Children’s event: storytelling at BMAG

Easter Storytelling event for children of all ages at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

On Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th April, 1-3pm, students from Birmingham City University’s School of English will be telling stories inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Pre-Raphaelite Galleries, as part of the Reading Art project. This is a free event and no booking is required – just drop in and find us.

The students attended a storytelling workshop with professional storyteller Dawn Powell, where they learned a range of skills about telling stories. They then developed their own stories based on the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the gallery. They are new to this but have learned a lot and their stories reflect their own creativity and enthusiasm, and it promises to be an entertaining event! Please come along and see us!


Reading Art free public talks in April

As part of the Reading Art project, five public talks have been scheduled for April. They all take place at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. No need to book – just turn up. Each talk will last up to an hour including time for questions.

Saturday 9th April, 12 noon
‘Fairy, Weaver, Seër’: Incarnations of ‘The Lady of Shalott’ in the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and Their Followers
Maria Cohut, University of Warwick
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ was the source of inspiration for numerous artists throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and beyond, and it was an especial favourite with the Pre-Raphaelites and their followers. William Holman Hunt’s take on the subject is perhaps the most famous, closely followed by John William Waterhouse’s later depictions. The lecture will explore these, as well as some of the less-known Pre-Raphaelite and Neo-Pre-Raphaelite pictorial representations of the Lady of Shalott. Tennyson’s Lady opened the way for newer, more challenging and complex explorations of femininity.
AV Room (Meet in Round Room).

Tuesday 12th April, 12 noon
Pre-Raphaelitism and Poetry: looking back in time
Dr Serena Trowbridge, Birmingham City University
This gallery talk will explore how the Pre-Raphaelites engage with literature and literary history to create a medieval aesthetic which fitted in with their artistic and literary ethos. We will look particularly at reworkings of Dante, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s interest in Arthurian literature, focusing on the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Alexander Munro and Ford Madox Brown, among others.
Meet in Pre-Raphaelite galleries

Saturday 16th April, 12 noon
Performing Aestheticism: Aesthetic Dress as Performance 
Louise Chapman, Birmingham City University
This talk will be considering the changing gender roles of women within the Aesthetic movement, and discussing the manner in which dress within the movement was part of  an Aesthetic ‘lifestyle choice,’ and how dress as an art form was ‘performed’ within these elite artistic circles. Aesthetic dress could be considered as being oppositional, anti-fashion and sub-cultural in its representation within these artistic social circles and within the fashion cycle.
Meet in Pre-Raphaelite galleries

Tuesday 19th April, 12 noon
‘Poetry is painting that speaks’ – Birthing the female gaze
Bethany Rivers, Poet
Bethany Rivers will be reading from her forthcoming collection of ekphrastic poetry, called Off the Wall, (due out later this year from Indigo Dreams Publishing) and describing her process of transposing a visual representation into a verbal representation.  This will include poems written on the iconic female figures of Ophelia, Lizzie Siddal and Persephone (Proserpine), with references to the act of rebellion against the assumed gender of male being assigned to the viewer, and explorations of the various possibilities of a ‘female gaze’.
AV Room (Meet in Round Room)

Tuesday 26th April, 12 noon
Asleep or Hallucinating?
Dr Richard Schofield, Birmingham City University
Richard Schofield will describe the process that a visual artist/illustrator goes through when interpreting the written word and transposing it into a different medium.  He will refer to a recent project in which he responded to the novel Pincher Martin, by William Golding (1956), producing a compact visual ‘equivalent’. This creative journey required a good degree of immersion, that undoubtedly surpasses a literal analysis of the written word.  This is an illustrated talk which will also relate other experiences, references and research which contributed to this process.
AV Room (Meet in Round Room)

Storytelling Workshop


Today we held a storytelling workshop in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries at BMAG. Storyteller Dawn Powell explained to students from BCU School of English how storytelling works, and helped them to develop their own stories around some of the paintings in the collection. As I’ve said before, Pre-Raphaelite paintings are often narrative, not only inspired by literature but with biographical and personal narratives too, and often with layers of symbolism and imagery which inspire further stories. It was this last aspect which came to the fore today: to me, it was a bit strange to hear stories being told which bear no relation to the painting’s stated meaning, but then, these stories are to be told to children, and many of the stories are simply not suitable for children (Medea, for example). And after all, why shouldn’t the paintings be open to interpretation? So the students put their own interpretations on the paintings, making up stories which fitted what they could see, often combining two or more pictures in the gallery. Having become very familiar with the stories of the paintings, including Beata BeatrixThe Last of England and The Proscribed Royalist, I found it really eye-opening to hear students’ creative takes on what these paintings suggested to them, from stories about children who opened a forbidden box, to the journey of a postman. In the Easter holidays the students will be telling stories to children in the galleries, and I can’t wait to hear them.