Welcome to a World of Big Friendly Giants: The Roald Dahl Centre Opens

Article excerpt

Byline: By HANNAH JONES Western Mail

A museum and story centre dedicated to the life and work of Welsh author Roald Dahl opens today. Hannah Jones entered the giant chocolate doors to take a look inside IT'S safe to say he would have loved it. For Roald Dahl, that giant dream maker of children's literature, imagination was the cornerstone of his work. So a museum dedicated to his vision, complete with giant chocolate doors and seats that resemble crocodiles, would have fulfilled his vision of a world where even the most ordinary of things can hide the most extraordinary secrets.

The pounds 4m Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre opens its doors today and will house early manuscripts, family letters and amazing facts.

Yes, it's now a matter of historical record that as a boy Dahl was a fervent Cardiff City fan!

The museum is not in the author's native Llandaff. Trustees wanted to open the museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he lived and wrote many of his books.

It promises to serve a dual purpose. Firstly, the museum is an interactive playground where the little people still so enamoured of Dahl will be able to play while learning.

A confectionery gateway serves as the perfect introduction for young visitors, setting a tone which the late author would have wholeheartedly approved.

'Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful,' Dahl once said.

And his, of course, were.

On entry to the Story Centre, each child is given an Ideas Book and is invited to fill it with whatever inspires them throughout their visit.

They can play with photo-fit faces to develop characters (as Dahl did himself) and use wax rubbings to create words in Big Friendly Giant 'Gobblefunk' language.

There are interactive bookcases to discover, hidden in an orchard of vast artworks by Quentin Blake, Dahl's principal illustrator, and workshops for parents on how to become better storytellers, as well as making chocolate.

Secondly, the museum acts as home to an unparalleled documentation of the life and work of the late, great Welsh author who still sells more than one million books a year, some 14 years after his death.

The museum opens with a temporary exhibit of recently discovered family photographs taken in the early 1940s by Dahl himself, while a permanent exhibition includes over 900 letters written between the author and his mother from his school days until her death.

An old coaching inn and yard has been transformed into a series of galleries immersing visitors in Dahl's world and telling the story of his life and work through films and interactive displays.

Liz Whittingham, archivist at the museum, said Dahl had been a very meticulous writer.

'You can see from the archive that we start off with the germ of an idea in the Ideas Book, and then he works through many drafts for his books, working and reworking until he gets it right,' she said.

One of the most interesting exhibits is an exact replica of Dahl's legendary garden shed where he insisted on writing, undisturbed.

The original still stands at nearby Gipsy House, where he lived until his death in 1990.

Museum director Sue Davies said, 'He kept most of the items which form his archive in a hut in the garden. …