by Fiona Ferbrache
Kathy Burrell’s forthcoming article in TIBG demonstrates the enchanting powers of western things to Polish children (in late socialist Poland). Drawing upon life-history interviews with Polish migrants in London, Burrell shows how western toys and sweets brought exciting aesthetic and tangible qualities to their ‘normal’ childhood playtimes, thus enhancing their familiar experiences. It is also noted how moments of encounter with western products had long lasting impacts in children’s daily lives, something which Burrell connects to their future migration.
A group of children enchanted by western things last week were the pupils of a London school when Hollywood arrived in their assembly hall in the guise of Captain Jack Sparrow. Award winning actor Johnny Depp was filming the next installment of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ in London when he received a letter from one school pupil requesting his help in a mutiny against the teachers. Dressed as the famous pirate, Depp arrived at the school and entertained the pupils for 15 minutes. Teachers hope that the arrival of Hollywood has a lasting impact on these children by encouraging them to keep writing letters.
It is difficult not to feel enchanted by this story and exemplifies the power of American material culture in ours lives in a similar way to Burrell’s account of western culture in Poland.
Now who shall I write to in anticipation of our next Geography seminar?
Burrell, K. (Forthcoming) The enchantment of western things: children’s material encounters in late socialist Poland. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
BBC News Online (2010) Pirate Johnny Depp makes surprise school visit
Thompson, J. (2010) ‘Help us mutiny’: Johnny Depp pays surprise visit to London primary school dressed as Jack Sparrow after letter from girl, 9. Mail Online. 8 October, 2010