Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Every now and again the parenting planets align perfectly. And so it was last Sunday, when having seen the weekend weather forecast, we dutifully completed the autumn scavenger hunt homework on a lovely sunny Saturday – and then had a fabulous time dodging the downpour that was Sunday at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
Find out the stories behind the stories...

Both my girls love books and writing. And of course, mummy has a bit of a vested interest in making sure that love continues at the very least as a hobby, if not into something more as they grow older (no pressure girls). And rather co-incidentally they are both being read Dahl stories in class at the moment (Matilda for the Year 3 child, and The Twits for the Year 1 kiddo). Since this award-winning venue had been in the back of my mind for a while, and I knew that heading outdoors would not be much fun, Sunday seemed the perfect time to head over to Great Missenden and explore.
Not sure Roald would have fitted in around here...
For us it was a 40 minute drive, and perhaps we were rather lucky to get a parking spot on the High Street right outside the museum. We arrived a little earlier than the 11am (Sunday) opening time but the very lovely staff were happy to let us in from the cold – and seemed genuinely interested in why we had come along. The same helpful people popped up here and there as we made our way around the museum – pointing out some of the things to see and do. At that point it hadn’t occurred to me that I would blog about the Museum, but I basically felt like we had been mistaken for VIPs (I should probably take off that fake press pass I made myself…).
Making up a boss

The museum’s website suggests that a visit will usually last up to 90 minutes, but I’m not sure why, as we managed 4 hours… As well as some well-illustrated information about Roald’s early life (he was a bit of a handful by all accounts!) and his time in the RAF, there are plenty of things to touch and explore in the two main galleries of the museum (plus they smell of chocolate!). You’ll learn about the inspiration for many of Dahl’s well-loved stories and characters. Quentin Blake illustrations abound!
Hands on

And then you arrive at the Story Centre – where it all gets hands-on crazy! As well as story sacks containing all you need to re-enact favourite tales such as Fantastic Mr Fox, there are interactive video screens and some very imaginative story-prompting ideas. There’s also a mock-up of the writing space Dahl crafted for himself, and you can sit in his chair and see if inspiration strikes!!
The man himself
At the back of the story centre was a well-equipped and brightly-decorated crafts area – modelled on George’s Marvellous Medicine. Kids were literally being dragged out of there kicking and screaming as there was so much to do! And I’m not sure I’d like to be the one to tidy up at the end of the day – let’s just say there were sequins, lots of sequins, and lots of children playing with those sequins. 
Before the kids got there...

The other main highlight of the visit was the regular story-telling that went on in Miss Honey’s Classroom. Our youngest went to listen to the impressively dramatic staff (drama school anyone?) three, yes three, times. Audience participation was also encouraged, if you feel your inner-thespian calling…

We had our lunch in the CafĂ© Twit, while we pondered exactly why the wall illustrations were upside down (you need to know what the monkeys did…) – which offered freshly-made food but was overcrowded because the weather meant the lovely courtyard tables were out of use. And of course we also spent some time in the gift shop, where I did get a bit of Xmas shopping done (and we were all allowed a bar of Wonka chocolate due to good behaviour).
I am the size of a 'complete Wonka' (I looked it up on their chart...)
All in all, I can’t recommend this Museum enough. I think kids do need to be above 5 to really appreciate it (under that age and they actually get in free) – and familiar with the stories too. Dry weather would also mean you can have lunch in the courtyard and go off on one of the nearby trails that take you around the pretty village of Great Missenden and through the stunning Chiltern countryside that Dahl grew up in (including a visit to his graveside where you’ll find the footprints of a certain BFG…).

Have you been to the Museum – and did your family enjoy it? Are you down with Dahl – and if so, which is your favourite title? Let me know in the comment box below – and it would be great if you could recommend other places to dodge the upcoming winter weather!


  1. I must go there! I love so many Dahl books...especially George's Marvellous Medicine and The Twits!

    1. I really missed out on them as a child as I was VERY into Enid Blyton. But now I can see he was a bit of a genius (an eccentric too methinks). I'm also intrigued by tales of his far darker adult literature...