Ladybird Creative Director, Ronnie Fairweather (the font of all knowledge of all things Ladybird!) has written this week's post on the past, present and future of Vintage Ladybird.
Welcome to the world of vintage Ladybird and our up to the minute offices here in the Strand where we are using our state of the art technology to bring you this blog.
Over the last few years there's been a resurgence of interest in anything and everything "Vintage". Tapping into this trend we've launched a very successful Vintage Ladybird licensing program. On the publishing side of Ladybird, we've been watching this growth area too, and in response have compiled the fantastic Postcards from Ladybird Box. It published in October this year, alongside a facsimile edition of the iconic, Ladybird Book of London. Both of these titles will remind many people of their childhood and of times when life seemed simpler. The old Ladybird motto was "A book for every subject" and now there's a postcard for every occasion.
Most of the images on the postcards come from the golden age of vintage Ladybird the 1960s and 70s when life appeared to more straightforward than today. Then, there was very little on the telly, two of the channels even shut down at 11pm. There were no computers or mobile phones, and a blackberry was for the crumble with custard (if only that were the same today I bet you’re thinking!)
Remember these? (the one on the left is a REAL blackberry)
Parks were safe places where you went and played havoc with the landscaping and adding to your scab collection on your knees. In those days you were allowed to feel peril and danger, and test your skills at climbing and jumping up and down on unsuitable objects. If you came a cropper falling from the roundabout you didn't sue the local authority!
Although the sun was nearly always shining in the land depicted in these Ladybird images, in the real world other things were hitting the news. It was an extraordinary time, a time of incredible optimism, coupled with impending doom. Many things were going on.
The cold war was getting chilly
Hippies letting it all hang out
Yuri Gagarin was first man in space
The Berlin Wall was built
Cuban missile crisis kicked off
JFK was assasinated
Vietnam war was at having a massive impact
England won the world cup
Martin Luther King was assassinated
And Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon
But that was then and Ladybird always made sure that the sun shone for their readers! Ladybird was a beacon of Midlands post war optimism if ever there was one.
The Vintage Ladybird journey that we find ourselves on today, began about 10 years ago when a couple of us were summoned to a warehouse on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport. We had been told to 'get rid of' about 900 grey boxes that had been stored in a dark, dusty corner since the closure of the Ladybird offices in Loughborough. You can only imagine our surprise when we discovered that these boxes contained the original artwork for most of the Ladybird books published since the 1940s.
It soon became clear to us that this was something really special. Very few collections have the quantity or quality of this visual material, so literally minutes before the bulldozers moved in to demolish the warehouse ,we managed to save the whole lot. We transported the collection to the University of Reading Literary Archive. They had tonnes of enthusiasm for the collection, but at the time very little space, and it spent a number of years in the gymnasium there!
Over the next year we opened every box, photographed and catalogued the contents and created an image database containing 12,000, keyworded images, now used by our licensees and publishing team. We have also collected a near complete set of first edition Ladybird books, the original library set having been accidently pulped when they arrived at Harmondsworth from the Ladybird offices – tragic!
Today, the Ladybird image bank is used by the in house team to create products like the Postcard Box Set and the beautiful facsimiles editions of classic titles. We also license our images to be reproduced on stunning gift products. If you wanted to you could drink your hot Bovril at the footie from a Vintage Ladybird flask or you could store your fondant fancies in a gorgeous Vintage Ladybird cake tin.
The future is incredibly exciting for Vintage Ladybird, with a brand new step into the world of digital. The wonder and beauty of these nostalgic books can now be enjoyed on the iPad and iPhone with the fantastic Ladybird Classic Me Books app. This unique picture book reader has introduced a whole new generation of children to these childhood favourites, and we’ve received an overwhelming response from Ladybird fans, both young and old, about how much they are enjoying it.
The app brings fourteen classic Ladybird books to life, with wonderful (and often hilarious) narration by well known personalities including Adam Buxton (from BBC 6 Music’s Adam and Joe show) and comedian Josie Lawrence. Children can scroll through the pages and tap on ‘hot spots’ to trigger sound effects, or enjoy recording their own sounds.
The excitement continues to grow as Ladybird Classic Me Books app has also just received a Gold award in The Lovie Awards, and there are five further titles being released in December, including Cinderella and Tootles the Taxi!
Fans of the Ladybird illustrations also have a special opportunity to get up close to the artwork at the Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars exhibition at the Heritage Motor Centre, in Warwickshire. On show until 15th January 2012, the exhibition includes 120 Ladybird books and 30 original artwork illustrations alongside a selection of amazing vintage motor cars.
As you can imagine, we have the odd "off the wall" request too for our Ladybird images. We recently found ourselves opposite Vivienne Westwood, on the front row of London Fashion Week, watching some amazing silk-patched Ladybird t-shirts sashay, pout and strut their stuff on the catwalk. Ladybird meets Haute Couture! Who knows what will come next!
Life is never dull at Team Vintage Ladybird HQ. We’d love to hear from you about your favourite Ladybird memories, so please feel free to leave a comment below.
All images courtesy from the Archives of Ladybird Books Ltd
© Ladybird Books Ltd MMXI