Who? Today, on the anniversary of his birthday, is Roald Dahl Day; a day to celebrate the fantastical imagination of the Grandfather of storytelling. Known for his dark sense of humour and ability to conjure up mesmerising, indulgent and cheerfully grotesque tales at the drop of a hat, his memory not only lives on through his stories, but another, slightly more unusual feature.
What? Many of Dahl’s most well-known stories were scribbled down inside a tiny hut hidden away in the grounds of his family home. Big enough to house only a few items of furniture and the 6ft 5 man himself, Dahl had the hut built having been inspired by a visit to poet Dylan Thomas’s writing shed at Laugharne in the 1950s. Fondly referred to as his ‘little nest’, he would spend hours tucked away there, cosied up in an ancient armchair that belonged to his mother. With his feet covered with an old sleeping bag and resting on a log filled trunk that was nailed to the floor, he could be found scratching out the beginnings of stories such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and The Twits in his beloved HB pencils.
"Fondly referred to as his ‘little nest’, he would spend hours tucked away there, cosied up in an ancient armchair that belonged to his mother"
The shed was also home to a fittingly odd collection of personal paraphernalia. Alongside drawings and letters from his children – tacked to the wall with twisted paperclips as Dahl had an aversion to the average drawing pin – there was a giant ball made from foil chocolate wrappers, a jar of spinal shavings and the author's original hip bone doubling up as the most macabre of cupboard door handles.
Why? In 2011, the shed was brought to the attention of the public, when the Dahl family began campaigning for it to be moved from their garden to be preserved in the Roald Dahl Museum close to their home in Buckinghamshire. The hut had been left untouched since Dahl’s passing in 1990, complete with cigarette butts and his last pencilled notes, and was finally caving in to decay. The family got their wish, the interior was carefully removed piece by piece, and transported to the museum where it was re-built exactly as the celebrated author left it. Now, fans and admirers of the original BFG can visit the renowned room and get an insight into the magical mind of the man whose limitless imagination continues to live on, inspiring and exciting generations year upon year.
Find out more about the museum and their Roald Dahl Day celebrations here.
Text by Rhiannon Wastell