A is for All the classics: Previous Discover exhibitions have included The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Adventures of Mog; A World inside a Book: The Gruffalo, Dragons and other Creatures; and – my personal favourite – The Fantastic World of Dr Seuss. This year Stratford’s children’s story centre has gone fanatical for fairytales, with a new immersive story world populated by everybody’s folk favourites. Access to the exhibition is, as always, via pre-bookable 45-minute slots, with under-eights and their adults invited to explore, inhabit and generally ransack this magical make-believe town following a debriefing from one of Discover’s resident storytellers. Highlights include Anansi the Spider’s newsroom, where you can film your own news report; The Over Door Cafe, where you can whip up a fantastical feast; The Castle Club disco, complete with its own banging soundtrack; and Grandma’s caravan, but I recommend checking her eyes and ears and mouth look human-sized before going in there…
B is for Three Bears B&B: This is where the story begins, with a chat with the Three Bears B&B housekeeper, and Fairy Tale Land’s resident gossip… ok so I have no idea what his name was and I find when one of your kids is under two this part of the experience is generally spent attempting to stop them from poking other kids in the eye/screaming for snacks/breaking down the door leading to the bit where they can be free, so as an adult you’re never reeeeally listening. That said, this guy was good, and even though I generally find this bit kind of stressful – what with being locked in a small room with two dozen other kids who are all being denied snacks – it is a nice bit of scene-setting for something that might otherwise feel a bit random to little kids – and some of the fairytale references are, I thought, pretty subtle to be fair.
C is for Can you find…?: One of the best bits about this exhibition, other than the beautiful Once Upon A Time Square you see pictured, is the rather excellent David Lichfield-illustrated activity sheet. Older children (or younger ones with the help of an adult) will love tracking down the six members of the escaped Gingerbread Gang around town, finding the scattered golden coins and returning them to the treasure chest in the Cave of Wonders, giving themselves a new name using Rumpelstiltskin’s name generator, and creating their own fairytale joke. The only real shame is they’re unlikely to have time to do absolutely everything within the controversial 45-minute time slot, and we all know time flies when you’re having fun.
Tickets: We attended the preview so we were very kindly let in for free (thanks Discover!), but tickets usually cost £8.50 per adult/child, £4 for one year olds and free for under-ones, with further discounts for families and Newham residents. Tickets also include entry to the whole of Discover.
Verdict: Not as stylish or original as the Dr Seuss exhibition (and yes I know that was in 2016 and I really need to let it go) but there’s certainly no shortage of things to do here, and some of the sets are incredible. 4/5
Until January 2021
Disclaimer: this was a gifted experience but my reviews are always completely (sometimes painfully) honest.
Roro throws coins into the wish fountain in Once Upon A Time Square inside the Fairy Tales exhibition, Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford.