Adventures in Moomin land at London’s Southbank Centre

Adventures in Moomin land at London’s Southbank Centre

At the Southbank Centre’s press preview of Adventures in Moomin land, I struck up conversation with a Finnish broadcaster, who left the country about forty years ago. She’d become too used to the UK’s warmer climate to go back now, she said; but as a child, she’d loved the freedom, the emphasis on outdoor play, and all the wide, open space.

“Finland is the perfect place for children”

In the UK we’re in the midst of a love affair with Scandinavian countries. Their ethos, philosophies and style are very ‘now’. Ikea furniture is rolled out as standard across the country. Hygge, and now Lagom (meaning not too little, and not too much), have been the buzz-words of Winter 2016/17. And, as  Sophia Jansson, the niece of Moomins creator Tove Jannson, pointed out in a press introduction to Adventures in Moomin land, the Scandinavian emphasis on the importance of gender equality, the planet, and play are very appealing to modern Brits.

Adventures in Moominland forms part of a timely one-year Nordic Matters festival at London’s Southbank Festival. If you’re imagining the immersive, interactive exhibition as a giant space for children, think again. It’s a playful but reverent exploration of the Moomins, and how they developed in the 1940s out of the imagination and life events of Tove Jansson. It’s for children aged seven and over; I went twice, once with my seven-year-old son, who enjoyed it but was slightly bemused by the fact that the exhibition tour was made up mainly of adults.

Adventures in Moomin land

picture credit Vic Frankowski

And what a tour it was. You entered the exhibition space by stepping through pages behind the front cover of a very large book. Inside, Sandi Toksvig narrated the words of children’s writer Laura Dockrill, with the sound of jazz music (beloved by Jansson) in the background. A guide took you down corridors, into an old-school lamp-lit canvas tent to watch the story of how the Moomins began; through a snowy forest (with real trees) where you had to look out for the Groke; on a raft to a rocky beach, with a Moomin-style picnic laid out; and through many other evocative, well-thought out spaces until finally you arrived back at the Moomin’s dining room.

Adventures in Moomin land

picture credit Vic Frankowski

I had two different guides, who were both knowledgeable and playful. The first even looked like a Moomin character, with the dark topknot and full skirt of Little My. The guides gave detailed information about Jansson’s life, which was remarkable, from her creation of a Moomin when she was a child, as a response to an argument with her brother about the philosopher Kant; to her reclusive later life on an island that was little more than a rock.

The exhibition was strewn with original artworks, which were set in context by our guides. The tour didn’t shy away from Jansson’s lesbianism; the very first exhibit was a large Moomin figure which, we were told, was made by her partner Tuulikki. Adventures in Moomin land presented her as a sensitive and deeply imaginative individual, who spun thought-provoking stories of a magical, homely world. Although I’ve always liked the Moomins, I haven’t read any of the books, other than a couple of illustrated stories. Adventures in Moomin land left me feeling that it was important, in these fractured times, to properly read these tales of family, love and unity.

Adventures in Moomin land is at London’s Southbank Centre until 20 August 2017. Tours run regularly and last approximately 50 minutes. We were given tickets for the purpose of this post; ticket prices are between £13.50 and £16.50.

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  1. January 5, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    Adding to my list of places to visit. Moomin is a favourite here too. The children love the books. Some of my favourite quotes come from them.

    • January 7, 2017 / 4:10 pm

      Now you’ve made me even more determined to read them properly!

  2. January 6, 2017 / 7:45 am

    I found out I was pregnant in Helsinki and first thing I brought my daughter was a Mormon rattle. Wasn’t a fan as a child but they now hold a special place in my heart. Looks like a lovely day out. Happy new year! #culturedkids

  3. January 6, 2017 / 9:20 am

    This sounds brilliant I would love to visit, even without the kids!

  4. January 6, 2017 / 10:24 am

    I’ve always loved the Moomins, as a child and as a parent, and I’d love to go to this exhibition. I wonder if I can wangle a trip to London before the end of April….

  5. January 6, 2017 / 10:31 am

    I loved watching the Moomins when I was little but, like you, haven’t actually read the books. I do love all things Nordic and even just a few days in Helsinki made me appreciate the culture of the Finnish people.
    Very tempted by this exhibition.

  6. January 6, 2017 / 2:09 pm

    My friend is a huge Moomin fan and she’d love this so much. Think I’ll have to show her this link 🙂

  7. January 6, 2017 / 4:26 pm

    It’s a long time since I read any Moomin stories but this looks a fabulous exhibition to remind me and learn more. #culturedkids

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:14 pm

      It really took me back. Gorgeous nostalgia.

  8. January 6, 2017 / 4:34 pm

    I love how you’ve written this post. Sounds like an interesting exhibition

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:16 pm

      Thanks! x

  9. January 6, 2017 / 4:34 pm

    This is definitely on our ‘to do’ list one day! Remember I loved them as child! Will be amazing to hear these stories with my 8 year old #CulturedKids

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:16 pm

      It’s a good age for them to go. And it’s such a refreshing change from the stuff 8 year olds see these days!

  10. January 6, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Thanks for your lovely review! I think I’ll have to book a flight from Germany to London together with my daughters. They’re already 15 and 11, but this doesn’t seem to matter…

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:17 pm

      There were a couple of teenagers on the tours I went on, and they seemed to really enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. January 6, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    I’ve never heard of the Moomin books but the exhibit looks interesting. I love that you enter through the cover of the book. #CulturedKids

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      Yes, that was an inspired touch.

  12. January 7, 2017 / 4:58 am

    Great review of what looks like a wonderful tour. As you stated, I also love the Moomins’ emphasis on outdoor play and feelings of freedom and space. In fact, I once went to the Moomin museum in Tampere, Finland, which was also superb.
    Thanks! #CulturedKids

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Oh I really want to visit! It’s high up on my wishlist….

  13. January 7, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    Wow! Looks a fab place to visit. Loved the Moomins growing up, maybe it’s time to introduce them to the kids!?


    • January 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Yes, definitely!

  14. January 7, 2017 / 5:55 pm

    It looks like such a fab exhibition, I loved Moomins as a child, it was such a lovely cartoon. I would love to visit I thinkI would be a bit giddy x

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      So were a lot of the other people on the tour, it seemed!

  15. January 7, 2017 / 6:26 pm

    I loved the Moomins, reading them to my boys was one of things that I fondly imagined when I was pregnant. My only ponder is whether or not as teenagers they’ll want to revisit them!

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      Well if they don’t as teenagers, I bet they’ll come back to them as adults….

  16. January 7, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    That looks such a great place to take the children Nell. I used to love the moomins as a child myself. We are back in London in Feb so will definitely take a visit here

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      That’s great – I look forward to hearing what you thought of it.

  17. January 8, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Sounds fascinating. Love the whole idea of it, and we could really use a tour here in the U.S. in these current times. #farawayfiles

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Yes, it sent out a positive message. Just right for these difficult times.

  18. January 10, 2017 / 4:55 am

    The tour sounds awesome starting from stepping through the front cover of a book. I have heard of the Moomins and seen Moomin characters at the Scandinavian Christmas fair at the Norwegian church in London, but haven’t read the books. Nevertheless, I would have loved to go on this Moomin tour, had I been in London.

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      I bet the Scandinavian Christmas fayre is nice. I’ll look out for that next year – thanks for the tip.

  19. January 10, 2017 / 9:51 am

    This sounds absolutely wonderful! I love the Moomins so the idea of a whole exhibition dedicated to them sounds perfect. Like you, I now want to read the stories in more detail though.

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      Yes it seems they had great depth to them. You’ve reminded me, I need to order a few of them online!

  20. January 10, 2017 / 6:08 pm

    Cool! I’d love to get into Moomin. We recently visited Finland and purchased a Moomin print for my son’s room, but we have yet to hang it up. The stories seem cute! #culturedkids

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Oh I bet Finland was wonderful. I’d really like to go soon.

  21. January 11, 2017 / 2:28 am

    Great to know more about these characters. First time I hear about them. Scandinavian culture and aesthetics are starting to go big in the States too. I see more and more stores and showrooms (featuring their designs) popping up in Los Angeles. I have to confess that I have wanted to visit the countries for a long time. I hope I will have the opportunity soon. #citytripping

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      Ah, interesting that they’re becoming big in the States too…..thanks for joining in x

  22. January 11, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    I was totally tricked the scale in those images of the books, wonderful. I remember these characters – always a bit different 🙂

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Yes the books were very clever 🙂

  23. January 11, 2017 / 7:44 pm

    I completely missed out on the Moomins….just went to YouTube to see if there was any flicker of recognition but nothing. I do though love the whole Scandi vibe going on at the moment and having worked our way through some of the Nordic countries, I feel I should get acquainted with these funny-looking characters . The exhibition looks like a great place to start. Thanks for hosting #culturedkids #citytripping

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      If you love Scandinavia, I reckon you’d think the Moomins are fab too! x

  24. January 12, 2017 / 9:39 pm

    Anything Scandinavian is really crossing over into British culture so swiftly. Would love to see these little characters.

    • January 15, 2017 / 8:38 pm

      Yes, Scandi is very cool! I do love it all….

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