Like any good story, The Story Museum, Oxford, is immersive, exciting and full of surprises. After a big redevelopment, the museum reopened its doors in May 2021 and since has been shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Art Fund museum of the year and the Family Friendly museum of the year.
We’re super excited to have The Story Museum as Big Draw Sponsor-Partners and to have them taking part in this year's Big Draw Festival. We caught up with Ameneh Enayat, a producer at the museum, to find out more about the museum and the exciting events that they have coming up.
Interview: Lucia Vinti in conversation with Ameneh Enayat.
We’d love to know a bit more about the story of The Story Museum! Could you let our readers know a bit about the museum and its history?
Founded in 2005, the Story Museum is on a mission to share great ways to engage with great stories. Through our immersive galleries, events, education and outreach work, we celebrate stories in all forms and explore their enduring power to teach and delight. We began life with temporary exhibitions in a former post office and telephone exchange building in the centre of Oxford.. We re-opened in May 2021, after a £6million redevelopment, working with 50 designers, makers and creatives to bring a host of stories to life in immersive gallery and activity spaces. When you visit our museum, you can travel through 1000 years of oral stories in the Whispering Wood where every tree has a story to tell. Our Enchanted Library invites visitors to wander through magical story worlds to explore 200 years of classics on pages, stage and screen - you can fall down a rabbit hole, fly with a snowman or step through wardrobe into Narnia and much more. For the very young, Small Worlds is a patchwork land of picture books, nursery rhymes and traditional tales – you can go on a Bear Hunt, ride on a Story Bus, enjoy Winnie and Wilbur’s miniature theatre and more! We also run a year-round learning and outreach programme which works to promote early oracy and literacy, often in under-served communities.
Could you tell us a bit about your role at the museum and what it entails?
I’m a producer at The Story Museum and lucky enough to work with lots of lovely talented artists and authors to create a fantastic programme of live and digital events which reflect the museum’s core mission to offer ‘great ways to enjoy great stories’
You’ve got a whole host of Big Draw events coming up over the next few months, particularly focused around comics and hosted by some brilliant artists like Laura Ellen Anderson and Gary Northfield. What can people expect from your events?
We’ve got LOADS of amazing events coming up this season where audiences can expect to join an awesome artist for a special draw-a-long designed to reveal tips and secrets of creating great comic characters and stories – featuring artists from The Phoenix, The Beano, Star Wars and much more!
What motivated you to take part in The Big Draw Festival, and what do you hope to achieve?
In May 2022 we opened our exhibition ‘Ka-Boom! The Art of Creating Comics’ it’s like stepping into a giant comic book where you can meet your favourite characters and comics – and also meet a few new ones! We want visitors to feel inspired to create their own characters and stories and partnering with the Big Draw Festival is a fantastic way to encourage this. We hope we’ve done our bit to inspire the next generation of comic artists.
We use the term ‘visual literacy’ a lot - regarding its relevance across a breadth of different professions as well as its vital role in day-to-day life. I’m interested to know what it means to you?
The phrase ‘a picture says a thousand words’ helps sum up what visual literacy means to me: images can convey meaning just as powerfully – and subtly - as words. Stories help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us and visual literacy is central to this.
Our big draw theme this year is Come Back to Colour which is all about capturing, celebrating and finding joy - do you have a favourite story about colour or joy?
I love The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers and Drew Daywalt – what better story to celebrate the joy and power of drawing and colour? It’s hilarious, original and inspiring – every home should have a copy of this book
How do your events fit in with the festival theme?
It’s been a challenging few years and the theme Come Back to Colour perfectly reflects our events which are all about inviting our visitors to explore and celebrate their own creativity – we hope they will leave the museum brimming with ideas and inspiration to spread a little colour of their own
Why do you think drawing and imagery are so important when it comes to telling stories?
As Alice in Wonderland said “What is the use of a book without pictures…?” Drawing is another form of storytelling and equally as important as words. Pictures aren’t just there to highlight the words in a story – they set up a dialogue with the words, confirming, questioning or undermining the written text and forcing the reader to take their own position. Whether you’re taking a walk through a gallery, opening a magazine, drawing a self-portrait – every picture has a story to tell.
You were shortlisted for the 2022 Art Fund Museum of the Year award and the Family Friendly Museum Award - congratulations! How do schemes like this help museums and have they had any effect on the story museum?
Thank You. It’s been an amazing honour to be shortlisted for these prestigious awards – and it’s so great to have opportunities to showcase and celebrate the fantastic breadth, diversity and amazing creativity that’s happening across the Museum and cultural sector. Raising the profile through awards like these is also a wonderful way to reach new audiences and raise awareness of our work and mission. We hope that visitors will be travelling from Lands End and John O’Groats to come and see our most unusual Museum!
Thank you so much Ameneh! We can’t wait to see how your events go :)
Photo credit Andrew Walmsley
Check out upcoming events at The Story Museum here!
Registrations are open for The Big Draw Festival 2022: Come Back to Colour! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.