On Tuesday 12 January, pupils from Brighton & Hove primary schools hunted a dragon rumoured to have lived in the Royal Pavilion until 1967, as part of a flagship project by Heritage Learning Brighton & Hove.
The Royal Pavilion’s interiors are a world renowned example of Chinoiserie, a 19th century European imitation of ‘Oriental’ style. With dragons considered a good omen in Chinese mythology almost every room includes a dragon of some kind: hanging from the ceiling, painted on the walls, breathing fire from the lights or carved into the furniture.
Children aged 6-11 from Hangleton Primary School, Stanford Junior School, West Blatchington Primary School and St Peter’s Community Primary School are helping solve the mystery of whether a dragon actually lived in the Royal Pavilion. With the help of Royal Pavilion & Museums staff and fully qualified ‘dragon whisperer’ Peter Williams they became dragon experts – and took a magical mystery tour of the Pavilion in search of clues.
Children at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital also took part in the project, viewing their own Royal Pavilion ‘magical mystery tour’ film in the hospital.
The schoolchildren conferred with live bearded dragons at Brighton Museum, courtesy of Animal School handler Lindsay Cross, and having hunted high and low in the Royal Pavilion, consulted city experts at the Old Police Cells Museum in Brighton Town Hall. This was the home of Brighton’s Police Station from 1832 to 1967 – was it the site of the dragon’s current lair?
A second session will take place on 20 January 2016. The children will share their findings at a Heritage Learning Celebration Day in Brighton Museum’s new Museum Lab space on Friday 18 March 2016, when they will present art, craft and creative writing gifts they have made for the dragon and receive dragon whisperer ‘graduation’ certificates. The children at the Royal Alexandra will create a digital book of their gifts for the dragon.
The Museum Lab will then host a public showcase of all the children’s work, alongside relevant Royal Pavilion & Museums collection items, for one weekend only: 19 and 20 March 2016.