What is the name of your favourite toy?
How did you get it?
Have you ever lost it?
Where does it live now?
Inspired by our 2019 show The Velveteen Rabbit, here at Quirk Theatre we wanted to meet the favourite childhood companions of Exeter’s residents. We have collated these portraits into a beautiful, personal, celebratory exhibition called TOY, which you can see here on our website, and which premiered at Exeter Phoenix and Maketank in 2019.
Featuring the work of five brilliant local young photographers - Bronwyn, Eve, Annie, Ellie and Azna - mentored by photographer Nicky Thompson, over three intense (and intensely cute) sessions, these five young artists composed and photographed portraits of eighteen Exeter residents, of all backgrounds, each with their favourite toy or item.
Click on the portraits to read the unique stories behind each image.
📷by Anneka “I once lost April during a house move. She reminds me of happy memories of my childhood pet. My Nan made it for me. She will be watching over me on my bedside table!”
📷by Anneka “I have never lost Primo. To me, Primo means connection. I got Primo from my parents. The future of my toy is longevity as long as me.”
📷by Ellie Charice plays Avni & Rabbit in 'The Velveteen Rabbit.' "Ganapati Baba is an elephant deity who is the remover of obstacles. When I saw this beautiful elephant on display a few years ago, I felt all the love & grace of Ganapati come through him and I just had to take him home with me. I’ve developed a sort of personal ritual of hugging him every morning and night. I guess it’s my way of showing my reverence and gratitude towards Ganapati. I place him on a pillow at night to sleep."
📷by Anneka "Polar means home to me. My sister gave it to me just after I was born (there’s a photo of us somewhere with Mum and Polar in the hospital bed). It will always live with me, wherever I go.”
📷by Ellie “I was a refugee in Lebanon for 5 years. I was taught English by a teacher from Bath, called Prudence, who gave me this crystal rosary when we left for England - it is from Damascus, where I am from. In Damascus, everyone has them. Prudence moved back to Bath, and now she is like my English Grandma! She was at the birth of our daughter, who we named Mila Prudence (Mila means miracle.) This rosary is hung in my living room, where everyone can see it.”
📷by Bronwyn “Teddy was a gift when I was born. He makes me feel safe, like it did when I was a child. He will be with me forever.”
📷by Bronwyn "Poleybob was found in the wrong department in Ikea when I was DIYing with a friend. To me, he means companionship. I travelled with Poleybob around New Zealand and Thailand, and I see his future as continuing to travel around the world with me - destined to become a children's book, The Adventures of Gavin & Poleybob."
📷by Ellie “Lucky is my friend who’s always been with me. Micky was a comfort during a scary time. I won Lucky when I won 3rd place in a ‘Bonniest Baby’ contest at Butlers in Minehead. My Mum gave Mickey to me on the day I went into hospital for an operation on my toe. They will spend the rest of their days living with me!”
📷by Bronwyn “Little Ted means a connection with my childhood and causes me to reflect about my whole life. He was in my cot when I was born. He will travel with me throughout my life and join me in my coffin when I die.”
📷by Ellie “Snowy gives me a sense of home. I made him/stuffed him when I was about four! His future is to live on my bed forever.”
📷by Anneka “I lose Bambi most nights - he goes on adventures (usually down the side of the bed!). Bambi means comfort, friendship, constant; a link to far-away lands. My parents were expats in Doha, and some friends gifted Bambi. He travelled back to the UK with my Mum before she gave birth, and was one of three toys placed in my first cot. He goes with me, no matter where I’m sleeping - including my boyfriend’s house! There’s something comforting about reverting to childhood every night.”
📷by Anneka “I have never lost Cuddles! I have slept with him every night for 39 years. Although my husband did hide him once and pretend the dog had eaten him. He means everything. He smells just right. He will be buried with me. Cuddles was sent from Canada from my Dad’s ex-girlfriend, much to the annoyance of my mother. She still hasn’t got over it and she’s now in her 80s!”
📷by Ellie "My parents went on holiday to Portugal and they brought me back Fressa. I lost her when I left her on a rock on Dartmoor... she got soaked! To me, Fressa means my imagination. She allowed me to escape from boring life and expand my imagination to a mystical world. She's too precious to leave out, so her future is probably a special box under my bed."
📷by Ellie "Hamish was a gift for my second birthday. To me, he represents comfort and stability through life's transitions. He's a permanent fixture - he takes the blame for all my misdeeds! My Mum knitted his little jumper just a couple of years ago to hide his now-patchy fur."
📷by Anneka “I have never lost Jaundice, thank goodness - I would be pretty devastated if I did! Jaundice is a constant companion and confidant. My Dad bought him for me when I was born. I had jaundice, so was a bit yellow. As the lion was yellow too, Dad thought it would be hilarious to call him Jaundice! I think my Mum was too tired to argue. He’ll stay with me forever! I have loads of photos of me and Jaundice when I was a baby, so it’s lovely to have one of us now I’m grown up!”
📷by Ellie “Daryl is the toy representation of my love story. My fiancé and I were in a long-distance relationship and we were bonded by our love of wrestling. Daryl appears in Japanese wrestling and Tom bought it for me so I could hug him when we were apart. I would love to pass him on to our child if we ever have one.”
📷by Bronwyn "Alice was made for me by an elderly friend of my mums when I was born. She wasn't my favourite doll at the time, but I gave my favourite toy to a girl with spina bifida. At the time I remember feeling sad about it but looking back I'm glad I did it. Alice then became my favourite doll and I passed her on to my eldest daughter when she was born. I hope she passes her on one day to her children too."
📷by Bronwyn "Spaniel was my best friend in childhood and important right through to adulthood. He used to have a bib on saying 'Begging for hugs & kisses'! I told him all my worries and he helped make me less sad. I was bought him as a gift at Harvest Festival time when I was 5, as I had been looking forward to singing at the festival, but was ill. I've recently liberated him from his cardboard box and I'm looking forward to sharing him with Joe, my son."
📷by Azna "My favourite toy from when I was small was a brown teddy bear that my mum bought for me when I was 2. I named it Teddy (inventive I know) and I never went anywhere without it. I used to think it was my own kind of guardian angel!"
📷by Eve "My favourite toy when I was little was a white, fluffy rabbit called 'Bun-Bun' who is no longer even close to white anymore despite enduring many hours hanging on my washing line by her ears. I adored her as was given her by my parents when I was born so she is very special to me."
📷by Ellie "For me this project was something I really enjoyed the idea of since I had many a cuddly toy when I was younger (almost excessive!). My favourite of my toys, though, was a version of Rabbit from “Winnie the Pooh” only I called him Bunny, we went on many adventures together but now he just lives on my bed after retiring of old age!"
📷by Eve "My childhood toy is a rag doll called Alice. Alice is 45 years old and was my mum’s when she was a baby. She’s ragged round the edges and has had many parts of her replaced but she’s still the same Alice inside."
📷by Anneka Azna borrowed Anneka's bear, Teddy, for this shoot. "When it comes to childhood toys, due to being one of 8 children, I don't really have any! The closest item I have is a charm my mother gave me when I was about 10, and I've kept it ever since."
📷by Azna "I did have a teddy bear and have a vivid memory of him being lost, having become untied from the handle bars of my Raleigh Pavemaster, on a cycling adventure in the local woods. I remember being very distressed and retracing my route with my big brother but, sadly, to no avail! Over the years I have become much better at tying knots."
📷by Anneka "Scruffy wasn't scruffy at first, but I obviously knew he was going to be a keeper as I future-proofed his name. I used to tie his ears in a knot, and I'm pretty sure I can remember the feeling of his nose between my teeth, so the poor thing definitely got chewed. Having rescued him for this project, my 3 year old has now insisted Scruffy sleeps in HIS bed, joining the line up of Bunny and Ducky, so he now has a new job protecting my son."
📷by Anneka "Teddy was given to me by my uncle for my first birthday, or possibly Christmas. His full name is actually Ted Bed Ben Bear Old Bear Stevens - a mish-mash of nicknames and stolen names from other, more famous bears! I used to chew on his red bow-tie, so now it is more like a mushy peach colour. Blanket was made for me before I was born by my Grandma. It was originally half blue and half pink, but then it got washed and came out a very fetching grey, which I think is perfect."
I vaguely remember buying this puppet, in Widecombe in the moor, when I was young. My life long feeling towards it has been that of guilt for having not cared for it better. I decided to try and give it a nice sanctuary to live in, under my bed, but it felt instead like I had buried it! I lived with the guilt of that for a few years, until I hid it away in a damp little cubby hole in my van. I do wonder whether we could now start afresh? I’ll maybe even decide on a name and give it a wash 😊
📷 by Ellie Lottie got Snowy as a part of an 'Adopt a Snow Leopard' gift from her Granny. She takes Snowy with her whenever she and her family go away, but she lives on Lottie's bed otherwise. Lottie has never truly lost Snowy though there have been some close calls, like when she got left in Sheffield at Lottie's Granny's house.
Fi is the Set Designer for 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. "My cuddly toy dog is Spotty. He was sent to me by my Uncle Mike from Australia for my 2nd Birthday. He is an original Ty prototype Beenie Baby and had I kept him immaculate would be worth quite a lot to collectors, however if that were the case he wouldn't have been worth anything to me, we were inseparable and went on many adventures together. He is now over 30 years old and has survived quite a few hot washes along the way."
Jack plays Mike & Binky in 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. "My toy is called Batty, 'cause he's a bat, and my mum bought me him in Bolton Last Drop Village when I was a kid."
Rosie plays Alice & Lolly in 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. "I made Kimbi for my daughter. She has been everywhere, mostly by train and always nestled in a rucksack between a walkman and packed lunch. Her arms are no longer plump and she has a band around her foot with my name and telephone number on it."
#myfavouritetoy WINNER "My name is Chocolate. I am 19 years old. I met my boy Wiktor when he was 1. We became best pals straight away. One day his mum packed him & me & said we were going on an adventure. We flew a plane for the 1st time then & I saw the clouds really close by. It was so quiet up there. When we landed it turned out she had brought us to England. I only found out later that's what it was called. We couldn't understand what people were saying & all was very different to home."
#myfavouritetoy RUNNER UP
#myfavouritetoy RUNNER UP "This is the sole survivor of my two childhood teddy bears. One was Edward bear but this one is called Ted. Originality has always been one of my strong points. He used to have light blonde coloured fur but only a few tufts remain. Unusually he has pivot joints in his arms and legs so is quite doll-like in that respect. His leatherette pads have worn away, his nose is flattened, his squeaker doesn’t and he is short of a bit of stuffing but he has survived quite well."
#myfavouritetoy "Freddy is one of the only material things I've held on to from my childhood, and now my daughter loves him as much as I do. As a little girl I adored foxes more than any other animal. When I was 7 my sister and I encountered a fox cub that wanted to play. It was the most gorgeous creature I had ever laid my eyes on. When my mother bought me Freddy as a gift I was over the moon with happiness. I'll never let him go and still love foxes just as much as I did as a child."
#myfavouritetoy "Here is a photo of Mr Monkey and I on our adventures. I also hang out with turtles and pandas when I get time... Mr Monkey has become a bit of a class mascot over the years and travels around the world with me in the holidays. He'll probably be at the show on Thursday afternoon as my class want him to come along! We can't wait to see it!"