Shop, the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Libraries, Blackwell’s Book Shop, Christ Church, Museum of History of Science, Oxford Castle and University of Oxford Botanic Garden. All in a city which still boasts some of the most-loved children’s writers publishing today.

In these uncertain times of politics, polluting plastics and the never-ending pressures of technology advancement, where even children’s fiction is beginning to reflect a negatively realist mirror, it’s comforting to know you can still step through a looking glass or fall down a rabbit hole and enjoy the adventures that await in Wonderland.