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Victorian Fairies at the Woodland Fairy Fair

Posted 3rd July 2017
Watts Contemporary Gallery

The Woodland Fairy Fair is back at Watts Gallery – Artists' Village for a magical weekend of craft activities, face painting, tree climbing and more — with pixies, sprites and fairy folk taking over our woodlands.

Fairies are a unique part of the English folklore tradition, and in the Victorian period these magical creatures — a conflation of Germanic elves with influences from French and Celtic folklore — saw an increase in interest. Fairies often appeared in medieval romances, the earliest on record appearing in the 13th century, and were significant characters in classic literature including Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Fairies fascinated the Victorians, and writers such as Walter Scott and C.S. Lewis included magical characters and themes in their writing. Fairy paintings were also popular, with works by Richard Dadd — that depicted fairy-folk in a more sinister and mischievous tone — capturing the Victorian imagination.

The Folklore Society was founded in London in 1878, publishing a journal called Folklore that studied traditional music, song, dance and drama. The journal was originally edited by Joseph Jacobs, who went on to become a notable collector and publisher of English folklore and whose collections of English fairy tales popularised some of the best-known versions of fairy stories including 'Jack and the Beanstalk', 'The Three Little Pigs', 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' and 'The History of Tom Thumb'.

Jacobs's aim with his collections of fairy stories was to capture the 'romantic nationalism' of the era, much as the Brothers Grimm had done in Germany. His ambition was to provide English children with English fairy tales that could capture their imagination the way French and German stories had.

At the Woodland Fairy Fair families will have a chance to reconnect with the magic of Victorian fairy stories. Follow our fairy trail through the woodlands and search for fairy doors. Make wands and wings, build dens and be transformed with fairy face painting.

There will also be fairy-themed performances including A Midsummer Night's Dream and the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. You'll also be able to enjoy fairy cakes, ice cream and other miniature treats perfect for fairies and humans.

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