Did you know that Roald Dahl used to be a spy? And also a fighter pilot, inventor and historian of chocolate? Embark on a magical and interactive journey through The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl and discover the secrets of a writer beloved by gazillions of children.
The boys love Roald Dahl books, and they have often asked if we could go and see something about him … like when we met David Walliams, or visited Rudyard Kipling’s house at Batemans. However the museum of Roald Dahl in Bucks is a bit far from us for a day trip, so I couldn’t offer the boys what they wanted … until now. We’ve just been to The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl on at London’s South Bank Centre. It’s an easy train ride for us, then a short walk from Waterloo, and so I took the boys out of school for a day for the exhibition’s launch.
There seems to be a trend now for a different kind of exhibition – see my review of Shrek’s Adventure, for example. It is all about an interactive experience, where the guide is with you on a magical journey, just the right approach for learning about Roald Dahl. Shrek’s Adventure, also on the South Bank, was great, but obviously this was always going to be different. We started outside read curtains, with a big W illuminated above them. W for Wondercrump? For Wonka? We met our guide, and listened to an introduction broadcast from above our heads.
Then, it was on with the adventure.
The first room showed us some old photos of Great Missenden, Bucks, where Dahl grew up, and some cut outs. I’m not sure what the boys made of this – it was quite a slow start as Dahl’s history was told, some by the guide, some through sounds broadcast through speakers. The room was small, and the fifteen of us on the tour were packed in, so not everyone could see each thing that the guide mentioned. Hang in there, though, because things get more interesting and interactive in each room.
The next room was a school classroom, simulating Dahl’s school days with desks you could open and sounds of a school. We heard about how Dahl was unhappy at school, but still wrote positive letters home. This was the first time that the guide mentioned how Dahl wrote to turn difficult experiences into fun, and that message was repeated again as we went round. The boys enjoyed opening the desks and slotting a missing letter back in where it should be.
Very quickly we moved from the school room to a low lit room with sand and a hanging while sheet – perhaps a parachute. We put on our imaginary goggles and flew over the deserts of North Africa with Dahl. he had been a pilot in the second World War, with just seven hours of training before his first mission. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he crashed, and we moved through to a desert scene with parts of old airplanes, sand, and a magazine article Dahl wrote about the experience. It was amazing how many of his life experiences he wove into later stories, and the guide was great at highlighting this throughout the tour.
You are then guided through an upside down corridor, a library, an attic bedroom, and in each the guide explains about Dahl’s life and the link to his stories. The tour ends up in a story lab, where you can create tunes from a wall of whoopee cushions, make poems using giant magnetic words and dress up as different characters.
Finally, the guide helps you create a secret message. It is a magical experience all through, and great value for the cost of the ticket. What’s more, there are lots and lots of events at the South Bank Centre this half term, many of which are free for children and families so you can easily fill a half term day out.
Visit The Wondercrump Exhibition to learn about Roald Dahl’s extraordinary life and the surprising inspiration for his most famous characters and stories. The tour features unique items from the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre archives. There are interactive installations to spark the imagination – and even test your own powers of creativity. Laugh until your belly hurts and squirm your way through curious spaces as you step inside this Wondercrump World. Recommended for ages 7 – 12. Exhibition content is unsuitable for younger children. This is a guided, group experience and there must be a minimum of 1 adult for every 3 children.
The exhibition runs from 10 February – 3 July and then travels on to the Wales Millennium Centre. Roald Dahl’s birthday is 13th September so watch out for special events around then – or hold your own!
Midweek term-time: entry at 11am, 12noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm.
Weekend and holiday: entry at 10am – 6pm.
£11 – Adult (*supporter ticket)
£10 – Adult (standard ticket)
£9 – Child (*supporter ticket)
£8 – Child (standard ticket)