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Other Worlds: The Story Museum
Just a few houses down Pembroke Street from Modern Art Oxford stands a huge, dilapidated building, not much in keeping with the surrounding architecture. It’s been empty for a long time, and served for many years as a Post Office sorting depot. Now it’s going to be a “story museum”. I went to see the first show there, and one of the directors, Kim Pickin, explained the concept.
“This first show is really a preview. We’ve raised enough money to secure a 35-year lease on the building, but as you can see it’s in a very bad state inside. We have to raise another £6m to refurbish the whole place, and we hope to be open full time by 2014. The idea is to have a place where we can celebrate and demonstrate the power of stories to inspire learning, especially for young people.
“This show is the result of collaboration between business people and the artistic community. The works on show have all been inspired by their response to the building itself, and by the idea of a cathedral of stories.”
You enter the courtyard, which will one day house an open air café, through an archway peopled by huge ‘story angel’ murals by Anita Klein (pictured), with a voice welcoming you to the world of storytelling. Then you venture into the dank corridors of the enormous building, which, surprisingly consists of many very small rooms. Among the works I most enjoyed were the 31 miniature theatres created by Year Seven boys and girls from The Dragon School.
These are based on stories they’ve enjoyed, like Harry Potter, Poirot, The Snowman and the Book of Spells. Further on, you come to the National Audio Sneeze Laboratory. It’s full of test-tubes, strange calculations on a blackboard, and diagrams. “Every sneeze contains a story”, claims the spoof professor on the TV monitor. There are about 40 exhibits altogether, full of humour, and sometimes insight, and one can only look forward to the time when the refurbished building can follow its mission as a permanent museum. The show is open until May 27. For times go to www.storymuseum.co.uk/ otherworlds.