As the founders of the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, John and Gill McLay announce the star-studded line-up for this autumn’s programme they warm us up with a summer holiday treat at the Victoria Art Gallery
Who doesn’t love a dragon? Perhaps you imagine them as fearful winged creatures swooping down breathing fire, to be adored as cute waddling characters, or admired as an inspiring myth?
John and Gill McLay, founders of the annual Bath Children’s Literature Festival, know a lot about dragons and about children’s fascination with them. They’re both in book publishing, are parents and John is the author of the popular The Dragon’s Dentist book for younger readers. While putting together the biggest ever line-up of writers, illustrators and events for the 2017 children’s book festival, the Bath-based pair have also made time to curate Here Be Dragons, an exhibition for the publicly owned Victoria Art Gallery.
The exhibition, which opens on Saturday 22 July with an all-day public Lego build-a-dragon workshop to How To Train Your Dragon illustrator Cressida Cowell’s design, will show 2D and 3D depictions of dragons to entertain and entrance visitors of all ages. There’ll be artwork from such luminaries as Quentin Blake, Goth Girl illustrator Chris Ridell and Axel Scheffler, creator of The Gruffalo, with more than 70 pieces of dragonalia brought together in the gallery’s exhibition hall.
There will be a story corner where adults and children can browse through their favourite dragon tales and the gallery shop will have dragon books. There’ll also be a depiction of the Bath skyline over which children will be able to add their own pictures of dragons, filling the sky with flying monsters of all shapes and sizes.
And the mythical beasts won’t be confined within the walls of the gallery. There’s to be a dragons’ egg trail around the city. Obviously, actual dragons’ eggs are as rare as hens’ teeth these days, so organisers are instead hiding eight virtual eggs around the city streets and setting up a free app from 22 July (from iTunes or Google) so people can hunt for them. Follow the compass in the app to find eight posters around Bath, each featuring the work of a children’s illustrator. Point your device at the poster and a virtual egg will appear and be added to your collection. On each egg is a gold letter. Find them all and complete the anagram. You could be in with a chance of winning a goodie bag of signed books, toys and other treats.
Gill McLay said: “In everything we do, we try to bring together art, story and entertainment and the exhibition will do just that. A true celebration of the illustrator, we hope this family-focused exhibition will bring families together in their love of dragons and the world of imagination.”
Events throughout the summer begin with the Lego workshop from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday 22 July, followed by dragon mask making on Wednesday 27 July for under sevens, with more events planned for August. There will also be story telling sessions.
Here be Dragons runs from Saturday 22 July until Sunday 8 October at Victoria Art Gallery, Bridge Street, Bath BA2 4AT. The gallery is open daily, 10.30am to 5pm. Admission to the exhibition is £4,or £3.50 for over 65s, but free to under 21s and anyone owning a Discovery Card (free to residents of Bath and North East Somerset). To find out more visit: victoriagal.org.uk.