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Review: BFG In Pictures at The Beaney in Canterbury

By Angela Cole

Not many of us can claim to have an imagination like Roald Dahl: he dreamt up stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach and The BFG - the subject of an exhibition, The BFG In Pictures, at The Beaney in Canterbury until May.

He made up more than 500 words and character names for his books and excelled himself with the BFG, with his gentle joviality.

The BFG's staple diet is Snozzcumbers - striped warty cucumber-like vegetables with wart-like growths that taste like frogskins and rotten fish to Sophie and cockroaches - and Frobscottle - a fizzy drink which causes noisy flatulence (snigger) because of its bubbles.

The BFG In Pictures
The BFG In Pictures

It was an expansion of a short story from Dahl's 1975 book Danny, the Champion of the World which he dedicated to his late daughter, Olivia, who died of measles encephalitis at seven in 1962. My children have all loved The BFG, from the book and also the animated adaptation from 1987 with David Jason as the voice of the BFG.

Sophie can't sleep in the orphanage and sees a strange sight in the street - a giant man. When he sees her she tries to hide but he picks her up through the window and takes her back to his cave, telling her most giants eat humans, but he doesn't, because he is the Big Friendly Giant. He then takes her to Dream Country to catch dreams and the Queen and a visit to Buckingham Palace figure in the story - but you'd have to read it or see the film to find out more.

Picture: the House of Illustration
Picture: the House of Illustration

What the exhibition at The Beaney in Canterbury sets out to do is show you the illustrations - many on show have been unseen until now - created by Quentin Blake for Dahl's stories, and fire up youngsters' imagination to create artwork and ideas themselves.

As you walk through the museum on the way to the exhibition room, you'll encounter Bagpuss and other creative favourites like The Clangers, which might help get your creative juices flowing.

The exhibition room itself is sparse and looking at the illustrations alone in a quite dark room would not be an activity in itself for little ones.

Quentin Blake's own captions to his pictures are funny and very approachable, so older children and adults will enjoy them. More than 40 of his original artworks are on show and even my hard-to-please 12-year-old was carried along with the Dahl and Blake journey once she saw The BFG having tea with Sophie and the Queen and peeking into Sophie's window. There's also a section where Quentin has a step by step guide to drawing your own BFG.

The BFG In Pictures has plenty of craft activities
The BFG In Pictures has plenty of craft activities

It's the other activities which go alongside which make it worth a visit, though the BFG trail around the museum with a scrumdidilly treat at the end for £1 per person was actually too hard for us!

The activity of creating your own dream she took home and spent some time doing quietly on her own, rather than surrounded by smaller children, and was excited with the result - so definitely value for money. There's also a Share Your Dreams competition to share their dreams for all ages through pictures, poetry or short stories, for the chance to have your work transformed into an original illustration that will go on display in the Beaney.


BFG in Pictures is on until Sunday, May 20 in the Beaney’s Special Exhibitions Room in Canterbury. For details go to canterburymuseums.co.uk.

The museum is closed on Mondays, open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sundays. Entry is free, but there are some small charges, which if you have children with you, you will want to pay: creative activities are £1 per person or £4 for three activities.

The BFG trail around the museum for a scrumdidilly treat costs £1 per person - just pick up a trail sheet from the atrium.

Creating a dream to take home using the museum's materials - you supply the imagination - costs £2.50 per person.

The BFG In Pictures (1495895)
The BFG In Pictures (1495895)

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