We round-up some of the best ways to celebrate Lewis Carroll’s classic book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in its 150th anniversary year.
Visit the city of Oxford
Where better to begin your foray into the origins of the Alice in Wonderland story than in the city where it all began – Oxford. It was here that Lewis Carroll spent much of his life teaching maths at Christ Church College, and where he met the ‘real Alice’, Alice Liddell, daughter of the college’s dean.
Besides touring Christ Church College, you can pop into Alice’s Shop, where Alice Liddell used to buy sweets, and take one of the guided tours. At the Museum of Oxford you can view some of Alice’s personal items, alongside first edition books and original illustrations. Each year, on 4 July, Oxford turns into Wonderland for a day to mark the anniversary of the day Lewis Carroll first told his story of Alice on a boat ride on the Thames in 1862 (it wasn’t published for another few years). This year’s Alice Day will include a Mad Hatter’s tea party, exhibitions, storytelling, theatre, walks and talks. Additionally, the Bodleian Library will be running a small exhibition from July to September dedicated to Lewis Carroll’s most famous work.
Follow Alice down the rabbit hole in this piece of incredible immersive theatre.
A new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic story, with music by Damon Albarn, book and lyrics by Moira Buffini, and directed by National Theatre Director Rufus Norris, wonder.land will premiere at the Manchester International Festival until 12 July, after which it will play in repertoire at the National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre from November 2015 until April 2016.
Have a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party
The Mews of Mayfair will be hosting its Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party until 31 August, complete with ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’ signs, in its opulent private dining room.
Get the Alice look
Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s much loved tale, the V&A Museum of Childhood will host a special exhibition, The Alice Look, until 1 November.
The enchanting exhibition will bring together photographs, rare editions, garments and illustrations that show how Alice became a cultural icon.
Another London institution, The British Library, will be hosting its own Alice in Wonderland exhibition opening this autumn when the iconic manuscript and one of the library’s best-loved treasures, ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, goes on display in its Entrance Hall following a US tour. It will explore how Alice has been adapted and appropriated by successive generations, and the story’s enduring influence.
A delicious and fun afternoon tea awaits fans of Alice’s Adventures year-round at the Sanderson Hotel. Planned to perfection, the imaginative menu changes with the seasons and arrives hidden inside a vintage book, while food is served on delightful bespoke crockery. Teapots adorned with kings and queens contain tea beautifully blended at the table, while the decorated plates offer sandwiches and whimsical sweet treats, from the ‘Tick Tock’ traditional Victoria Sponge clock to the melting mango cheesecake coated in rainbow patterned white chocolate. An explosion of colour and eccentricity, the spread also features a ‘Jelly Wonderland’, where fruit jellies made in Victorian moulds are presented on a Phillippe Starck cake trolley.
Visiting Glazebrook House Hotel, perched on the southern tip of Dartmoor in Devon, is a surreal and fantastic Wonderland-style experience. A luxury hotel with Lewis Carroll twists aplenty, Glazebrook is packed full of decorative oddities, including a large chrome British bulldog and ‘danger’ signs throughout that spell out a hidden riddle. Each bedroom boasts a signature décor, themed around the book, such as the lavish Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter rooms. The chandelier-lit dining room offers delectable dishes using local produce, and guests can also order from the well-stocked wine and whisky-tasting room. Overall, outlandish but equally cosy, with lots of attention to detail.
The charming seaside town of Llandudno in North Wales was a regular holiday haunt for the young Alice Liddell and her family, whose home ‘Penmorfa’ was built on Llandudno’s West Shore. The town is now home to a well-known ‘Alice Trail’, where fans can explore its connections with Carroll’s Alice as they are taken from the Hearts Quarter of the town, to the Spades Quarter, adjacent to the scenic promenade of the Llandudno’s North Shore, spotting all the White Rabbit commemorative sculptures along the way.
Visit Lewis Carroll’s hometown in Cheshire
Lewis Carroll was born as Charles Dodgson in 1837 in the village of Daresbury in Cheshire. In the nearby church of All Saints, where his father was a vicar, there is now a visitor centre and a stained glass window in tribute to the author. In the neighbouring village of Grappenhall, visitors can see a carving of a grinning feline at St Wilfred’s Church, believed to be the inspiration for the famous Cheshire Cat.
From October, visitors will also be able to travel on the ‘curiouser and curiouser’ Alice in Wonderland-themed train, the Belmond Northern Belle. The carriages will be decorated in a Mad Hatter’s tea party theme, with quirky, liveried staff on board to entertain during a tour of the beautiful countryside. Prices start from £195 per person.
See places that inspired Lewis Carroll on the Isle of Wight
It is thought that Lewis Carroll found inspiration for some of his characters during frequent visits to the Isle of Wight. The author regularly visited pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron on the island, close to Lord Alfred Tennyson’s residence of Farringford.
Here, Dodgson photographed Tennyson and his family, including his sons, Hallam and Lionel. They dressed identically and ran wild – in a scene not too removed from Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Visitors can now stay at Farringford, at one of the self-catering cottages, and walk the famous Tennyson trail.
Carroll was a frequent visitor to Julia Margaret Cameron’s home, Dimbola Lodge, and comparisons are drawn between her eccentric looks and breaking of social etiquette with those of the White Queen in Through The Looking Glass.
For a full feature on Alice in Wonderland and the places that inspired the story see the Jan Feb 2015 issue of BRITAIN (March 2015 for our US and Canada readers)
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