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Liquorice All-Sorts

To see that we can sometimes learn from our mistakes

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To see that we can sometimes learn from our mistakes.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two 225g bags of Liquorice All-Sorts, a tray and covering cloth.
  • Before the assembly separate the different kinds of sweet into some small plastic bags. (Resist temptation!)


  1. Ask the children who likes Liquorice All-Sorts. Which of the sweets are favourites? Introduce the different varieties one by one and arrange them in separate lines and groups on the tray. How many of each is there? What are their different shapes?

  2. Say that while not everyone likes the flavour of liquorice (which comes from the root of the liquorice plant), Liquorice All-Sorts have been enjoyed for over a hundred years, and all because of an accident.

    Tell the following story, making sure the sweets are neatly arranged. Pick up and spill the tray with suitable drama at the appropriate moment. If you want to preserve the sweets and save on clearing up, have a large clean bowl such as a preserving pan handily placed to catch them. This would also make it easier to show the jumbled up varieties to everyone.

    The All-Sorts Story

    Would you like to have a job selling sweets? Over a hundred years ago, Charlie Thomson did just that. He travelled from store to store selling the liquorice sweets that were made at the Bassett's factory. One day he visited a shop to talk about an order. To help the shop manager choose which sweets to buy, Charlie arranged them on his sample tray. He neatly put a row of round pink sweets next to a row of round blue ones. Beside some white and black cubes, he arranged a group of harlequin-coloured sweets. There were black and white liquorice rolls, and pieces of pure black liquorice too. Then there were Charlie's favourites, liquorice squares, coloured pink, orange, and brown, not forgetting pink and yellow coconut whirls! Charlie covered the samples with a cloth and waited outside the office.

    After a while he was called in, but the office door was closed and, because he was carefully holding onto his tray, Charlie couldn't easily push the handle. He tried moving it with one knee…and then the other…he even tried moving it with his bottom…but the door stayed shut. Struggling to hold onto his sweets, Charlie bent sideways and eventually managed to open the door with his elbow. But, as he stepped inside, he bumped straight into the manager who had come to help, and the tray of sweets was knocked from his hands.

    What a disaster! The sweets rolled across the floor - black, white, yellow, orange, pink, blue and brown, cubes and squares rolls and whirls, all mixed together! 'Oh no!' groaned Charlie, as he knelt down gathering them up. 'No one will buy these now.' But, when he stood up and looked at the jumbled pile of sweets on his tray, he had an idea. The mixture of different types and colours of sweets looked very attractive. 'I could sell a mixture of sweets like that,' thought Charlie. And that's just what he did! The shop manager was keen to place an order for 'liquorice all-sorts' and they sold so well that another order quickly followed. People really liked Charlie's new 'liquorice assortment' and, over a hundred years later, we still smile when we hear about his accident.

  3. Reflect that, although no one really knows quite how Charlie's tray of sweets was spilled, the story is based upon a true incident. Ask the children to review what they have understood from it. What can we learn from our own mistakes and accidents? Sometimes even slip-ups can be turned to our advantage.

Time for reflection

Invite everyone to quietly remember a time when something has gone wrong. What did they learn from that occasion?

Dear God,
When we make mistakes and things go wrong,
help us not just to be angry,
but to take time to think.
Help us not just to blame others,
but to learn about ourselves.
Help us not to give up, but to try again.


'Father, hear the prayer we offer' (Come and Praise, 48)
(This song challenges us to hold a positive view of life even when things don't go as well or easily as we would wish.)

Publication date: November 2003   (Vol.5 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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