Community voices #2 - Author Cicely Gill and illustrator Lesley Van Bogerijen
"Kirsty, Jamie and the Pipefish Man" will be launched at Brodick Library at 4pm on Tuesday 1st of December. This is an underwater adventure story and colouring book that will delight children and adults who will be able to take a magical journey and discover the South Arran Marine Protected Area. You can purchase the book online here.
We wanted to know more about the "making of" this book. So if you are curious too, read on and enjoy!
THE MAKING OF “KIRSTY, JAMIE AND THE PIPEFISH MAN: AN ARRAN UNDERWATER ADVENTURE” STORY AND COLOURING BOOK
Cicely Gill and Lesley Van Bogerijen interviewed by Manuela de los Rios
How did this marine story/colouring book idea come to be?
C.G: For the past three years, my friend Rose and me did a 3 day marine craft workshop in Lamlash. The first year we made fish kites and on the last day we organised a parade from the school to Lamlash Green, where the COAST stall was open with information and activities. Rose couldn’t do it this year but I wanted to make a contribution to COAST. I’m not much good at facts or have any authority as to what’s “down there” so I came up with the idea of writing a book. I asked Lesley if she’d like to contribute as an illustrator as she had previously done some work with the Arran Naturalists, and she was into it! We passed it through Andrew, COAST’s Executive Director and the project took off. Back then I wasn’t even aware that colouring books are trending!
What inspired you to write/illustrate this story?
C.G: When I’m working on a novel or a story I know what the plot will be, but in a very “loose” way, I don’t plan out the chapters or make a list of the characters. So all I knew was that they’d have to get under the water and get introduced to sealife, eventually arriving to the South Arran Marine Protected Area. I don’t like making animals talk, so that’s why the pipefish man changes from a man to an animal and the others “talk” through him.
L.V: As the book was going to be a COAST publication, I felt accuracy had to be paramount. Although the story is magical and make-believe, the illustrations had to be as realistic as I could make them. As it was to be suitable for colouring I made the shapes both bold and well defined. As a child I spent hours colouring in, so I hoped that if I found it making me reach for my coloured pencils it would hopefully have the same effect on others. It was also important to support Cicely's story line as closely as possible.
How would you like children to react to the “Arran Underwater Adventure”?
C.G: I would hope that they’d be as excited as Kirstie and Jamie and feel enthusiastic about the story, tell their parents. Talking with people in Glasgow about the Arran MPA this past weekend I was very surprised and sad that they hadn’t heard about South Arran MPA. So this we could change.
L.V: Pure excitement and disbelief that all these creatures and colours exist in our waters. The thrill of being at the seaside has always been there, especially for children, but so often it is somewhere to just build a castle or have a paddle. Nothing wrong with that, but hopefully our book might make them think a little about the bigger picture.
Do you think it is more difficult to raise awareness about the marine environment because we cannot see it?
L.V: Definitely, both for children and adults. I doubt the general population think about it much, except to go daft over a romantic moon shining on the sea. Little consideration is given to understanding about what lives in the waters or what it takes to sustain that life. Fish and Chips rule on a Friday, nobody seems to question how the meal reached them, if it is a sustainable option...
How do art and environment come together?
C.G: I suppose the environment, not just the Arran environment as it would apply to cities as well,. What is ouit there that you take visually and with other senses gets translated through art. Its a digestive process and I’d hope anything I’ve created reflects the “aliveness” of life’s forces. I like the idea that what I write reflects life is worth living, is a translation of the “joie de vivre”
For how long have you been contributing to COAST?
C.G: I went to COAST Community Advisory Panel meetings and I decided, when I left my job in Glasgow, to help out. I quite like the people who are part of COAST, I knew Howard (COAST’s Chair) from when we were badminton partners so I knew how determined he can be! For me it's interesting to observe people, how they interact, and being on the COAST Advisory Panel has been a very positive experience as everyone is so wholeheartedly enthusiastic. The sea is the basis of our life. If the sea’s not OK, we’re not OK.