Ladybird, Ladybird

5 May 2015

Local project commemorates Loughborough’s links with Ladybird Books

Ladybird Ladybird was an Arts Council England funded project hosted by Charnwood Museum in partnership with Leicestershire County Council. The aim of the project was to develop pilot projects to celebrate the centenary of Ladybird Books in 2015 and to lay the foundations for the first Loughborough Festival of Children’s Illustrated Literature.

Ladybird Ladybird set out to engage with families, children and new and existing audiences through events, activities and the redisplay of the Ladybird gallery at the museum. Partnership work was integral to the success of the project and resulted in a range of activities working with organisations such as Charnwood Children’s Centres, Roundhill Academy, Charnwood Arts and Twenty Twenty. The Ladybird Gallery in the museum was refreshed with the addition of new touchscreens, new text panels and a new area dedicated to sharing stories.

Are you sitting comfortably….?

The very first Ladybird Book, Tiny Tots Travels, was published in Loughborough in 1914.  The company remained in the town until 1999 when, following an earlier takeover by Penguin, book production moved elsewhere. Ladybird Books covered a huge range of subjects from maths to nature to classic fairy tales. One of the most well-known series of books was the Key Words Reading Scheme or ‘Peter and Jane’ books. For many years Ladybird books have helped children to learn to read and the idea of sharing stories and reading books was an important part of the Ladybird Ladybird Project.

Taking reading and sharing stories as inspiration, a project working with Charnwood Children’s Centres, the Charnwood Family Network and Leicestershire County Council Adult Learning was established. The project was designed to create a series of story sacks based on popular Ladybird book titles. The participating parents were asked to choose a Ladybird book and to then create a story sack based on it. Most of the parents had never sewn before so this presented them with a new challenge. With the support of the course tutor the parents produced 8 story sacks, 4 for Charnwood Museum and 4 to be circulated around the Children’s Centres. To complement the story sack course a day of storytelling was held at the museum in January 2015 with Katrice Horsley, the former National Storytelling Laureate. This in turn led to 2 days of storytelling training held by Katrice for library and museum staff and parent volunteers from the Family Network.

The story of Ladybird Books in Loughborough is wide reaching and many people have relatives or know someone who once worked at the factory. Reflecting the personal side of the Ladybird Book story was as important as the story of the development of the company. As part of the gallery redevelopment 2 volunteers undertook the task of gathering a series of oral history testimonies about Ladybird. The speakers ranged from ex staff to collectors and enthusiasts. In total 13 testimonies were collected and they can all be heard in the new gallery display at Charnwood Museum. In addition to this Charnwood Arts have worked with Twenty Twenty, a charity which works with disadvantaged and disengaged young people in Leicestershire, to develop a History Pin tour of Ladybird in Loughborough. Using photography, film making and stop-frame animation, the young people involved in the project have developed a range of material based on Ladybird books.

The redevelopment of the Ladybird Gallery was one of the most important elements of the project and a fitting tribute to the centenary of this iconic brand. The gallery tells the story of Ladybird in Loughborough. Visitors can learn about the history and heritage of the company through text panels, touchscreen interactives and photographs. A sharing stories space has been created with a bespoke bookcase and wooden bench and the talking ‘ladybird’ chair. The shelves are filled with books and toys to help families and children share stories and the joy of reading Ladybird Books. The museum team were even able to mount one of the ladybirds from the front of the Beeches Road factory on to the museum wall!

Alongside these projects the museum hosted lots of activities for children and families. These ranged from the grand ‘Son et Lumiere’ display in Queen’s Park in October 2014, to puppet making and Manga drawing workshops during school holidays. Ladybird Ladybird also supported a ‘Takeover Day’ for Roundhill Academy. As part of the national Kids in Museum initiative, a class from the school were invited into the museum to curate a display case, undertake a mystery shopper exercise and to develop trails and museum quizzes.

A new museum gallery map has also been created by local illustrator Andy Everitt-Stewart, who worked for Ladybird in the 1990s.

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