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Alice & Oxford
After a fall such as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling downstairs!
The weekend closest to the 4th July is a very special one for literature lovers: on this date in 1862 on a boat trip with a real 10 year old Alice and family, Charles Dodgson (aka of course, Lewis Carroll) began inventing the seemingly ordinary tale of a bored girl sitting by the river bank, ordinary that is, until she spots a white rabbit…with a pocket watch?
Alice’s Day has been running for 5 years and is now an anticipated date in the Oxford calendar, even more so this year as it marks the 150 year anniversary of that legendary trip down the Thames. On Saturday 7th, the Lewis Carroll society have organised a flotilla to re-enact this moment of literary history; Alice and co. will be leaving Christ Church Meadow at 12.30pm or if you miss them there, they will be arriving for a spot of picnicking at Port Meadow at approximately 4.30pm.
Lewis Carroll’s surreal fantasies’ cross-generational appeal is reflected in the events on offer over the weekend; “spadefuls” of tea parties, clubbers croquet, a full pack of “heart-warming” exhibitions to suit all interests and a mad dash to the finish in The Caucus Race to top-hat it all off!
Alice’s Day is organised by The Oxford Story Museum (Rochester House, Pembroke Street), a magical maze of witty and Wonderful rooms that culminates in a room entirely devoted to a Story Loom that (I am reliably informed) when switched on is quite a sight to see! It is hoped these buildings will open fully to the public in 2014, but until then it is home to a host of fascinating exhibitions, a far-ranging outreach programme and, of course, Alice’s Day!
A full list of The Oxford Story's programmed events here
Alice & The Olympicsback to top
At last the Dodo said, 'everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'
While Monday’s Olympic Torch relay maybe the race that is on everyone’s mind at the moment, the day before Merton Field plays host to an entirely different breed of sporting achievement. In typically topsy-turvy fashion, Alice’s Day brings a new perspective on to the Olympics with The Caucus Race – no winner, no losers and plenty of fancy dress. This pro-participation attitude has been given the nod by The Olympics committee and Alice’s Day has in its anniversary year, been made part of Britain’s cultural Olympiad.
Alice For Everyoneback to top
'Take some more tea,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. 'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.' 'You mean you can't take LESS,' said the Hatter: 'it's very easy to take MORE than nothing.'
Just as Charles Dodgson encouraged his first audience to participate in the initial creation of Wonderland’s whimsical wonders, so too 150 years on the emphasis is very much still on participation: Alice’s Day is indeed, whatever you choose to make it. Theatrical troupe, Curious Company, will be roving Cornmarket Street (11.30am – 12.10pm) and The Ashmolean (1 – 1.40pm) and there are plethora of Alice adventure trails to be discovered and followed.
The National Laureate of Storytelling Katrice Horsley is also going to be leading the children’s storytelling workshops at a number of locations (Saturday, 11am – 4pm). Famed for her Pied Piper charm, Kat is sure to have all of her young volunteers bursting with inspiration. There are also of course plenty of other children’s activities on offer – The Botanic Gardens are offering music and circus skills while, if the weather chases you inside, Blackwells have opted for face-painting and balloon modelling.
If you’d like to celebrate Alice’s Day in a more active fashion, The Oxford Story have promised a selection of left-foot-friendly dance workshops throughout the day – enthusiasm rather than ability is the order of the day! We will update with times and instructing youtube videos as and when they become available.
All of these energetic dances need plenty of fuel. Luckily, we’ve all been invited to take tea Alice style at a number of locations across the city – from Blackwell’s to the Ashmolean (many of these do require booking, so it is worth booking your place at the table early). The Ashmolean (1 – 4pm) even asks that we design our own tea party set, but provide the necessary arts and craft equipment!
Alice For The Adultsback to top
How doth the little crocodile
For those who might require something a tad stronger – before perhaps, rather than after the dancing - Malmaison are having a ‘tea party for grown ups’ on Friday 6th, starting at 7pm and ending at 2am and Alice-inspired cocktails throughout the weekend. During the weekend they will also be offering up Alice themed cocktails in the Oxford Castle Quarter as well as there more family-focused Mad Hatter’s tea party from 1pm.
There a number of more introspective musings on Lewis Carroll’s collections in the form of exhibitions and films. The Ultimate Picture Palace is showing Jan Svankmajer's 1989 film Alice (4.30pm, Sunday 8th). While the film has a PG rating, it doesn’t shy away from the weird, wonderful and dark – a perfect film choice for this weekend! Here Hog from the UPP, explain more here.
If interested in how Carroll’s words have been channelled in art, Mark Richards, the Chairman of the Lewis Carroll Society will be attempting to illuminate this in his talk on Thursday 18th July at the 03 gallery (6.15pm) on ‘The Art of Alice’. This talk is in conjunction with The Oxford Story Museum’s exhibition Tea with Alice: a World of Wonderland Illustration (running until September 16th) showing contemporary artists’ responses to Alice’s adventures. The Christ Church Picture Gallery is also showing a selection of Salvador Dali’s drawings of Alice In Wonderland, an interesting fusion of these surreal artists from different fields.
For an interview with Cath from The Oxford Story Museum and more discussion on Carroll’s classics and their links with Oxford, download our podcast here
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