Arts Derbyshire


John Burningham’s Bedtime Stories: Celebrating 60 Years of Award-Winning Children’s Literature

Journey from first sketches to award-winning books in John Burningham’s Bedtime Stories showing at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire, from 7 October 2023 until 7 January 2024.

From featherless geese to flying cars, this Christmas exhibition promises to transport visitors into the magical world of Burningham’s imagination. John Burningham’s stories have captivated generations of readers. So whether visitors are reconnecting with childhood favourites or discovering Burningham’s work for the first time, they are sure to enjoy this exhibition.

Original sketchbooks, models, and photographs will reveal John Burningham’s creative life. The nine award-winning books in the exhibition include: Borka, The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers, Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present, and Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – illustrated by John Burningham.
• In Burningham’s first book (pub.1963), we meet the featherless Borka, a goose different to all the other birds because unlike her family, she needs a woolly jumper to keep her warm. Borka’s flightless adventure is a story about being different and finding belonging – even in unconventional places.
• Following the success of Borka, Burningham illustrated Ian Fleming’s 1964 children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – creating the iconic design of Chitty, which was replicated on film four years later. The original illustration – with Chitty flying over a French vista – will be on display alongside Burningham’s original model of the car.

In the Christmas classic Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present, Burningham’s rich illustrations show Father Christmas’ convoluted journey to deliver one final undelivered present. In his epic voyage far, far away up Roly Poly Mountain, Father Christmas uses some unexpected means of transport including a plane, Jeep, motorbike, skis, and a hot air balloon.
With a career spanning 60 years, John Burningham’s wild and wonderful stories pioneered a change in books for children. The 1960s marked the start of a new creative era in picture books with artists and illustrators experimenting with new developments in colour printing and more daring themes and ideas.
“John was a true original, a picture-book pioneer and an endlessly inventive creator of stories that could be by turns hilarious and comforting, shocking and playful. He never spoke down to children, always treating them with the utmost respect.” (Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s).
Lisa Gee, Director of the Harley Foundation said “John Burningham’s illustrations are incredibly sophisticated works of art, using so many different techniques and styles. His stories are touching and tender, as well as being very funny and rather complicated in their intent. They’re the kind of storybooks I love reading to children.”
– John Burningham’s Bedtime Stories is showing 7 October 2023 – 7 January 2024 at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire.
– The exhibition and a large, free car park are free to enter. The gallery is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Closed Mondays.
– The Harley Foundation is on the Welbeck estate, on the A60 south of Worksop. It is 15 minutes from both the A1 and M1.
– This exhibition has been curated by Selina Skipwith with the support of the John Burningham Estate and Archive.

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