Cressida Cowell is currently the Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2019 – 2021).   She is the author and illustrator of bestselling The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series.

Once There was Magic is based on Cressida Cowell’s book The Wizards of Once. Large sections of the action take place in the Wildwoods – a gnarly, natural space that always reads as a kind darkness that only Wizards can see in.

Visitors are met at the door by a wizard and in this magical one hour tour, they journey through the wild woods, where a series of escape room style pods offer a glimpse into the magical worlds of Cressida Cowell, J.K Rowling, Phillip Pullman and more.  Visitors will encounter live guides, special effects, iconic artwork and fiendish challenges inside each of the 5 pods that will put their teamwork to the test.  The use of pods allows visitors to remain in their covid secure ‘bubbles’ at all times and surfaces can be easily cleaned between visitors. The exhibition has been a resounding success, with reviews of 8/10 or higher.

The design of this exhibition is a direct response to Covid, we wanted to devise an experience that could be wrapped into a package tour partners can sell in slots and make Covid safe, each timed slot is approximately one hour and each bubble of 2-6 people must include an adult.  The experience will require facilitation by two staff members, one at the door and one part way through the setup. We hope that this will be a truly Covid safe touring exhibition.  Our designers have responded to the Government reopening roadmap in their design , looking at every step of Covid restrictions being reduced or tightened again and making sure that the design and experience offered can adapt into a perfect fit for a tightly controlled situation.

Key Audiences: Public audiences – families with children age 7+, Schools audiences (bubbles of 7-9 children) – KS2, KS3

If you are interested in hiring this exhibition, it will be available from Summer 2022.  The exhibition is currently booked with the following venues:

Available Slot: June - September 2022

Preston Park Museum and Grounds, Stockton: September - December 2022

Peterborough City Museum and Art Gallery: September - December 2023

The Story Museum, Oxford: Feb - May 2023

Rheged, Cumbria:  July - September 2023


The exhibition is still in developement, if you would like updates on the project, please contact Touring Co-ordinator, Sarah McGlynn by emailing