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Read, Watch and Listen

Kensuke's Kingdom

A young visitor to Seven Stories explores Michael’s notebooks for Kensuke’s Kingdom (1999), one of over 150 books Michael has written for children. Michael wrote the story after he received a letter from a fan asking him to write a story about a boy stranded on a desert island.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children’s Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

Michael and his illustrators

A Storycatcher engages with visitors in the Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime of Stories gallery. The exhibition has a section dedicated to illustrators of Michael's books, where artwork by Sir Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman and Patrick Benson is on display.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children's Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

Michael Morpurgo

Award-winning children’s author Michael Morpurgo visits the exhibition at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. AHRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership Research Associate Dr Jessica Medhurst has been exploring Michael’s archive and supporting Seven Stories’ curators.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children’s Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

Michael's orange notebooks

Orange school notebooks are an important repository for Michael's first ideas and drafts. On the cover of this Private Peaceful (2003) notebook, Michael notes how many words he's written each day as he develops the story.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children's Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

Original manuscripts

Visitors have the opportunity to view handwritten drafts and typescripts from Listen to the Moon (2014), which tells the story of Lucy, a young girl who is washed up on the Scilly Isles during World War One, unable to speak. The novel explores the power of communication and the threat of silence.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children's Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

War Horse

Michael’s handwritten draft of Chapter 8 of War Horse (1982), on display for the first time in the Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories exhibition. The displays show how the story evolved from first draft to publication of the book, to adaptation for the National Theatre and Steven Spielberg film scripts.

Image: Seven Stories: National Centre for Children’s Books, photography by Rich Kenworthy.

Victoria Donovan, University of St Andrews

Victoria Donovan, based at the University of St Andrews, is a cultural historian of Russia whose research explores local identities, heritage politics, and the cultural memory of the Soviet past in twenty-first century Russia. Her new project explores patriotic identity in Putin’s Russia. She is also working on a project that looks at the connections between mining communities in South Wales and Eastern Ukraine.

Deceit (Jimmy Chisholm) drives off Good Counsel (Gerda Stevenson)

Deceit (Jimmy Chisholm) drives off Good Counsel (Gerda Stevenson), with John Keilty (The composer and director of music) and his troupe behind. ‘Staging and Representing the Scottish Court’ took the play back to its roots – literally, in that it sought to ‘recover’ and restage the 1540 interlude in the same hall for which it was written – and by producing the full five-hour outdoor version so people can see it for the first time since 1554 in all its complex, bewildering grandeur.  Our aim was both to discover what we could about the play’s relationship with its original settings, and what it suggests about Renaissance culture in Scotland, but also to test what it means to Scottish audiences now, when presented whole, rather than cut to reflect modern agendas.

Pauper (David McKay) begs for alms among the audience.

It became increasingly clear through the rehearsals that it is the arrival of Pauper in the play that turns a broadly allegorical play about the redemption of a king into a powerfully realistic play about political and social reform. He enters the arena during an interval, as the other actors are leaving the stage. He comes begging for help him get to St. Andrews, where he hopes the ecclesiastical courts will help him to get back the cows that his vicar has seized from him in death duties. So at first the audience is unsure whether he is part of the play or not, whether his demands are fictional or all too real. And that is clearly the point. Pauper introduces not only a new tone to the drama; he brings a whole new social class and agenda into the purview of the British stage. Here is an uneducated, working man sharing the stage with princes and their advisors, and sharing the same language and register with them. His needs seem concrete and immediate, and he speaks to the king and to God’s avenging archangel without fear or favour, daring to suggest what he would do if he were king, or even pope. No equivalent figure can be found in Shakespeare, nor indeed in British drama as a whole, until the modern era.

Manual marking the UK launch of 'Conovid'

A reworked booklet, focusing on patient FAQs, was circulated in October 1961, anticipating the Family Planning Association’s provision of ‘Conovid’ at select branches, and limited availability (subject to a fee) through the National Health Service. January 1961. Drug Reference Manual No. 85. Searle / 'Conovid'. By kind permission of Pfizer. Courtesy of Julia Larden, and the Wellcome Library, London. Photography by J Borge 2014 CC BY 4.0