Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands at the British Library has been an exhibition I've been meaning to go to all summer. Finally I went yesterday. The exhibitions explores literature and place over a period of 1,000 years of English literature drawn from a unique collection of works from Chaucer to Rowling. Not only are there hand written manuscripts but also readings accessed via headphones as well as film where modern authors talk about how 'place' draws them into a story.
It was wonderful to see the scribblings of authors and poets - all those neatly written words and some not so neatly written pages with crossings out, additions and side comments. Included here are the writings of William Blake, Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier as well as JRR Tolkein artwork for The Hobbit and some lines to the Beatles song In My Life by John Lennon. Then of course there is the hand written manuscript by JK Rowling of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The exhibitions was split into 'zones' - Rural Dreams, Dark Satanic Mills, Wild Places, Cockney Visions and Waterlands. A whole range of books were on show from the mythical to horror and everything in between.
This took me back to the days when I wrote stories in exercise books. I guess I was in my teens and I had so much time then! I still have the exercise books, a few completed stories and some which never got past the first chapter. Those were also the days when I didn't know much about how to construct a story.....um...possibly still don't!. I just wrote what I liked. Funnily enough most were sci-fi. I guess I watched a lot of Doctor Who and Star Trek! I grew up with original series. But my stories didn't have monsters in them. Anyway, the exhibition re-kindled a flame......okay a spark.....but maybe more nostalgia!
If you can get to London this is an exhibition well worth viewing. It finishes on 25th September so time is short. The British Library shop is great to walk around...so many books but I kept my purchases to a minimum and came home with Selected Poems by Sylvia Plath and a few postcards.