Thursday, August 25, 2022

Ladybird Books and Constructing the Future Past of Modern Britain

I have an affection for Ladybird Books, not least because my mother taught me to read with their Key Words scheme before I went to school.

So when those books are misunderstood, as they often are today, I want to defend them.

In particular, Ladybird did not depict a twee middle-class neverland. They were far more interested in technological progress and the promise of the future.

Yesterday I found a YouTube recording of a symposium that makes this point for me.

Ladybird Books and Constructing the Future Past of Modern Britain was held at Conway Hall in October 2016. It was chaired by Samira Ahmed.

As the billing says:

Never mind the fairy stories, the much loved Ladybird Books of the 1950s to 1980s reflect much about post war aspirations and reality in new architecture, urban planning, social attitudes and the world of work.

In this lovingly illustrated evening, social and architectural historian and lover of postwar modernism John Grindrod (author of Concretopia) talks us through the dreams and the reality portrayed in the books over the decades. 

Social and cultural historian Helen Day documents the changing attitudes to gender race and class and Tim Dunn, transport historian, enthusiast and model village expert will discuss the social and design history revealed in the books From People At Work and Our Land In the Making and How It Works…to the changing reality around Peter and Jane.

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