Where better to hold a literature festival than the home of William Shakespeare, -upon-Avon? I was there last weekend with my seven-year-old, sampling some of the literary delights on offer. The highlight of the festival had to be Birmingham Stage Company’s brilliantly batty piece of educational theatre, Barmy Britain, the (more or less) complete history of our great land.
Young and old alike were treated to grisly details of the bubonic plague, (some of the more bonkers cures included strapping a shaved chicken’s bottom to the afflicted person’s neck), the dastardly deeds of body snatchers, Burke and Hare, and the sensational story of heinous highwayman, Dick Turpin. Big bad Boudicca, King John, and the six-fingered Anne Boleyn were also some of my favourites. The show was a perfect mixture of history lesson, musical theatre and fart jokes, and performed so energetically that I was worn out just watching it.
What a wonderfully exciting way to cultivate a love of history in children! I still remember my school history lessons with my teacher sitting at the front of the class saying, “Read pages ten to seventeen in your text books and write them out in your own words.” It’s a wonder I managed to pass my history GCSE at all, let alone go on to write historical novels! History is full of gritty, nasty, thought-provoking stories, and the Horrible Histories team does a great job of bringing them to life.
Those of you who missed it can catch Barmy Britain in London’s West End this August.