Step right this way
Former children’s laureate Anthony Browne is
inviting families into his world of creativity via a new Kent
exhibition. He told Chris Price that even grown-ups can discover a
flair for drawing at the show.
When Anthony Browne was a boy growing up in Bradford, he used to
stand on the table at his parents’ pub and tell stories to the
punters. He also used to love to draw pictures and would make
stories out of them.
From a young age, he knew he wanted to spend his life drawing or
painting in some way but it took years of working in jobs he didn’t
love before he found his calling – children’s picture books.
Fast forward 30 years from that discovery and the
Canterbury-based artist – who was the sixth children’s laureate
from 2009 to 2011 – has won numerous awards for his works like
Willy the Wimp and Gorilla.
He brings a touring exhibition of his life’s work to his
hometown for three months this weekend, with the hope of making
others realise they can make their creative dreams come true.
“Even grown ups are still creative but its hidden,” said Anthony
at the Beaney, where Through the Magic Mirror, the World of Anthony
Browne will be shown.
“It is not completely lost. There is a game in the exhibition
which my brother and I thought we had invented called the shape
game but it turns out children all over the world have invented
“One of us would draw an abstract shape and the other one would
look at it and try to turn it into something. Children are
brilliant at it and much better than I am because they have that
natural instinctive creativity, which is trying to tell us
“But even parents have this ability. When they play the shape
game with their own children, they say ‘I can’t draw a straight
line’ but they can.
“Once they play the game, they find they have still got it
because they are not trying to make art or impress somebody. They
are just communicating through drawing. Even people who thought
they never had it find they have got it.”
Anthony takes particular pleasure in bringing this exhibition to
the Beaney, a museum he frequented many times before its £14
million restoration and extension. His show opens in the same space
which hosted the opening temporary show by sculptor Henry Moore, a
fellow alumni of Leeds College of Art.
“There is more space and excitement at the Beaney now,” said
Anthony, 66, whose thick, black and grey hair knocks a dozen years
of his age.
“It was always an interesting, curious sort of place but there
seems to be so much more design to it. Some people might have
thought the old Beaney was stuffy – I didn’t – but the new design
Visitors will be greeted with life-size adaptations of Anthony’s
work and can see original illustrations from more than 30 of his
picture book titles, including Into the Forest, Zoo, Little Beauty
and Willy the Champ. The interactive element mimics the way the
author sees his books.
“Interactive is a wide-ranging word. I think my books are
interactive even though they don’t have any tabs to pull or buttons
“The best children’s books are the ones that engage the child,
not just in reading and looking but through thinking as well,
linking the pictures and the words together. That is what is
exciting about picture books.
“The exhibition will do that in a two dimensional sense with my
pictures but also in a three dimensional sense with sculptures and
models and environments based on the books.”
Through the Magic Mirror, the World of Anthony Browne runs
at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge from Friday, November 23
to Sunday, February 24. Admission £4, two children free per paying
adult, additional children £1. Call 01227 378100 or visit
- Click here for more news from across the county...