For the Love of Ladybird

The illustrations we remember - or can't forget.


  • Michael Czerwinski
  • Exhibitions

On Wednesday 15 July we welcomed Professor Lawrence Zeegen to discuss his recent book, Ladybird by Design. This publication chronicles the evolution and purpose of the ubiquitous little books that many of us remember so well.

It was whilst Ladybird by Design was being compiled that a chance conversation between Lawrence Zeegen and De La Warr curator Jane Won provoked the idea to develop an exhibition of the same name. The resulting show of classic Ladybird illustration opened at the De La Warr Pavilion earlier this year, and has now taken residence at House of Illustration for the remainder of the summer.

Back in October of last year, my first conversation with Lawrence about his book included tantalising descriptions of the unusually comprehensive surviving archive of original Ladybird artwork.

Such an archive represents a rich social and artistic history - but my initial response was an emotional one. I found myself reacting by dwelling on a single key Ladybird illustration of red carpeted stairs that still feels like it provoked some undefined but highly charged seminal moment in my early childhood.

On sharing these feelings with my colleagues I realised I was not alone in citing Ladybird as a childhood influence. My fascination with a darkened hallway was completely overshadowed by a colleague's admission of a thrilling awakening at the sight of Sleeping Beauty's thorn-tussled prince in his white britches, bleeding as he fought his way to the palace.

It seems totally apt to launch our Ladybird by Design programme of events with an opportunity for the public to share/admit/confess their Ladybird-related formative moments. We've been asking you to post your favourite Ladybird books on Twitter, but I'm also particularly interested in the 'why'. What was it that made a certain book or image stick with you?

Join the conversation over on the #myfavouriteladybird hashtag - or in person at our informal gathering on 30 July. 'For the love of Ladybird' is an evening of seminal memory-sharing led by Ladybird collector Helen Day. Helped by a glass of wine, we'll talk into the night about what we remember and what we can't forget. See you there?

A full list of our Ladybird events over the summer can be found here.

Michael Czerwinksi
Public Programmes Manager