Exclusive Michael Morpurgo exhibition to launch at Seven Stories

PRESS PREVIEW: Friday 1 July 2016 • 2.45pm   

Michael Morpurgo, A Lifetime in Stories is an exclusive exhibition curated by Seven Stories, running from Saturday 2 July 2016 – June 2017.  

Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s best loved story makers and this unique exhibition showcases, for the first time, the notebooks and manuscripts that have become the classics we know today, including War Horse (1982, Egmont), Private Peaceful (2003, Harper Collins), Kensuke's Kingdom (1999, Egmont)  and The Butterfly Lion (1996, Harper Collins). 

Kate Edwards, Seven Stories’ Chief Executive said: “Michael is one of the most influential authors of our time who has done more than most to harness the power of storytelling to touch the hearts and minds of young readers.  It’s a privilege to be custodian of his archive and we are excited to be sharing its treasures through this exhibition.”

On display in the characteristically playful Seven Stories exhibition are draft manuscripts, photographs, notebooks and correspondence that chronicle Michael’s creative process and writing career. A replica of Michael’s creative caravan is reconstructed, so that visitors can imagine, daydream and pen story ideas, inspired by Michael’s beloved Devon. Surreally, vast amounts of orange school notebooks reveal themselves as an important repository for Michael’s first ideas and drafts.  

The exhibition includes an atmospheric soundscape to introduce the various and familiar themes in Michael’s story telling - war, the countryside and farming, the Scilly Isles and friendship. As well as manuscripts for Michael’s novels, his archive also contains material relating to adaptations, in particular War Horse, first published in 1982 by Egmont. It had its premier at the National Theatre in 2007 and almost 10 years later it has been made into a blockbusting film by Steven Spielberg. The stage production has been enjoyed by over 6 million people worldwide.

A handwritten draft of War Horse will be on display for the first time, showing how the story evolved from first draft to publication of the book, to adaptation for the National Theatre and Steven Spielberg film scripts. Props from stage and film including a goose puppet, on loan from the National Theatre, a maquette of the Joey puppet and a World War I painting that inspired War Horse, by war artist F. W. Reed are also on show. 

Michael’s writing style is inspired by fact and real events, “Before you find a voice for a story, you have to find a voice as a writer. Before you find a voice as a writer there is something even more important – you have to find something to write about.  
“It’s no good trying to write about what you don’t care about.  You only find out what you care about when you discover what really motivates you to write. The more time you spend in “dream time“ living in your head where the story is, imagining how the people involved would feel  - then you can lose yourself utterly in the story.  That’s what I try to do.”

Taking inspiration from Michael’s day dreaming, Seven Stories has developed an exclusive new ‘The Dreamer’ show, which will lay with the idea of dream and reality and will encourage young visitors to pen their own stories. The performance will take place daily during the summer holidays. 

Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s greatest living authors for children.  His work spans 40 years and a career that has seen the publication of over 150 books for children, traversing wide-ranging topics that explore historical events, natural history and the environment, adventure and family life. Morpurgo is a true champion of children and young people’s culture, creativity and their right to read and enjoy stories. He was instrumental in setting up the Children’s Laureateship in 1997, and his services to children’s literature were recognised in 2006 when he was awarded an OBE. In 2015 he donated his entire archive to Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.

“I have known Seven Stories for a number of years and admired the way that it has worked quietly and diligently to fill an obvious gap in our culture by founding a National children’s literature archive and by using it to make amazing exhibitions” says Michael Morpurgo, explaining his reason for the donation. “We have a huge admiration for what everyone has done at Seven Stories – this is significant and it matters in the world of the arts.  That’s an extraordinary thing to have created. It made sense to us that it should be the home for my stuff”.

Additional exhibition highlights include: 

  • a replica ship wrecked boat, featured in Wreck of the Zanzibar (1995, Egmont).
  • A multi-sensory sculpture of Billy the Kid (2002, Harper Collins).
  • A playful under 5 area inspired by Mudpuddle Farm Series (Harper Collins) and It’s a Dog’s Life (2004, Egmont) with dress up and props. 
  • Artwork loaned from some of Britain’s greatest illustrators, including Sir Quentin Blake, Patrick Benson and Michael Foreman. 
  • Original material showing handwritten drafts of Private Peaceful (2003 Harper Collins), Why the Whales Came (2011, Egmont) and Kensuke’s Kingdom (1999, Egmont).  
  • References and CVs from Morpurgo’s time working as a teacher, plus documents from his time as an army cadet at Sandhurst.

Michael Morpurgo, A Lifetime of Stories will run at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books from Saturday 2 July 2016 – June 2017, and will then tour Nationally. A digital exhibition will be available via www.sevenstories.org.uk from Monday 5 September 2016. Michael’s digitised archive will also be available to view via www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection from 1 July 2016.  

The exhibition is being supported through a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Seven Stories and Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics. The KTP is believed to be the first of its kind between a university English department and an external organisation, and is being funded by InnovateUK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).


Media Contacts
Michael Morpurgo will be at Seven Stories on Friday 1 July for photo opportunities and interviews. 
Please liaise with Kathryn Row and/or Nicky Potter to arrange.

Nicky Potter, National PR
E: nicpot@dircon.co.uk T: 0208 889 9735
Kathryn Row, Marketing and Programming Manager, Seven Stories
E: Kathryn.row@sevenstories.org.uk  T: 0300 330 1095 ext 209.