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Once and Future Tales

Once and Future Tales



Part of the Spring 2019 season

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How are children’s imaginations affected by gender stereotypes, and how does feminist activism from the past continue to resonate today?

With fantastical stories of witches and fairies, goblins and elves, or heroic princes and their villainous counterparts, folklore and fairy tales have long been an ingrained tradition in story-telling for children.

"Our society can never be fundamentally changed while children’s imaginations are imprisoned by its myths."

Author's Notes, Once and Future Tales (1972)

In 1972, four women from the Merseyside Women’s Liberation Movement endeavoured to rewrite a series of traditional fairy tales, exploring their belief that “our society can never be fundamentally changed while children’s imaginations are imprisoned by its myths”. They were told that they “had no right to alter traditional fairy tales” as “they are part of our heritage” and at the same time, told their “work is trivial” and that they “should be involved in direct political action”. But the women believed that rewriting the fairy tales was political action and the reiteration of these stories throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries had helped to form children’s values and teach them to accept society and their roles in it.

Once and Future Tales - Rapunzel
Once and Future Tales - Inside Book

“Boys are required to go out and seek their fortune.”

Author's Notes, Once and Future Tales (1972)

“Girls are required to be pretty, dutiful and compliant."

Author's Notes, Once and Future Tales (1972)
Red Riding Hood

Both men and women are rewarded in the worlds of happily ever after. The most daring and resourceful men win power, riches and property including the possession of the princess and half the Kingdom. Whereas the ‘lucky’ women are rewarded with a life of decorative idleness as the wife of a prince.

But not in Once and Future Tales. Collectively written by Audrey Ackroyd, Marge Ben-Tovim, Catherine Meredith and Anne Neville and illustrated by Trevor Skempton, the stories have been retold with surprising twists and endings. Rapunzel uses her hair to save herself from the tower, and Snow White unionises the Dwarves! Their message of freedom from societal restraints can be applied to modern-day discussions around female archetypes in internet culture, and how those narratives can play a central role in our early learning.

In collaboration with the authors and for our season dedicated to the exploration of gender, identity and representation, we have reissued a limited edition of Once and Future Tales.

Join us in celebrating the feminist retellings of Snow White, Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood and pick up your own edition for £2 each or a set of three tales for £5.

Available for pre-order from World Book Day 2019 (Thursday 7 March) until the opening of Ericka Beckman and Marianna Simnett (Friday 29 March), and then after from our Learning Space at FACT (whilst stocks last).

Enjoy a series of fairy tale inspired events throughout April, May and June including two special events where we’ll be reading the Once and Future Tales aloud hearing from the women who rewrote the stories in 1972.

You can also drop into our new Learning Space anytime which is an interactive resource and activity area for everyone. It's a place for family workshops, kids’ technology camps, reading groups, talks and discussions, or for you, your group or your collective to host meetups, co-work, discuss ideas or start something new.

Click here to find out more about our Learning Programme or email