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A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Exhibitions with the under 5’s

If you visited Cartwright Hall between June and November, you can’t have failed to notice the presence of the ‘A Squash and A Squeeze’, a temporary exhibition incorporating illustration and literacy.


We waved goodbye to the Gruffalo last week, but Sonja Kielty, our  Exhibitions Curator has written this latest blog,  giving an insight into how the exhibition came to Cartwright Hall.

 Planning & Installation

‘Where are our under 5’s?’ we asked ourselves, a few years ago  ‘How do we get them to visit an arts exhibition?’

Everybody under 10 years old knows The Gruffalo, don’t they?  Seven Stories, in Newcastle had all the information we needed in one glorious, musical, enthralling exhibition: all the artworks and illustrators working with Julia Donaldson and her well loved books.

A good 2 years of curators meeting from various parts of the country developed a touring show that suited each venue – Newcastle; Birmingham; Kent and some, like Bradford  had their own museum collections.

We brought out some of our Natural History collection to bring the stories to life – a fox, an owl, a little mouse , and a delicious array of tinned paint arrived for walls representing each of Julia’s magical books. Banana, Kiwi, Regatta Blue and more.

Bright colours in the Gallery!

There were many graphics from the exhibition that had grown and duplicated as the exhibition had toured to Birmingham and Kent, so many of these were given to local schools and libraries who were of course, overjoyed with these!

 Special exhibition opening

 Over 200 guests joined us for the official launch of the exhibition featuring staff from Seven Stories, which took place on a Sunday afternoon in the summer so families could enjoy the park after the exhibition.  It featured staff from Seven Stories , who spoke about our partnership and how pleased they were about the exhibition being in Bradford.


julia-and animals
Julia in the ‘Squash and a squeeze’ area of the exhibition

 Apart from seeing the original works of art –  the actual illustrations by all Julia’s illustrators – there were many things to do in the exhibition.

There was a large wooden house with a cuddly pig, chicken and cow inside – it really was a squash and a squeeze!  There was also films, sign language, puppets, colouring in, crayons, cushions, flaps to lift, an abacus to count on, mirrors, a theatre to play in, a jukebox, the list goes on …  And with dressing up available too, there were mini Gruffalos, owls, cats, mice, foxes, frogs, fairies and more were crawling, running and jumping around the gallery!

There was something for all ages. and of course, many books to sit and read.

 Gruffalo – in the building!

Sonja with the Gruffalo


Sonja with the Gruffalo.

Photos with the Gruffalo

Photo opp
Posing for pictures

Within the exhibition, designated photography points provided fantastic family fun opportunities.

Visitors could take their own photographs with the Gruffalo and many visitors were able to post to facebook or tweet pictures of themselves cuddling the Gruffalo at Cartwright Hall

The photo points have another purposes –  by keeping photography to just certain locations, the original illustrations within the show could be protected from camera flash light, which can damage them.

Libraries/Story telling

 Bradford Libraries were very excited too about Julia’s books, illustrators and characters coming to Bradford.

They offered story telling sessions of Julia’s books in Manningham and City Libraries and in Cartwright Hall. They used their wonderful ‘story sacks’ to animate their stories which our little guests loved.

Bradford librarians could also be seen in City Park.  There was a screening of the Gruffalo on a Wednesday morning during the summer holidays, as the Big Screen in town featured as screening of ‘The Gruffalo’, which Libraries also attended.

Dinosaurs, Trolls  & Dunderheads 

 The nearby Ilkley Literature Festival runs in October every year and so we planned for Julia Donaldson and her works to be on over this period.  To coordinate with both the Literature festival and ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’,  We curated a solo exhibition of David Roberts’ illustrations for the Manor House Art Gallery and Museum in Ilkley,  in liaison with the Festival. MacMillan Publishers had sent us a large cut out graphic of David’s famous character Dirty Bertie and gave us colouring sheets for little ones in the galler

David opened his show alongside the opening weekend of the Festival giving a demonstration of how he draws his much loved characters  to a fully booked audience of over 40 children, teenagers, parents and grandparents. Everyone had to draw with him – it was such good fun, followed up with squash to drink, with crisps and chocolates!

David Roberts
David Roberts at the opening of Dinosaurs, Trolls and Dunderheads

David stayed for the afternoon so people could get their favourite books signed.

Like Squash and a Squeeze, there are books to read and costumes to dress up in. Dinosaurs, Trolls and Dunderheads will be running until Sunday 23rd of November –  try and catch it before it goes.

Schools & Families

We had over 30 Schools, nurseries and child minding groups visit to the exhibition some of whom had never visited Cartwright Hall Art Gallery before.

Approximately 25 000 visitors explored, played and read in ‘A Squash and a Squash’.  The majority were families, with children ages under 5 years old –  we planned the exhibition to cover the end of the school year, summer holidays and the autumn term.

Our Learning Team are now going to create a small Julia Donaldson corner in the Learning Room following on from the success of the many schools and families who clearly use Julia’s books as part of the curriculum and at home.

Linked events for both schools and families included film screenings in the galleries at Cartwright Hall and in City Park organised by City of Film. All were well attended and the last screening, ‘The Room on the Broom’ was fully booked for Halloween.

Room on a Broom.  One of the last events linked to the exhibition
Room on a Broom. 

Bradford Libraries held story telling sessions which proved popular, as did the demonstration and  book signing by Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo.  There were over 500 guests with books to be signed!

Axel Schleffer's demonstration
Axel Schleffer’s demonstration

What a busy, active, hot and noisy summer we have had!

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May Half-term with Bradford District Museums & Galleries

Looking for something to do  over half term? 
Have a look at our families events – follow the links for more information

28th May Dreams and Songs to sing
Cartwright Hall
Meet author Richard O’Neill for traditional stories and handicrafts

29th May –
Put yourself in the picture
Bradford Industrial Museum
Visit our “Bairds TV” display, help to make an old fashioned TV and become a news presenter or star in an advert!

30th MayLocal Myths and Legends
Bolling Hall
Listen to traditional stories and design a mythical creature.
Details here

1st June Within Nature
Cliffe Castle
Meet the artists & take part in associated family activities.