Major new free family exhibition ‘Julia and Axel – Thirty Years of Favourite Stories’ to open at The Lowry, Salford this month

Julia and Axel – Thirty Years of Favourite Stories, a major new free family exhibition celebrating the much-loved and longstanding partnership between writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler is to open at The Lowry, Salford later this month.

The Lowry, in collaboration with publishers Macmillan Children’s Books and Scholastic, will curate this new exhibition celebrating the acclaimed partnership between Donaldson and Scheffler, who have created some of the world’s best-loved, and best-selling children’s picture books, including The Gruffalo, Zog, Room on the Broom, The Smeds and the Smoos, and most recently, The Baddies.

Julia and Axel: Thirty Years of Favourite Stories opens on Saturday 22nd July 2023 and runs until Monday 1st January 2024.

This free family-friendly exhibition will feature several of Julia Donaldson’s personal writing notebooks; containing the very first ideas and creative thinking behind her picture book stories. This will be the first time that they have been shown as a collection, giving visitors a chance to see how her work has developed and changed over the years. These will be shown alongside Axel Scheffler’s original artwork, showing the process of his illustrations from sketches and works in progress, to full page final illustrations that readers are familiar with seeing in the finished books.


Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book © Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler 2005 – Macmillan Children’s Books

The exhibition will also look at Julia and Axel’s own personal stories and their brilliantly creative partnership and how this has developed over 30 years. The exhibition explores their stories through three key themes:

  • ‘Highways’, brings together stories where Julia and Axel’s characters embark on new exciting journeys – from ‘the deep dark wood’ with The Gruffalo and across the sea, so wild and free’ with The Snail and the Whale to blasting into space with The Smeds and the Smoos.
  • The second theme celebrates ‘Heroes’ – from the super-long and super-strong Superworm, to the little girl in The Baddies, who shows us that you don’t have to be big to be brave, and George, the smartest – and kindest – giant in town.
  • Lastly, ‘Home’ focuses on stories with families and friendships at their heart; from Stick Man, reunited with his ‘Stick Lady Love and stick children three’, to the Tales of Acorn Wood, home to many animal friends.

A Squash and a Squeeze © Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler 1999 – Macmillan Children’s Books

And the Julia and Axel-themed fun will not be confined to the Galleries space, with activities taking place throughout The Lowry.

From selfie ops with a large Gruffalo statue outside The Lowry’s main entrance to earning a gold star at the Zog Academy in the Pier Eight lounge, and story sessions at The Highway Rat Storytelling Camp, and interactive role play at The Gruffalo Play Kitchen, there’s loads happening at The Lowry for families for the duration of the exhibition.

Julia and Axel: Thirty Years of Favourite Stories will also feature extracts from Magic Light Pictures’ hugely popular animated Christmas specials for the BBC, as well as songs, photographs, and a specially created ‘storybook room’, inspired by Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book, will provide opportunities for friends and families to come together to read and enjoy Julia and Axel’s stories.

Throughout the exhibition there will be lots of fun opportunities for children to be creative themselves as they are guided to write their own stories, draw pictures, dress up, and play fun games inspired by the books.

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