By Pierangelly Del Rio Martinez
The People’s History Museum hosted a unique event for the younger audience titled ‘Beeing Special,’ as part of the Little People’s History Museum series and the Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
The event welcomed families for a morning of interactive storytelling, exploring children’s creativity, deep lessons and a piece of Manchester’s history.
Beeing Special is a multi-sensory session telling a compelling story using puppets, projections, songs and dance. Aimed at under five-year-olds, the event follows the story of Little Bee, a charismatic protagonist that ends up becoming the hero of Victorian Manchester. The session took place in the purpose built Mini Theatre space in Main Gallery One. About thirty people gathered inside the interactive space, including families composed mostly by toddlers and babies.
Emily Capstick, a freelancer for the Museum and a creative consultant with expertise in theatre productions, was the narrator of Little Bee’s tale. The story started narrating the bee’s life and his desire to be special despite being part of a community where all his peers seem pretty much the same, no one is more important than the other and there’s no desire to distinguish oneself in any way. Regardless, the ambitious bee defies all odds and embarks on an adventure in the Manchester of the past, meeting some friends along the way, facing challenging characters such as the Queen Bee and even meeting humans.
During the story, children were invited to imitate the bee noises, search for flowers across the gallery, sing and dance and overall, become part of the story. Despite the fact that the argument of Beeing Special is clearly centred on a young audience, topics such as the industrial past of the North were explored as the show took place in a city full of fabrics and mills. The old Mancunian landscape was projected on the screen of the Mini Theatre, giving the older members of the public the opportunity to travel back in time and for the children, the chance to discover how the city has changed since then.
Liz Thorpe, Learning Officer and coordinator of the event explained the purpose of the story sessions: “We do the story sessions once a month, it’s part of our core programme.
“We have three different stories and every month we do a different one. They all look at cooperation and friendship. So this one today is about the Manchester Bee, working together and making new friends.”
Liz also talked about the upcoming story, Mr Ordinary’s Prize, taking place on Saturday 15th July: “Mr Ordinary’s Prize it’s about an ordinary man, who lives in an ordinary town, and he realizes he has lost his thinking and doing, things that make him special and so the kids help him go and find them.”
This story, similar to Beeing Special, also has a connection to Manchester and explores important aspects of the city.
Another story, Under The Rainbow, was also mentioned. This is focused on a lonely girl who is given a magic rainbow bag and must solve clues to get to the end of the rainbow and find what she’s looking for.
After the adventures of Little Bee concluded, attendees were invited to the ground floor to engage in a creative workshop. Parents and children worked together in craft activity with materials provided by the museum. They were encouraged to design puppets inspired by Little Bee’s adventure and take their creations home.
The response to the event was hugely positive with families engaging with the activities and children interacting with each other.
Saniega Hussain, one of the attendees and parent of 6-month-old Zara, praised the show, commenting: “It’s the first time we’ve been to a Manchester Children’s Book Festival activity, I found it online. I thought it was brilliant. She’s only six months and she was engaging with all the different voices and pictures.”
Little People’s History Museum – Mr Ordinary’s Prize takes place on Saturday 15th July. For more information, check out the Manchester Children’s Book Festival programme.