Creature Comforts

A new exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion features rarely seen artwork from Ladybird books of the 50s, 60s and 70s, providing visitors with an instant nostalgia trip, coupled with a glimpse of a very different way of life.

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Shopping with Mother by Harry Wingfield (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1958. Reproduced by permission of Ladybird Books Ltd

Ladybird books formed an intrinsic part of many people's childhoods. Flicking through their pages instantly takes us back to a much simpler society, albeit one which it could be argued, only really existed on the pages of the diminutive books and in the minds of youngsters who read them. 

A new exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion features over 200 rarely seen original artworks from the extensive Ladybird archive, currently held at the University of Reading. 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Ladybird books, although the format we know and love today was introduced (for economic reasons) shortly after the Second World War. The fifty-six page hardback book was printed using just a single sheet of  paper, giving the books a very affordable pre-decimalisation cover price of half a crown. 

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The Story of Furniture by Robert Ayton (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1971. Reproduced by permission of Ladybird Books Ltd

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Exploring Space by B. Knight (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1964. Reproduced by permission of Ladybird Books Ltd

Published by Wills & Hepworth, Ladybird books helped many people learn to read. They were present at school and at home, with educational books on a myriad of subjects from art, science, history and culture, to well-loved fairytales and nursery rhymes. Despite being relatively cheaply produced, Ladybird commissioned some of the top illustrators at the time including Charles Tunnicliffe, Harry Wingfield, Martin Aitchison, Eric Winter, Robert Lumley, John Berry and Robert Ayton. Kathie Layfield and AJ MacGregor are two of the few women illustrators commissioned.

Books such as the iconic Shopping With Mother, with its quaint haberdashery shops and gentleman shopkeepers in white coats, give us a rose-tinted glimpse of a way of life which has long gone (and was fast disappearing even when the books were published). Nonetheless, Ladybird by Design is sure to be hugely popular, giving visitors to the exhibition a temporary respite from the stresses and strains of the modern world and taking them back to their respective happy places for a little while.

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Tricks and Magic by Robert Ayton (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1969. Reproduced by permission of Ladybird Books Ltd

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Things to Make by G. Robinson (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1963. Reproduced by permission of Ladybird Books Ltd

Ladybird by Design
24 Jan-10 May 2015
De La Warr Pavilion
Bexhill on Sea
www.dlwp.com


Ladybird by Design
by Lawrence Zeegen
published by Penguin, March 2015