Archives for posts with tag: exhibition
Photo ©Simpson and Brown Architects

Photo ©Simpson and Brown Architects

One beautiful sunny Sunday recently I made my first visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in the Ayrshire village of Alloway. As National Poetry Day is fast approaching, it seemed a perfect time to learn more about the life and work of Scotland’s most famous poet.

The Museum is made up of several buildings, including the thatched cottage where Robert Burns was born, a handsome stone monument, a huge exhibition building (whose entrance is shown above) and a Poet’s Path dotted with outdoor sculpture. The map below is given to visitors so they can find their way around:

Burns museum map

We started in the modern green-roofed building which holds the main exhibition about Robert Burns and his very eventful and productive life. The building was designed by Simpson and Brown Architects and is made of locally-sourced natural materials (Douglas fir timber and a dry stone wall at the entrance). The space inside is light and airy, with a shop, education room and cafe:

Photo ©Simpson and Brown Architects

Photo ©Simpson and Brown Architects

The exhibition itself is in a huge open-plan area kept very dark in order to preserve the original artefacts (as ink on paper fades very quickly in natural light). There are many hand-penned poems and letters, furniture, clothing and even pistols owned by Robert Burns. (He needed to be armed when he worked as a tax collector!)

Photo ©Conservation By Design

Photo ©Conservation By Design

The exhibition is full of information about the poet who was born in 1759 in a tiny farmhouse in Alloway. Although he only lived to be 37 years old, he wrote hundreds of poems and song lyrics and fathered 13 children! He also worked as a farmer, a collector of folk music and an Excise officer (collecting taxes for the government). He is best known for writing in the Scots language, and his poems are full of great character and richness because of this.

My favourite Burns poem is “To a Mouse” which he wrote after disturbing a little mouse’s nest with his plough. (If you click on that link above you can read the poem and hear it performed by actor Brian Cox.) In honour of the “wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie” of that poem, a giant bronze mouse sculpture stands at the entrance to the Poet’s Path:

Burns mouse

It stands over two metres high and looks quite confident, so visitors look more like the cowering beasties in comparison! Another animal sculpture stands at the end of the path; it is a fox representing liberty cast in iron by Hargreaves Foundry based on a model by Kenny Hunter:

Burns fox

At the end of the path we arrive at the 18th-century cottage where Robert Burns and his brother Gilbert and two sisters Agnes and Anabella were born. The cottage is a long, low building which housed not only the Burnes family (the original spelling of their surname). Also under the same roof was a byre where the cows, horse and chickens were kept!

Burns cottage

Robert’s mother sold milk from the family cows, and grew vegetables like kale, carrots, onions and potatoes in the garden. The family of six lived in two small rooms, and the house was heated by one hearth in the kitchen:

Burns hearth

Opposite the fire was the box bed where all four children were born. Their names and birth dates are embroidered on little white nightdresses suspended over the bed:

Burns bed

Snippets of Burns poems are painted on the cottage walls and these give a flavour of his work and the language he spoke with his family:

Burns inspiration

Some of the words are quite surprising, and often they are very expressive:

Burns words

Wandering around this impressive collection of buildings in Alloway gives a real sense of Robert Burns the poet and the man. This National Trust for Scotland site is a great place to discover Scotland’s most famous poet.

Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery


Recently my daughter Anna was invited to the grand opening of Jacqueline Wilson’s exhibition, Daydreams and Diaries at Seven Stories in Newcastle. We took two trains and a taxi to get there, and were very impressed by the amazing Seven Stories building which is a converted Victorian mill right next to the river.

Inside there are seven levels with a lovely café, a big bookshop, a library, storytelling areas and lots of wonderful displays. This special centre for children’s books has a collection of work from many famous writers and illustrators, and they have lots of great author events all through the year.

This was a very exciting day for us because Anna’s artwork was on display in the exhibition! Naturally I had to take pictures of everything!

There was a lovely tea all set out for us, with elegant cake stands, delicious sandwiches and even sweets in glasses you could just nibble to your heart’s content! Among the drinks on offer was pink milk for the children. I used to love that when I was little, and I must say I was tempted…

The exhibition tells the whole story of Jacqueline Wilson’s life, from her childhood when she wrote her first stories in little notebooks to her huge success as a children’s author today.

This is what you see when you first enter the exhibition. It looks like every book Jacqueline has ever written is covering the floor. We love the illustrations Nick Sharratt does for Jacqueline’s books, so it was great fun to examine every one (and Anna has read them all!) She took this picture, so you can see she wore her special shoes for the occasion.

The wall devoted to Jacqueline’s fans is covered from top to bottom with letters she has received over the years. These come from children all over the world who love her books. They send her drawings, story ideas and sometimes even gifts! Two of these (soft toys her fans have made for her) are in special cases mounted on the wall.

Anna feels really lucky to have several of her hand-drawn cards to Jacqueline on the wall. One is in its own case, and below it in another case is the card Jacqueline wrote back. (If you look closely you can also see the little lemur we made for Jacqueline for her birthday.) We are delighted that Anna’s work will be on display for a whole year, and then it might go on tour!

The exhibition is excellent and really worth a visit. You can see Jacqueline’s toys and favourite books when she was little, look at paintings that she once had on her bedroom wall, learn all about her first job writing for a magazine, and look at all sorts of amazing illustrations by Nick Sharratt.

You can also imagine what it would be like to be Tracy Beaker! Here is one of the rooms in the exhibition, a recreation of Tracy Beaker’s dumping ground where you can watch Tracy on the TV.

Anna might like to be a writer and illustrator one day, and Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt are both huge inspirations for her. We’d like to say many thanks to the Seven Stories team for inviting Anna (and her mum) to such an amazing event!

A while back I went to an art exhibit that I will never forget. I saw the most beautiful garden, full of brightly coloured plants and flowers. It looked like an exotic jungle with long stems and curling tendrils. But when I got closer, I realized they were not plants at all! Everything was made of glass!

I told my friend Elizabeth about what I’d seen, and she knew exactly who the artist was. His name is Dale Chihuly, and he makes all sorts of amazing things out of glass. Elizabeth saw an exhibit of his in the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. She sent me a picture of a beautiful boat full of giant glass marbles. Doesn’t it look fantastic with the desert cactus plants?

If you want to see more of Dale Chihuly’s work, you can visit his website HERE. Maybe you’ll have a chance to see his beautiful glass gardens yourself one day!

I have always loved trolls!  I had a collection of them when I was little, and now my daughter has six of them, each with different coloured hair.  Their faces are so cute, and they look as though they could be quite naughty!

This is a letter G that I painted for a special exhibit at the Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford.  They asked 26 authors and illustrators to decorate every letter of the alphabet!  I chose G because of my book, I Do Not Eat the Colour Green, and because I live in Glasgow which is known as the Dear Green Place.

I used acrylic paints, little paper daisies and real dyed wool for the hair!  I like the way the hair makes my troll look like he is popping his head out of the letter.