I booked my exhibition ticket for Harry Potter: A History of Magic back in April, and it’s just as well, as many dates for this groundbreaking exhibition are already sold out. It’s the first British Library exhibition to focus on the work of a living author, and I couldn’t imagine a better subject. The exhibition will fascinate any Harry Potter fan, but there’s much here to interest those who have never read a word about the famous boy wizard.
J.K. Rowling took inspiration from myths, legends and history to write about the magic in her books, and the exhibition looks at how magic as it has been seen in our world helped to inspire her. It’s divided up into sections based on the subjects Harry studies at Hogwarts: Potions, Divination, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, and so on, and there is also a section on alchemy, relating to the Philosopher’s Stone which is so important in the first book.
We see many rare books and historical artefacts: the Ripley Scroll, purporting to explain how to make the philosopher’s stone, alongside Nicholas Flamel’s gravestone (apparently discovered being used as a chopping board in Paris). The Potions section has rare books describing the various potions and their antidotes – there is also a bezoar displayed – and Herbology displays a copy of Culpeper’s Herbal, of which Rowling had her own copy that she used to refer to when writing the books. We see a cauldron and a broomstick from the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, and possibly my favourite exhibit of all: the ‘Invisibility Cloak’.
Throughout the exhibition, illustrations by Jim Kay bring the characters to life, and we also see sketches by Rowling, which are fascinating as they show the characters as she originally imagined them. My favourite parts were the handwritten or typed early drafts of various chapters, showing the Harry Potter stories as they might have existed, and offering insights into how Rowling changed and adapted her stories.
I loved this exhibition – it runs until February, so there’s plenty of time to see it, but I definitely recommend booking in advance.
House of MinaLima in Soho is a must-see for Harry Potter fans. MinaLima, the company that designed the graphic props for the Harry Potter films as well as the recent Fantastic Beasts movie, have displayed examples of their work. You don’t have to buy anything – it’s still worth a visit just to look at the incredible designs.
The ground floor has a shop full of prints and other souvenirs, but if you want to look at the exhibition, head upstairs. The first two floors have art from the Harry Potter films, including the famous ‘Wanted’ posters from Prisoner of Azkaban and the artwork of the Weasley twins’ shop.
The top floor has artwork from Fantastic Beasts, taking inspiration from 1920s New York. My absolute favourite picture is the poster for the Blind Pig bar in the movie, which to me is more of an Art Nouveau design, but hey, it’s still gorgeous.
Do not miss this exhibition if you’re a Harry Potter fan. It’s not scheduled to close any time soon, so hopefully there should be time to check it out.
The title says it all, really: I was so excited that I finally got to see the next instalment of the Potter saga! I say “finally”: it’s only been out for a couple of months, but it’s been talked about for so long, and tickets went on sale last year. I only got mine a few weeks ago, by signing up to the returns list. This is one of the benefits to being a solo theatregoer – you’re much more likely to be able to nab an elusive ticket to something like this.
I had the afternoon off work and headed down to the Palace Theatre, full of excitement. It was a really hot day and I had to queue around the theatre to get in – they had security at the door checking the bags as you went in. It was lovely and cool inside, and I got to check out all the merchandise. I was hugely tempted by the cuddly owls, especially as the usher standing by the stairs had hold of one (which she let me cuddle). I resisted, however, and only bought the pin badges, seeing as I seem to be making a collection of them.
My full review of the show is on my blog Loitering In the Theatre. Here, I’ll just say that though I had a couple of issues with it, I did enjoy it – it was an unforgettable experience.
Years ago, when I was still at school, I sat up late into the night reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, unable to put it down. My experience of Cursed Child was similar, though instead of being alone in my room, I was in a room full of other people, sharing in their joy and fear and surprise. It was an amazing experience and reminded me – as if I needed reminding – of the magic of theatre.
One of my birthday presents was a ticket to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which is all about the making of Harry Potter. I’d been wanting to go for ages, but I’m glad I waited, as it was only recently that the Hogwarts Express was installed at the attraction.
The tour site is about 20 miles north of London, near Watford, and there is a shuttle bus from Watford Junction. My friend and I travelled from west London, catching the train at Euston, and were impressed to see references to the studio tour all over the place – it’s a popular attraction! Once there, it was VERY exciting to see the bus. It’s not free, but it’s very handy – taking you straight there and back – and there’s even a little Harry Potter video to watch while you’re travelling.
The entrance to the building is exciting in itself, with a number of props dotted around, including a number of the chessmen from the first film. Elisa and I took the opportunity to get a selfie in front of the attraction!
The main lobby is huge, with a cafe, a gift shop and cloakroom (and toilets of course) – there are even some attractions here, like Ron’s car that was used in Chamber of Secrets. We had loads of time to kill before our tour, so we went for something to eat in the cafe.
Afterwards we checked out the gift shop, as you do. Everything was incredibly expensive. I did buy a little something later on, but I might have bought more if it hadn’t been so pricey.
When it was time for our tour, we got in the queue and were thrilled to notice Harry’s cupboard under the stairs as we were passing.
We were taken into a room and shown a video, with the main actors from the films – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – introducing the experience. Then it was into the Great Hall!
I loved the Great Hall. It was an amazing feeling to be in the space where so many things happened over the course of the eight films. There were tables laid out with food, and costumes from some of the characters, including the school uniform and the teachers’ robes. The Great Hall doesn’t have a ceiling, because it is meant to reflect the night sky, and CGI stars were added after filming.
Once out of the Great Hall, the rest of the building is full of amazing props from the Harry Potter series, complete with information boards explaining how particular tricks were done and how things worked on screen. There were so many things to see, from the Gryffindor common room to the Potions classroom, Dumbledore’s office and game props from Quidditch and the TriWizard Tournament.
I really liked the “green screen” section which explained how broomsticks, Hagrid’s bike and other objects were made to fly.
Later in the exhibition, the displays focused on sets outside of Hogwarts.
The next part was one that I was really excited about – the Hogwarts Express! You can see the train in all its glory, and even climb inside the carriages.
Following this we arrived at a cafe, which was perfectly timed – we were pretty tired by this time, having spent a good couple of hours wandering around, and wanted a sit down. You can bring your own food for a picnic if you like, or you can purchase food here. We weren’t hungry, but we did fancy trying the Butterbeer. It was very sweet: Elisa hated it, but I quite liked it!
Luckily it was a fine day, as the next bit was outside. We got to see the Knight Bus (made from two genuine double decker buses), Privet Drive, the moving corridor at Hogwarts, the cottage at Godric’s Hollow, and Ron’s car.
Back inside, there was a fascinating section on animatronics and how they were made and manipulated for the Harry Potter films. I was particularly interested in Dobby and in Hagrid’s huge head, not to mention Fawkes the phoenix.
Next we made our way into Diagon Alley, which was full of shops from the movies. I loved this section – I only wish it was really possible to go into the shops and buy wands and delicious sweets for real!
The next section was all about concept art and models for the sets, which was fascinating. Finally, we got to see the incredible model of Hogwarts which was used for overhead shots. The detail on this model is incredible and my picture really doesn’t do it justice.
I had an incredible time at the studio tour and it is a must-see for any Harry Potter fan, or even anyone who is interested in how films are made. It’s pricey, but worth it in my opinion as there is so much to see.
Timed tours are in operation and you do need to book in advance. My friend and I didn’t book far enough in advance for a Saturday in July so we ended up having to choose a later timeslot. The attraction doesn’t close until late so this wasn’t a big problem for us, but I think the earlier in the day you can go the better, as there are likely to be fewer people.
The tour was definitely a highlight for me, as a huge Harry Potter fan, and I’m so glad I went.