Exhibition for War Horse author 22 July 2017 – 25 February 2018
The life and exceptional writing power of one of Britain’s best-loved storytellers, Michael Morpurgo, will be celebrated in a new, free exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood this summer. Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories will look at Morpurgo’s life and writing process as well as the lives he has created for some of his remarkable characters. The Museum is delighted to announce that Joey, the original life-size West End horse puppet from the National Theatre’s award-winning stage adaptation of War Horse, will be on display at the exhibition.
This unique exhibition will showcase the notebooks and manuscripts that have become the classics we know today, including War Horse (1982, Egmont), Private Peaceful (2003, Harper Collins), Kensuke’s Kingdom (1999, Egmont) and The Butterfly Lion (1996, Harper Collins). The exhibition is devised by Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Michael Morpurgo said: ‘I value greatly this exhibition around my writing life, because it gives young people insights into the making of stories they may know and love, and gives them an understanding of how one writer tells his tales, which may well encourage them to feel that this storytelling is for them too, that we can all find our writing voice. It is an enabling exhibition, and enlightening for me too, opening old dusty memories. I had forgotten so much!’
Rhian Harris, V&A Museum of Childhood director, said: “Michael’s writing has captivated the imaginations of millions of children and we are delighted to have an exhibition that will bring some of his most inspiring worlds to life.”
The exhibition will display draft manuscripts, photographs, notebooks and correspondence that chronicle Michael’s creative process and writing career. Artwork loaned by some of Britain’s greatest illustrators, including Sir Quentin Blake, Patrick Benson and Michael Foreman, will also be on display. The exhibition will show material relating to adaptations, in particular War Horse, first published in 1982 by Egmont. The stage show had its premier at the National Theatre in 2007 and almost 5 years later Steven Spielberg made it into a blockbusting film. The stage production has been enjoyed by over seven million people worldwide and will be on tour in the UK from September 2017; Joey was donated to the V&A by Handspring Puppet Company in 2013.
A handwritten draft of War Horse will be on display, showing how the story evolved from first draft to publication of the book, to adaptation for the National Theatre and Steven Spielberg film scripts. Props from stage and film including a goose puppet, on loan from the National Theatre, and a World War I painting that inspired War Horse, by war artist F. W. Reed will also be on show.
The exhibition will include an atmospheric soundscape to introduce the various and familiar themes in Michael’s storytelling – war, the countryside and farming, the Scilly Isles and friendship. A replica of Michael’s creative caravan will be reconstructed, so that visitors can imagine, daydream and pen story ideas inspired by Michael’s beloved Devon. Morpurgo writes by hand, and vast amounts of orange school notebooks will reveal themselves as an important repository for Michael’s first ideas and drafts.
Michael’s writing style is inspired by fact and real events: “Before you find a voice for a story, you have to find a voice as a writer. Before you find a voice as a writer there is something even more important – you have to find something to write about.”
“It’s no good trying to write about what you don’t care about. You only find out what you care about when you discover what really motivates you to write. The more time you spend in “dream time” living in your head where the story is, imagining how the people involved would feel – then you can lose yourself utterly in the story. That’s what I try to do.”
Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s greatest living authors for children. His work spans 40 years and a career that has seen the publication of over 150 books for children, traversing wide-ranging topics that explore historical events, natural history and the environment, adventure and family life. Morpurgo is a true champion of children and young people’s culture, creativity and their right to read and enjoy stories. He was instrumental in setting up the Children’s Laureateship in 1997, and his services to children’s literature were recognised in 2006 when he was awarded an OBE. In 2015 he donated his entire archive to Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.
V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. Open daily: 10.00 – 17.45, last admission 17.30.