When we discovered that there is an annual Roald Dahl Day celebration held every year on 13th September – to celebrate the legacy of one of the most popular children’s authors of our time – Hove Library staff decided to organise our very own Roald Dahl Day event for Saturday 10th September 2011.
To mark this special occasion, we decided to invite British actress Julie Dawn Cole as guest of honour for the day. Julie famously played the role of the spoilt rich girl Veruca Salt in the classic 1971 film “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Julie was thrilled to come for the day, and also brought along many copies of her recently published book of memoirs entitled “I Want It Now”, which people attending the events could look at and buy autographed copies if they wished.
The events and activities throughout the day took place inside Hove Children’s Library, where we had a huge display of the written and audio works of Roald Dahl for everyone to look at and borrow from the library. We had the CD soundtrack from the “Willy Wonka” film playing, which everyone enjoyed. Staff members organised arts & craft activities throughout the morning, where children enjoyed making their own kaleidoscope lollipops, Oompa Loompa models, Veruca Salt faces and also peach collages to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic book “James & The Giant Peach”.
Approximately 60 people of all ages took their seats in the children’s library at the time Julie Dawn Cole arrived to thunderous applause and cheering, to answer questions and share her memories about the making of the film. Children and adults alike loved this, as Julie told many funny stories and secrets from behind the scenes of “Willy Wonka”. The children particularly enjoyed this, and were very excited. They asked terrific questions (“Was the chocolate river REALLY chocolate?”; “Do you still have your Everlasting Gobstopper?” and “Where did you Veruca Salt go when she fell down the garbage shoot?” were some of the funniest!) It was interesting for the children to learn that while Julie was making this film in Germany back in 1970 when she was 12, about to turn 13, the only communication she had with her family back in England was by letters and post-cards – some of the children were amazed to find out that e-mail, Facebook and mobile phones had not been available 40 years ago!
Julie also read a couple of chapters from Roald Dahl’s book “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” to the audience, which was very enjoyable. Many of the children wanted her to read the whole book! We were able to provide library copies of the book for them to borrow and take home with them.
Later in the day, Julie signed books and photos – and she decided that all autographed photos for children would be free, as she was enjoying herself so much and was taking such delight in how happy and excited the children were for her to be there. The adults also had a wonderful time, many of them were children themselves when they had first seen the film and shared with Julie how they felt they had grown up with her themselves. Hove Library staff had wonderful feedback from people who attended, saying how interesting and fun it had been, and that it showed their children about how exciting events at their local library can be, and they looked forward to similar events happening in the future!
Barnaby – Library Assistant, Hove Library