What does a week of tea parties, croquet, banquets, and cards, all within the beautiful English gardens of Cambridge University look like? In September 2015, I packed my notebooks, pencils, and my most Alice-in-Wonderlandesque dress into a suitcase and headed for Cambridge to find out. 2015 saw the 150th Anniversary of one of the best loved books of all time – Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – and all around the world, exciting events were taking place to celebrate. Among the most anticipated was ‘Wonderland Week’, a five day programme of events designed to celebrate the most famous little girl in history, and her phenomenal literary legacy. The core of this programme was a fascinating three-day conference, ‘Alice Through the Ages’, which I was fortunate enough to present my research at (read more about that here), but it was the events surrounding this conference that really gave Alice lovers of all walks of life a chance to step through the Looking Glass into a world of fun and imagination (with a healthy dose of dress-ups!). From film screenings and an archival tour at the Fitzwilliam Museum, to a musical interpretation of Alice by the UK’s leading cello octet, Cellophany, Wonderland Week wasn’t short of delights.
As the golden afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees, the beautiful English gardens of Cambridge’s Homerton College were transformed into a Victorian fantasy, with playing card soldiers nestled amongst the blooming roses, enormous ‘Drink Me’ bottles shrinking guests down, and a lawn strewn with games of croquet and chess. To my delight, there was even a giant throne upon which guests could relive Alice’s moments of regal self-importance. An enormous hookah-smoking caterpillar atop an even more prodigious toadstool adorned the head of the Victorian Great Hall, which also housed sumptuous banquets serving ‘Mock Turtle Soup’ (no actual Mock Turtles harmed in the making), and a splendid High Tea Party complete with ‘Eat Me’ cakes and sandwiches, and, of course, all the tea one could drink.
Amid tea parties, magic tricks, garden croquet and card games, the magic of Alice and Cambridge cast its spell upon everyone, but perhaps the best part was meeting friends whom I will never forget.
Organised by Homerton College and The Lewis Carroll Society, part of this celebration involved the ‘Alice Through the Ages’ academic conference, at which I was fortunate enough to present my research, and where I was delighted to meet many wonderful scholars with fascinating ideas, and an equal passion for all things Alice. Read more about the ‘Alice Through the Ages’ conference here.