It is every Potterhead's aspiration to attend a Hogwarts class and to learn about the intriguing secrets of the magical world. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to make that dream a reality. Hosted by The British Library, as part of the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, are a series of Harry Potter themed lectures with real figures from interesting backgrounds.
My lecture of choice was Potions, being the Slytherin that I am. To get myself in the mood, I wore some of my new Potter merch from the Autumn Primark collection, which I will feature throughout this post. And seriously, if you are in London, you must head over to Oxford Street to check it out. I could have rendered myself bankrupt in that section.
The snuggliest oversized Hogwarts jumper you will ever find. Plus, it's reversible! But you have to read on to find out what's on the other side...
ANYWAY, back to the lecture. Now, for reasons that I don’t care to explain fully, myself and my other half (Joe) ended up late. Fortunately, he kept me grounded and we managed to dash into the lecture hall just a little behind schedule. In my head, I thought that it may be possible that we would be ambushed by Professor Snape and docked lots of house points for our tardiness.
Luckily, we managed to sneak in quietly and catch the majority of the talk. As it were, this Potions class wasn’t taught by the Head of Slytherin house (who no doubt would have told us to turn to page 394). Instead, The British Library had taken an interesting spin on the theme of the class, and had invited tea expert and scholar, Jane Pettigrew along.
Professor Pettigrew being interviewed by Cultural Events Producer at The British Library, Susannah Stevenson. Photo credit goes to Jennie Patrice
In her own set of billowing robes and a steampunk witches hat, Jane delivered a lecture on the history of tea, detailing on the different types available and the magical properties that they all boast. I have to say, this room was clearly filled with tea connoisseurs from across the country, which may have made myself and Joe feel slightly amateur. Despite the fact that we love tea, we are very much ‘basic’ in how make our English Breakfast drinks, whereas Jane had lists on the appropriate times to brew all types of tea, down to the second.
The historical element of this lesson was something that I found particularly fascinating. Jane detailed how ingrained this drink is within our country's timeline. From the tales of the East India Company, to the different countries where fresh tea was grown. Did you know that had we not discovered tea growing in the lands of Assam, the drink may not have existed here today?
The look of horror on Joe’s face at this statement was something to behold.
Feeling ready to go back to Hogwarts in my adorable Platform 9 and 3/4 socks ("fink ya being funny, do ya?")
She also included some wonderful quotes from famous figures of our time about the subject of tea. One that left me giggling in my seat was the following from Marlene Dietrich, who stated that “The British have an umbilical cord which has never been cut and through which tea flows constantly”.
IT’S JUST SO TRUE. I CAN’T GO ONE MORNING WITHOUT MY CUPPA.
Jane herself was a bubbly and energetic individual, and when I chatted to her afterwards she praised The British Library’s creativity in allowing her to put something so unique together. I can personally attest that her tea knowledge surpassed anyone else I’ve ever met, and you can learn more about her work over on her website.
I would pay millions of galleons to see Severus Snape in Jane's outfit and pose. Photo credit to Susannah Stevenson
It has been an ambition of The British Library to unite fantasy with real life, and these lecture series are a way of achieving said goal. The Cultural Events Producer at the British Library, Susannah Stevenson, is the mind behind the madness of the talks. She informed me that each subject has allowed the company to reach out to other organisations and individuals across the world, and explore topics previously not showcased by the library. Because of that, the venue has some very exciting talks planned in the future.
One of the upcoming lectures to take place is the Hogwarts elective, Alchemy, and it will be delivered in conjunction with The Science Museum. Taught by Chemistry academics Roger Highfield and Sophie Waring, this lesson is designed to show the witchy effects that can be achieved through alchemical methods.
And guess what that means?
Yes. LIVE DEMONSTRATIONS ON STAGE WITH CHEMICALS. YAY FOR NERDS.
Keep up to date with everyone featured in this post! Check out the Twitter feeds of The British Library, Jane Pettigrew and Susannah Stevenson
Also upcoming in the curriculum is a lecture on Divination. But instead of receiving crazy prophecies from the kooky Professor Trelawney, you’ll be treated to a talk from Marc Salem. He is a mentalist and mind reader, and is considered to be at the forefront of of non-verbal communication. Seriously, his stuff his eerily good.
There are a plethora of other lectures for you to check out, including talks on writing, illustrating and the folklore and history behind witchcraft and wizardry. These of course all slot beautifully around the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition itself, which is on until 28 February 2018 (My birthday! Coincidence? I think not). All the events bring the world of Harry Potter into our everyday lives, and enrich you with new knowledge to tuck away in your Potterhead mind. You can find tickets and more information on all the lectures here, or for more on the exhibition itself take a wander over here.
Now, if you excuse me, I’m off to re-read ALL the books in the series over an expertly brewed cup of tea.
The exterior of the beautiful British Library. PLUS, the other side of my Marauders Map jumper. I LOVE IT.