Jack Fawdry holding two teddy bears, and Emily Baker pulls the strings of a toy theatre puppet outside the Toy Museum.
Ready to play? Jack Fawdry holds some teddy bears donated to the museum while Emily Baker pulls the strings of a toy theatre puppet.

A museum in Fitzrovia will host a playing-in-the-street event this August when the clock will turn back to a pre-digital world of fun and games — something that could happen every year say the organisers.

The event is the creation of Emily Baker and Jack Fawdry who run Pollock’s Toy Museum and Shop on the corner of Scala Street and Whitfield Street — the oldest toy museum in the UK.

Their trade was badly hit by the pandemic but they successfully crowdfunded to keep the business going, and now they want to celebrate by turning the street into a stage where local people can make their own entertainment, and rediscover an all-but-forgotten world of enjoyment.

Baker told Fitzrovia News that lots of local residents and business people will be joining in and making the Fitzrovia Fete on Saturday 14 August a day to remember.

There will be street games, punch and judy, a magic show, free craft workshops, a toy theatre show, and local people and businesses will have stalls selling all sorts of things including home made cakes and cups of tea. There will also be some live music.

The event is a celebration of children’s play without the threat of road danger as the streets next to the museum will be closed to all motor traffic. But it is also something that adults will enjoy and perhaps give people some inspiration about how we use our streets and reclaim them for public space.

At the heart of the fete is the creative enjoyment of making things and taking part in street theatre where everyone can play a part.

“Jack and I really want to bring back the handcrafts where you learn something with others and finish it at home,” says Baker. 

“And also the traditional art of print-making — cutting things out, printing and making a toy theatre.”

Jack Fawdry, great grandson of the museum founder, print maker, and window cleaner.

Her partner Jack Fawdry — great-grandson of the museum’s founder — is a qualified print maker and has a print workshop and press in the basement of the museum.

Playing in the street used to be a very common part of children’s growing up in the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century before motor vehicles dominated our streets and children retreated to electronic toys in their bedrooms.

“We’ll have loads of pavement chalk to mark out hopscotch on the street, and encourage lots of imaginative play. Children don’t need a lot of prompting with something like that,” she says.

The two of them were inspired by Playing Out, an organisation started by parents. They said that simple games are enough for children to get together and discover the joy of play with others.

The fete is a way of saying thank you to all the people who supported the Crowdfunder which allowed the museum to continue. It is also an opportunity for Baker and Fawdry to explore ways the museum can work differently, offering craft workshops and learning experiences.

“Doing something like the fete is a way of trying to make the museum more relevant again without making it really ‘swish’ inside. We don’t want to modernise the look of the shop and museum but we do need to become more relevant. Doing community events is a way of reminding people we are here.

“Hopefully this fete will be once a year. And for that one time a year we will feel that we have reclaimed the street,” she says.

Pollock’s Toy Museum Fitzrovia Fete, free community event. 12 noon to 5pm Saturday 14 August 2021. The event is free but booking is advised in order to control the numbers of people attending under Covid guidelines. The museum will be open as usual for paying visitors.