This humorous display, which runs from May 25 to September 14, represents Rodney’s creative life, from his early days as a graphic designer in London’s 1960s advertising world to his career as a writer of illustrated children’s books. It also looks at the development of his collection of handmade toys, models and automata (moving toys).
Rodney’s graphic design includes a famous London Underground poster Hats Off for Guinness. In 1968 he published his first book The Alphabet Book, and this has been followed by more than 80 titles about well-loved characters such as Henry the Elephant.
The exhibition features a selection of these books along with original artwork. Original models for Rodney’s popular television characters, Huxley Pig, and Anglemouse are also featured.
Imaginative recycling is one of the themes of Rodney work, and the show includes ingenious models such as The Kettleship pirates, made with a real kettle. Rodney’s early toys were inspired by classic Victorian designs, such as a lively monkey climbing up a string. From the 1980s his automata became increasingly complex and a distinctive personal style emerged that is colourful, humourous and engages people of all ages. Some of the automata are hand turned and Rodney has made two works for the exhibition which visitors can operate.
The show also includes examples of toys to play with and imaginative family activities, from making a book to creating your own thumbprint circus. Some of his television characters will also be shown on screen.
Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Co-operatives and Community Development, said, “This exhibition really has something for everyone and I’m sure residents of all ages will enjoy seeing the many toys and drawings on display, many of which they will instantly recognise.”
There is a catalogue for the exhibition, including an essay by Hilary Kay, the well-known toy and automata expert on BBC Antiques Roadshow. She says, “Rodney has developed a rare knack for preserving the joy of invention, making each of his creations appear spontaneous and fresh.”
We are having a special opening event on Saturday, May 25 to celebrate the opening of our new season of exhibitions: The Wonderful World of Rodney Peppé, Worn to be Wild and Brian Clarke: Born Oldham 1953.
Timetable for the opening event:1.30pm: Exhibition opened by The Mayor of Oldham.
1.45pm to-3.15pm: Meet the Artist! Rodney Peppé will be in the exhibition to talk informally to visitors and demonstrate some of his toys and automata
2pm: Natural History Curator, Patricia Francis, will talk about the animals that inspired the costumes in the exhibition Worn to be Wild. This exhibition of extraordinary costumes inspired by wildlife and historical fashion, created by designer Kate Plumtree, includes natural history specimens from our Natural History Collection.
Refreshments will be served and there will be family activities throughout the afternoon in the exhibitions.