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.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TERRY DEARY APRIL 2008
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.
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.
are you most looking forward to about the exhibition? What are your own
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?”
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
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.
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)
Terry Deary is the
in the UK mainly for children and teenagers. His books are sold in 38
languages from Russia to Brazil, Scandinavia to China. He was
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.
years as an author his
writing has included
for juniors and teenagers, and popular non-fiction series (Horrible
Histories, being the best-selling with over
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
For a detailed biography see