Hay Festival, before and after.

The last few weeks have been a curious roller coaster of days, from London to home, missing the wonderful opening of the exhibition at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh where the Lost Words artwork and words are currently residing, to Hay, then London, again! I’m home now, and home is scented with roses and honeysuckle, with too many things to do. So, I will try to show a little of my time away, mostly in photos, and then begin to move through things that need to be done.

Hay Festival for me began with heading to the festival to set up my studio in the Illustration Gallery, which turned out to be rather larger than I had anticipated. For the first couple of days the gallery was closed, but on Thursday I signed and doodled on 80 prints for Paul, from Aquarelle, while outside rivers of children moved between events. The atmosphere of the festival was joyful, amazing. So many children.


By Saturday the gallery was open, I was gilding a barn owl and the hard work had begun.

Somehow I found the time to sign prints for Graffeg, also, for The Old Chapel Gallery and Number Seven Dulverton.

I had meant to go to lots of events, but soon realised this was not possible, for one cannot be in two places at once. But I did hear the wonderful musical alchemy of Catrin Finch and Sekou Kieta. And we did have a meeting with Sekou before hand. But more on that soon, soon.

On Thursday I took the morning off to do an event, parachuting the wonderful Nicola Davies in to chair the event at the very last minute. Kerry Andrew began the event, spellbinding our audience into the theatre with her music for Robert Macfarlane’s Wren spell. And she closed the show too, leaving the audience with the scent of bluebells. Her music is available to download and buy from iTunes and you can hear the beautiful bluebell on youtube. Live, she is magical, her voice carrying clear and beautiful notes, building sound, wrapping a room around the tune.

2 1/2 hours of signing then straight into the studio,  talking with students from Hereford College of Art.

Next day I was painting otters in Booths. Ampersand otters, and more, signing books and talking. And there I met with the wonderful Rachel Clarke

Rachel wrote Your Life in My Hands and was speaking at the festival and we plotted and planned.

On Saturday I took people down to the river, talked about The Lost Words, drawing, looking, took water from the river to paint an otter. As we arrived it almost began to rain then the sun shone and it was beautiful.

And then I painted again in the festival. And during the week there were many otters, a  fox and a badger. I gilded small children, had my photo taken with Sofia, Queen of the Selfie.


I talked to people of all ages, some authors and illustrators, some students, from Cardiff, Swansea, Hereford, had a meeting with Tiny Owl, one of my publishers, signed prints for Graffeg and had short meeting with them, chatted with Tom Bollough who spoke of how he was wrestling with his new book, and all of these things were things that might usually happen in the Green Room, but people could listen in, and all were part of the business of being an illustrator.

Many otters were painted, some with thunderous rainwater from the roof of the tent, caught in a rolled reservoir of canvas.

Above is still for sale £1 500. Email me for more details.

And below is Hay Festival, written in otters, which was a present to the festival for inviting me. ( a bit huge, and I am still unused to the script, so it looks like the early writings of a child where they left not enough room for the last letters)

The otter below is the one painted on stage, in front of a large audience while reciting the words of the otter spell, summoning an otter out from the mind’s eye in ink and water. This will soon be auctioned by Hay Festival to raise money for their amazing program with young people. So watch my blog for more details. The paper traveled across to Cambridge, where Robert hand-wrote the spell against gold leaf letters.

In the Green Room I chatted with A C Grayling who talked to me of the nature of the origin of the word water until I felt I was drowning a little, but loved eavesdropping on his conversation with the very beautiful and marvellous Anita Sethi.

I read Gillian Clarke’s ‘Stone Hare’ to a new friend, Val, from Gillian’s iPad and then compared rings with Gillian’s daughter.

And I think that despite interruptions to sign books I got more work done than I could at home, because of the need to focus and inability to wander the cavernous hallways of social media.

So, thank you Hay Festival, for inviting me. More news on this soon, as the otter I painted on stage while reciting Robert’s spell and being watched by about 600 people is due to be auctioned to raise money for the festival. Many thanks to all who came, Peter Florence for the invite, Becky and Isaac for looking after me on the riverwalk and feeding us flapjacks.

The exhibition is still on in Booths Bookshop, and I must thank them for sponsoring our event on the Baille Gifford stage, and looking after me so well when I was in the shop painting, AND for the gift of the stuffed heron who is now watching me in my studio. So utterly perfect. They have originals, prints and framed otters for sale, including work from Tell Me a Dragon and Song of the Golden Hare and The Ice Bear. The shop is magnificent, the cafe just wonderful and they’ve signed copies of many of my books, though we sold out by the end of Friday of The Lost Words.

And most thanks go to Hannah, for as we drove away on the Sunday, tired and relieved we learned that Little Pi had encountered a Lost Word in the flesh, been bitten by an adder. I can joke now, for she is fine, will keep her life and all her paws, but overnight in the vets with anti-venom while I was miles away was difficult. So thanks to Hannah for her care of the Golden Dog Child, and to the gods of small dogs for not letting her die.

Back home now, unpacking head and boxes, painting a spell of otters. This is a new series, Infinity Otters, a wild river spell so that there might always be rivers and otters to people them, and that somewhere the rain will always fall to make rivers flow.

Small Infinity Otters#2 sold in moments on twitter for £300

Large Infinity Otters#1 are £2000

Painted with sumi ink and rainwater from home.

Time, now, to sit in a field and watch the birds fly.

Oh, and then there is the beautiful Hay Festival Medal for illustration. I love the way it was quietly given, and believe me when I say, it is very warmly received.



About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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3 Responses to Hay Festival, before and after.

  1. Both you and Hay were fabulous. I loved your event on Thursday with Kerry, and the Riverside walk and talk and sketch and watch you paint was amazing. A real privilege to have been there.

  2. Bernie Bell says:

    Those two hands – with the same ring.
    Aren’t hands….GREAT.

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