Charnwood Museum’s new Ladybird Books-inspired exhibition looks at changing world of work

Published: Wed 29th June, 2022

  • Cllr Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough at the Ladybird Books exhibition at Charnwood Museum
    Cllr Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough at the Ladybird Books exhibition at Charnwood Museum

This press release was first issued by Leicestershire County Council.

A new exhibition based on a series of Ladybird Books exploring various jobs has opened at the Charnwood Museum in Loughborough.

‘People at Work: Earning a Living in a Ladybird World’ takes its inspiration from the Ladybird Books series, which began in 1962 with titles including The PolicemanThe PostmanThe Nurse and The Fireman.

The books, printed in Loughborough, depicted popular jobs of the day.

Some of the books, Illustrated by John Berry, were updated in the 1980s, under the title People Who Help Us, using photos of real people carrying out their occupations – many of them in Leicestershire.

Now, the books have been brought to life in the People at Work exhibition which runs until 1 October.

The exhibition features original illustrations from the books – on loan from the Ladybird Books Archive held at the University of Reading – as well as objects and uniforms from Leicestershire County Council’s museum collections inspired by the titles.

Visitors to the exhibition can see displays of uniforms and other objects linked to the police, fire service, nurses, postal workers, miners, shop workers and more.

Younger visitors can dress up and try hands-on tasks to try out such as cooking in a hotel kitchen, sorting letters and riding in a fire engine cab.

The People at Work exhibition also explores the ways in which occupations and attitudes have changed since the publication of the first titles 60 years ago.

The council’s museums and participation team have been exploring the unique links Leicestershire residents have with the books, which were printed in Loughborough, especially those who work in the professions depicted.

These connections have been woven into the exhibition to shed a 21st century light on the professions in the books and to challenge some of the practices of the time – for example police officers, firefighters and postal workers being all male, nursing being strictly for women, and a lack of diversity.

Contributions include Cailin-Jo Tyler – a female firefighter based at Shepshed, nurses Daniel Sularz and Dominic Purnell, and Police Superintendent Manjit Atwal, who was the first female Punjabi police officer in Leicestershire.

Councillor Christine Radford, cabinet member for heritage, leisure and arts at Leicestershire County Council said: 

"This is a fascinating exhibition looking at the changing world of work through the much-loved and hugely popular Ladybird Books, which had their home in Loughborough for so many years.

"The original illustrations, the use of objects and uniforms from our collections and the stories from people involved in these professions today come together to create an exhibition which is sure to be another big hit for Charnwood Museum."

Councillor Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough at Charnwood Borough Council, said: "Ladybird books are so iconic and always popular at Charnwood Museum when we have featured their works in past exhibitions, and I am sure the People at Work exhibition will be no exception.

"I am very much looking forward to visiting this brilliant new exhibition and I know that families from Charnwood and beyond will come to the museum and have a superb time."

Entry to the exhibition is free. More information, including museum opening times, is available on the Charnwood Museum website.