How did Quizzic Alley start?

How did Quizzic Alley start?

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times in various ways. How did Quizzic Alley start? Where did you get the idea? Well, it has everything to do with a 12 year old, her passion for reading and a mountain.

Harry was part of our family

Harry Potter had been part of our lives for years. The full set of well-thumbed books still sat on the bookshelf and all the DVDs were in the cupboard. The films were played and replayed many times. Often a movie was left on in the background as a testament to how loved and familiar they’d become: a soundtrack to family life.

In a trail of Book Weeks, our kids had been Harry (of course), Hermione (again, of course), Ron, Dobby, Ginny and Trelawny, some multiple times. We’d made robes and wands and ears. Hair was dyed and lightning scars were hastily scratched on foreheads. To recycle Hermione into Ginny, we made a polystyrene basilisk fang that we jammed into an old book. We added globs of red paint to look like blood. I was particularly proud of that one.

Books before movies

Meanwhile, we read the first few books together, chapter by chapter, at bedtime. What a magical adventure that was for mum and dad, already adults when “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was first published in 1998. Reading those books for the second time with our own children, we re-lived the wonder in their eyes-wide, air-gasping reactions.

Like so many parents, we insisted the films come after the books but Ash grew more and more frustrated waiting for the slower reader to finish. So, against our better judgement and like many parents before us, we acquiesced. To this day, I doubt Angus has read all the books.

Back to the question: How did Quizzic Alley start?

Ash was 12 years old and “over Harry Potter”. Perhaps buoyed by a love of the darker themes in the last few books of the series, they were ready to move on to scarier literature. Nine-year-old Angus had discovered Marvel.

We were on holiday in northern NSW when Ash ran out of books to read. Although our wizarding days seemed to be behind us, a quick visit to the local newsagent resulted in a brand new copy of The Cursed Child. It took three days to read and re-read the play and Ash told us all about it as we started our trek to the top of Mt Warning. Harry was back!

As we walked steadily up and up the mountain, there was plenty of time to chat. Wizarding families were discussed. How did the next generation fit in? Who was related? Who were friends? Which were the main wizarding families? Who was whose cousin? Was Harry’s ancestry wizarding royalty? Michael and the kids quizzed and challenged each other about Harry Potter over the next four hours.

An idea forms

My Harry Potter credentials are pretty good (I believe I was one of the first adults in Australia to read The Philosopher’s Stone and I once talked to J.K.Rowling on the phone) but the depth of knowledge apparent in the exchanges between Michael, Ash and Angus literally gave me pause. In awe of the scenery and the non-stop chatter, I stopped before the final climb to the top of the mountain.

It occurred to me that, almost 20 years since that first book was published, the Harry Potter series had truly stood the test of time and generations of kids like ours had now grown up with the boy wizard. Many would soon become parents themselves and revisit the wizarding world, just like we had done. They would re-read, re-discover and share the magic with the next group of Potterheads. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be released in cinemas within a year and there was already talk of The Cursed Child actually making it to theatres.

“We should open a shop,” I said as we approached the summit of Mt Warning. “A shop that sells official Harry Potter merchandise.”

Less than a year later we opened our first store in Canberra and now we also have a store in Sydney. And it all started on a mountain with a 12-year-old and their passion for reading.

Professor Penelope Presto
Owner – Quizzic Alley in Canberra and Sydney

Author: Professor Penelope Presto
Professor Presto is Headmaster at the esteemed Quizzical Academy of Sorcery and also Chief Wrangler of wizards large and small. She loves to bake toad cake and swaps recipes with like-minded wizards all over the world. On Tuesdays she joins the local Goblins and Gouls swimming club for a few laps before a lunch of wiggle-root salad.

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