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HORRIBLE HISTORIES™: Frightful First World War – The Exhibition  is a partnership between Imperial War Museum North, Terry Deary and Scholastic Children’s Books. Visitors can see it at the award-winning Imperial War Museum North between 24 May 2008 – 4 January 2009 . FREE. www.iwm.org.uk/north

AN INTERVIEW WITH TERRY DEARY APRIL 2008
Terry Deary Book and Novel§
  You have personally adapted Horrible Histories: Frightful First World War along with the exhibitions team at Imperial War Museum North. Why is it going to be such a landmark / unmissable exhibition?
The First World War was such a significant episode in human history I feel the need to reach as many young people as possible. I have done that with the books, with an audio CD, with stage productions and with television. A museum exhibition is yet another doorway into the consciousness of more young people. But the IWM North exhibition can offer something the other media can’t - authentic artefacts from the Museum’s own collection. Combine the populism of the Horrible Histories books with the distinction of the IWM collection and you have something fresh and unique.

 §  What made the First World War “frightful”?
The standard answer is the misery of the trenches but the “Horrible Histories” interpretation is to add the suffering of the non-combatants on both sides. No previous war had ever affected so many women and children.

 §  What are you most looking forward to about the exhibition? What are your own personal highlights?
The recreation of the trench in a stunningly original way – a combination of the talents of the design team, Ingenious Creative, and the Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown.

 §  What is your favourite fact / story about the First World War?
Improvising a gas mask by peeing into your handkerchief – pure Horrible Histories stuff. Horrible, unbelievable but a sign of the lengths humans drive one another to.

 §  What is your favourite object or section of the exhibition?
The photographs are simply riveting. You can look at them a hundred times and be drawn in to a world of people who are long dead yet whose lives were frozen forever in the click of a shutter.

 §  There are anniversaries all the time. Why is the 90th anniversary of the First World War so important to mark and why is it important for children to learn about it?
It is the last major anniversary when there will be any veterans around who were there at the time and almost the last when people have memories of the time.

 §  Why did you choose to work with Imperial War Museum North?
Because the world seems to revolve around an axle called London. Anything that can shift that balance is welcome. Manchester is a vibrant and booming city. It is also a Northern city and, being a northerner, I feel an empathy with the whole place.

 §  Do you think Museums are a good place to learn?
Not traditionally. Museums have a deserved reputation of being forbidding and precious about their collections. I have managed a museum and know curators who would be happy if the public were never allowed to see their artefacts let alone touch them or interact with them. Exhibitions like this show what is possible and museums have to evolve or die. 

 §  Horrible Histories  are some of the best-selling books of all time. What do you think is the reason for their success?
They are “history” books written by someone who is not an historian. I am a children’s author. My skill is in re-presenting the interesting facts about human behaviour in a way a “text-book” writer cannot do. Horrible Histories are not about history – they are about something far more important – people.  

§  How did you become interested in history?
As I say I have no interest in history. I don’t connect with historians. But I am interested in education. I want people to explore the only question that matters in education: “Why do people behave the way they do?” By looking at anecdotes from the past we can start by asking “Why did people behave the way they did?”

§  Why should we be interested in history?
Because until we learn how people work we will never learn about ourselves. Once you begin to understand yourself you can find happiness and, more importantly, bring happiness to other less fortunate.

§  Why is humour important in telling such stories?
No one learns anything unless they are “engaged” by a narrative. You can do this by using techniques like surprise or suspense. Or by making them laugh. People like to laugh. But when the laughter dies you are maybe left with something deeper that remains behind. Knowledge or understanding or both.

§  What are you working on next?
2008 looks like being absolutely packed. The Horrible Histories  Tudor and Victorian plays are re-launched with Birmingham Stage Company. In addition I am writing 4 new “City” plays that will be permanent tourist attractions in the cities, Cardiff, Windsor, Nottingham and London while I will write Horrible Histories plays on WW1 and WW2 for touring in 2009 as well as a play on Welsh history.

Horrible Histories on television will premiere in May 2009 but I am running up and down to London a lot in 08 to write and act in the recordings of the 13 episodes. I also have a few of my own (non-Horrible Histories) television and radio shows to write and record. There is a major heritage project to create in Durham.
The b-i-g dream for 2008 is to turn my "Fire Thief" fiction into a movie and a producer is already working on it. 

      Horrible Histories will launch a new fiction series this year and  I am contracted to write a further 22 fiction books in 08 and 09 (in four different series)

About Terry Deary

Terry Deary is the author of 185 books in the UK mainly for children and teenagers. His books are sold in 38 languages from Russia to Brazil, Scandinavia to China. He was born in Sunderland, England, in 1946 and now lives in County Durham, in the North-east of England. Terry is a former actor, theatre-director and museum manager.

In 32 years as an author his writing has included fiction for juniors and teenagers, and popular non-fiction series (Horrible Histories, being the best-selling with over 20 million worldwide.)  In 2000 a Schoolsnet survey made him the most borrowed British author in school libraries while a Guardian survey of March 05 made him Britain’s fifth most popular living children’s author.

For further information see http://www.terry-deary.com

For a detailed biography see http://www.terry-deary.com/homepage/biog.htm

 

 

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