Pollock’s lectures on toys and toy theatres

31 March 2021 to 19 May 2021

Pollock’s Toy Museum online lectures, March-May 2021

Please join us for our first-ever online lecture series, delivered by trustees of Pollock’s Toy Museum, an independent museum in London with a unique speciality in the history of toy theatre.

Lectures at 6.00pm on Zoom. Attendance is free, but donations to Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust (Reg. Charity No.313622) are welcome

To request the Zoom link for free admittance please email info@pollocksmuseum.co.uk stating your name which dates you wish to book.

Chris Pictures / Shutterstock

Lecture 1 Wednesday 31 March

Alan Powers It was fifty years ago today 

On 31 March 1971, Pollock’s Toy Museum held a Grand Opening Ceremony for the joining up of its two buildings on a quiet corner in Fitzrovia, where it has remained ever since as one of London’s quirkiest museums.

Alan Powers, who was there on the occasion to help in a performance of Blackbeard the Pirate, will explain how that event was the culmination of Marguerite Fawdry’s efforts to save the English toy theatre tradition and to give it context through a museum collection and display. Who was Benjamin Pollock of Hoxton? Why did this humble East End shopkeeper become a national legend? How did Pollock’s survive bombs and bankruptcy in the years between?

Alan Powers is a historian of art and architecture, devoted to toy theatres since the age of eight. He writes on art and design, curates exhibitions and teaches at the University of Kent while also serving as Chairman of the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust since 1999.

     Printed and hand-coloured dolls’ house front by John Redington, the father-in-law of Benjamin Pollock, c.1870

Lecture 2 Wednesday 14 April 

Debby Brown Miniature Furnishings – Dolls’ houses and shops

There is a fascination about miniature worlds, which captivates many of us as adults; but is part of all of our childhoods. From stylish Art Nouveau furniture to little chairs and tables, home made from corks, feathers, matchboxes and the remains of Sunday lunch, former curator Debby Brown invites you to peep behind the lace curtains of Pollock’s collection of dolls’ houses, rooms and shops into the past of parlours, domestic life, furnishings and household equipment.

Debby Brown discovered Pollocks one summer aged 14, and over half a century later is still there; fascinated by what our childhood toys tell about our own upbringings, and those of previous generations. She was Curator at Pollock’s for many years, and now a Trustee.                                                                                                                                                      ‘I’m keen to uncover and tell the hidden stories of our toys; their makers, and their young owners. My “day job” as a college art textiles teacher frequently crosses over with museum themes, and starting this summer I’m running the first of a series of practical workshop collaborations between the Museum and Morley College, making rag dolls inspired by Pollock’s folk toy collections.’

The shop in Antigua Street, Edinburgh, where Stevenson bought toy theatre plays

Lecture 3 Wednesday 28 April 

David Powell: A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured: Robert Louis Stevenson and the Toy Theatre

The most famous piece of writing about toy theatres came from Robert Louis Stevenson in 1884, drawing on his boyhood passion for cardboard melodrama encountered in a shop window in Edinburgh. David Powell has read Stevenson’s text closely for a forthcoming publication, bringing to light his references to current events and the reasons why the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped chose to celebrate Benjamin Pollock in particular.

David Powell is a Librarian and toy theatre enthusiast, Trustee of Pollock’s Toy Museum and lead author of  Printing the Toy Theatre (2009) and of the exhibition catalogues William West and the Regency Toy Theatre (2004) and William Webb and the Victorian Toy Theatre (2005)

Sarah Peasgood, Scene from Jorinda and Joringel

Lecture 4: Wednesday 12 May 

Sarah Peasgood: From comic strips to fairy tales – an insight into the creative work of Sarah’s Paper Theatre’

From the art of comic strips to the magic of fairy tales and historical music hall shows, this lecture provides a rare glimpse into the journey and performances of a modern-day creator of Paper Theatre. Sarah is among a handful of maker-performers of Paper & Toy theatre in the UK and specialises in live narration with atmospheric lighting and a musical soundtrack. Self-taught and driven by a love of theatre and the dramatic illusion that can be created on the miniature stage, she has now become a specialist of her craft with a robust repertoire of shows in a colourful contemporary style having honed her skills since first performing in 2008.  

Sarah Peasgood is Newsletter Editor and council member of the British Puppet & Model Theatre Guild, a Trustee of Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust and a member of the Hanau Paper Theatre Forum

Toys relating to religious belief, from Multi-Cultural Toys exhibition, 2013

Lecture 5: Wednesday 19 May 

Mary Clare Martin: Multicultural Toys

In June 2013, an exhibition on Multi-Cultural Toys was held at the University of Greenwich, co-ordinated by Dr Mary Clare Martin, Head of the Centre (now Cluster) for the Study of Play and Recreation. The Trustees of Pollock’s Toy Museum, of whom Mary Clare is one, collaborated with organisation and loans for the display.

The exhibition and its associated conference led on to further research and publication, using oral history interviews, filming and writing about play in international perspective, including sessions with schoolchildren of different ages on “What makes a good toy?”

This lecture will explore how toys and material objects for play, such as noise makers, dolls, construction toys, moving objects and natural objects, which have taken different formats throughout time and place, illustrate the exhibition themes of globalisation and sustainability in relation to the complex themes of multi-culturalism, exclusion and inclusion. 

Pollock’s cards on Etsy

If you would like to buy our lovely cards, showing old toys and toy theatre, you can do so at Hoxtonstreetcards on Etsy.

More items will be added to the shop soon. We’ve called it Hoxton Street Cards because that it where Benjamin Pollock had his shop selling toy theatres and all the things that went with them. It was demolished long ago after it was partly destroyed by wartime bombing, but luckily all the stock had already been rescued and formed the basis for a revival of toy theatre after the war.

Pollock’s appeal

Congratulations to Jack Fawdry for the success of his crowdfunded appeal for Pollock’s Toy Museum. The Trust (a registered educational charity) is working closely with him to ensure the continuation of the museum and the enhancement of its activities.