Posted by: georginaferry | July 12, 2010

Oh frabjous day!

The Mad Hatter introduces the Curious Company's performance

Oxford is full of fiercely independent fiefdoms, and on the rare occasions that several of them get together for a common purpose the result can be spectacular. Alice’s Day, an annual event that took place last Saturday, is a great example.

It’s a city-wide celebration of the world of Lewis Carroll, the shy Christ Church mathematics don who published his story about Alice’s adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Inaugurated in 2007 as part of Oxfordshire’s millennium celebration, it’s now an annual event coordinated by the Story Museum. The Museum of Natural History has always been an enthusiastic participant, among the many museums, colleges, libraries, shops and galleries where Alice-themed happenings take place.

Alice (right) joins the audience

Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) was a frequent visitor to the Museum in its early days with his young friend Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. Many of the animals in the natural history collections found their way into the story, with our iconic dodo featuring as an alter ego for Dodgson himself. He  even mention the museum in one of his poems:

Museum! Loveliest building of the plain
Where Cherwell winds towards the distant main;
How often have I loitered o’er your green,
Where humble happiness endeared the scene!

March Hare, Dormouse and Hatter framed by Ghost Forest tree roots

There was lots of happiness endearing the scene on Saturday as the Curious Company performed for a huge crowd of families on the (sadly parched) lawn, with the Ghost Forest as a suitably fantastic backdrop. Inside, a programme of talks catered for a more mature audience. The enduring appeal of Carroll’s stories is a happy match for the enduring appeal of the Museum, both dating from the same decade in the mid-19th century.

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