A Warm Glow from 26 Children’s Winters

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Situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile the Museum of Childhood is a great place to visit and is FREE!

As if Book Week Scotland wasn’t providing enough literary excitement in one week, I also went along to the official launch of the 26 Children’s Winters exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, appropriately on the 26th of November.

I recently joined 26, which is a diverse group of people who share a love of words and I was lucky to be chosen as one of 26 writers to respond to Museum objects in the form of sestudes (62 words). The sestudes are now displayed alongside the objects to explore the memories and emotions that the objects evoke.

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Mingling with fellow 26ers – Sara McQueen and Carol McKay.

 

If you can’t make it along to the exhibition, there’s a virtual online advent calendar revealing a new object and sestude each day in the countdown to Christmas. You can also read what the 26 writers thought about the winter objects they were given for this project here.

The Museum of Childhood is working with the charity It’s Good 2 Give in the development of this project, hosting a workshop for the children and families supported by the charity. It’s easy to understand why I’m delighted to be involved and it was a real thrill so see my words on display with my object.

 

Here’s my response to the sledge that inspired my sestude.

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Not quite all 26 of us but brilliant to meet with some of the other writers who were able to attend the launch.

I was chuffed to bits to be assigned a beautiful antique wooden sledge. I love scouring salvage yards and charity shops for vintage bric a brac and my collection has everything from a carpet beater to a chamber pot. But my interest in items with a past isn’t because I grew up surrounded by antiques. 

My childhood home was modern and fashionable with the latest geometric wallpaper, macramé house plant holders and a smoked glass coffee table. This era of mass-produced merchandise meant that childhood toys were predominantly plastic; I took pride in my Sindy doll’s outfits,  lusted after my best pal’s Space Hopper and spent hours clicking together two acrylic balls called Clackers. 

The sledge bore no resemblance to anything I’d ever played on and that’s what inspired my 62 words. I doubted that many children would remember owning a sledge as ornate and skilfully crafted. Most folk wouldn’t have memories like a scene from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’; they would remember using a cheap substitute for a fancy sledge.  The ‘voice’ of my sestude uses urban Scots to shine a mirror on a childhood winter, which more accurately reflects the experience of many rather than a few.

My sestude for 26 Children’s Winters.

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A Sledge for Snobs

Only posh folk in the aulden days hud a fancy yin like that. Roond oor bit maist weans used a bin bag or tea tray but ah took the lid aff ma maw’s twin tub washing machine tae sledge.  It didnae look as braw as that wooden yin but it worked jist as guid and it couldnae half wheech doon the brae.

CVTTIX7WcAEQAbZClick here to watch a clip from STV news on the exhibition featuring some of the writers.

You can also buy a book featuring all 26 sestudes for £5 in aid of charity – it would make a great stocking filler!

 

What’re your favourite childhood memories of winter?

 

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26 Children’s Winters by 26 Writers

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Me outside 26, Skene St, Bonnybridge, my home for the first 23 years of my life.

The number 26 is special to me. It was the house number of my childhood home so the address is hardwired in my brain. 26 is now special for an entirely different reason but still related to childhood.

A while back, I saw an advert for a project called 26 Writers and the number alone hooked me. That set me off to learn more from the ‘about’ section on the 26 website…

26 is a diverse group of people who share a love of words, and believe their potential is hugely underestimated. Individuals, businesses, charities and government bodies all have compelling stories to tell – and we hope to show them how experienced and imaginative writers can find new and credible ways to engage their audiences. But we also want to open hearts and minds to the wonderful diversity of writing, to savour and enjoy words in all their many guises… and to have some fun. We chose the name 26 because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – the DNA of language.

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A room full of dolls at the museum – cute or creepy?

I decided that this was something I’d love to be involved with and immediately sent off my application. And waited… As you can imagine, I was chuffed to bits to find out that I was chosen to be one of the 26 writers to write a piece for their latest project – 26 Children’s Winters exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. The museum is a treasure trove of children’s objects and curators have selected 26 of them, which capture the spirit of winter.

The 26 written pieces will all be ‘sestudes’- 62 words long, 26 in reflection – and will be online in December and available to view at the museum from October through till March 2016. The exhibition will be raising money for It’s Good 2 Give, in case you needed another reason to come along.

Each writer has been given an a brief description of an object to write about and mine is…

A ‘Firefly’ Sledge

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Getting up close and personal with my object.

sledgeTraditionally a sledge would have been used as a practical mode of transport in many cultures for centuries, and evidence of one has even been found in a Viking ship burial. Children know sledging as a fun activity and the promise of snow in the Winter brings much excitement and searching at the back of cupboards. Today most sledges are plastic and simple constructions. This sledge was made in the USA, but bought in Glasgow in 1909 and used by the same family until recent times.

As I’ve never been to the museum, it seemed like a great excuse to make a visit and ‘meet’ my object.  I went along with one of the other 26 Writers, Sara McQueen, and together we explored the collection. I also got a bit more information about my object from Lynn, one of the museum’s curators who told me that the sledge was originally owned by the children of a well-known doctor who lived in Gourock.

Now all I have to do is write 62 words…

Have you ever been inspired to write about an object you’ve seen at a museum? Would you find the word limit of the sestude easy or difficult to work with?