In 1916, 100 years ago, Britain’s much-loved children’s writer Roald Dahl was born. As such, this year is jam-packed with phizz-whizzing celebrations of his life and work to mark the centenary. As the title character reminds us in Matilda: “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.”
Throughout the summer Cheshire’s Tatton Park hosts Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures. Outdoor theatre, themed character trails through the garden and mansion and birthday picnics are just a few of the treats the park offers fans, with events themed around Dahl’s beloved books such as Danny the Champion of the World in the Gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm and Matilda in the Mansion.
In London, the House of Illustration commemorates Dahl’s creative relationship with illustrator Quentin Blake with the exhibition The BFG in Pictures, which runs until 2 October and showcases illustrations from the novel, as well as some of Blake’s original drawings, which were never used.
Blake’s work will also be celebrated at the National Museum Cardiff. From 16 July to 20 November, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories will give visitors the chance to see illustrations from across Blake’s canon, including those in The Twits and Danny Champion of the World.
Back in the capital, Roald Dahl 100 Afternoon Tea runs until 30 September offering a traditional afternoon tea at the Shard, with quirky, imaginative twists – such as The Witches chocolate mice, Mr Twit’s bird pie and food served on bespoke crockery with Quentin Blake’s illustrations.
Or for more dining with Dahl, try Dinner at the Twits – an interactive theatrical dining experience at the Vaults in Waterloo, in celebration of Roald Dahl 100– from 4 September to 30 October. Mr Twit’s bird pie promises to make another appearance, as well as Mrs Twit’s potent punch and all manner of fabulously foul food from your horrid hosts…
This summer will also bring one of the year’s most anticipated Roald Dahl events. On 22 July, Steven Spielberg’s film The BFG, an adaptation of Dahl’s novel of the same name, will be released in the UK. Already out in the US, the movie stars Mark Rylance as the famous giant, and sees Ruby Barnhill take on the role of Sophie, the resourceful young orphan whom Dahl named after his granddaughter.
The month of September sees Dahl’s birthday, with 13 September celebrated as Roald Dahl Day across the world. In honour of this occasion, schools, libraries, bookshops, and Dahl-loving communities everywhere are encouraged to put on their own parties. Everything you need to host your gloriumptious gathering is available, free, from www.roalddahl.com. On the same day, schoolchildren everywhere are asked to dress up to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, which provides help for children in the UK with serious medical conditions. See the Roald Dahl website for more information.
Finally, on 17 and 18 September , Cardiff will undergo a radical Roald Dahl transformation, becoming the City of the Unexpected. A team of thousands, including farmers, puppeteers, and parkour artists, will bring the city to life, recreating some of Dahl’s most striking spectacles in some of Cardiff’s best-known settings, and retelling some of his most famous stories amidst the city’s streets. This humungous, jumpsquiffling affair will be produced by National Theatre Wales and Wales Millenium, and will be directed by Nigel Jamieson.
For more on Roald Dahl and Britain’s best-loved children’s authors, see the August/September 2016 issue of Discover Britain, which is on sale now.
Words: Will Baker