Have you seen this yet? It’s on at the Turbine House till Sunday 15th Sept, open daily, 10-6pm, and has been featured on ITV news (watch their short film here). The decor of the exhibition space coincidentally goes rather well with the cover of our new edition of the poem!
We love a beautiful book cover and work hard to make our books visually strong. Sally Castle has designed many covers for Two Rivers Press. She writes here about the inspiration for the cover artwork for The Constitutionals by Peter Robinson, which explores and celebrates the therapeutic links between reading, writing, walking and thinking through a fictional treatment of the meditative author’s convalescent wanderings around the town of Reading.
The illustration started with drawings made as an immediate intuitive response while reading the manuscript. Images such as land marks: the Cemetery Junction arch and the Wycliffe Church; trees: a magnolia and a monkey puzzle outside a house in Eastern Avenue, buildings: New Town terrace houses and the gas holder, the Co-op with clock at ten past six and the green tiled Oxfam book shop. All familiar places to me: literally, in that I was born at 27 Hatherley Road, my grandparents lived at number 30, uncle and aunt lived at 68 Amity Road in New Town. Grandfather and uncle used to meet up at Cemetery junction to watch the traffic!
Several versions were developed combining the images together using watercolour and collaged with an old street map, a receipt from the Co-op (Your store Your say) and Robinson Crusoe as portrayed in an early illustrated edition. The result was also simplified down to a flat linocut print but the watercolour collage with a stormy sky was the best choice to ‘ventriloquize the grateful dead’
Thanks to Peter for asking me to do his cover and to Nadja Guggi for her support, encouragement and working magic with her technical expertise.
Sally Castle is a printmaker, illustrator and lettering artist, based in Ruscombe. You can see more of her work on her website http://www.sallycastle.co.uk
I had thought that I was familiar with Reading’s town
centre. However, one day as I was passing Harris Arcade on Friar Street I was
surprised by a plaque that I had never seen before. It wasn’t new; it had been
in the same place for over a hundred years! I read: This house was the
birthplace of Professor Goldwin Smith DCL, born August 13, 1823, died at
Toronto June 7, 1910. A second surprise… not just a plaque I had never seen
but a person I had never heard of.
This Reading-born man must have been well known for a plaque
to be erected in his memory. This unexpected encounter with an unknown person
piqued my interest. I had to find out who Professor Goldwin Smith was and what
had made him famous enough that when he died in Toronto, his contemporaries in
Reading wanted to honour him. My first discovery was that I had read a brief
account of his life a long time ago in Some Worthies of Reading by J.J.
Cooper and had forgotten. I then discovered a biography by Elisabeth Wallace,
written in 1957, which was an engrossing read. I tracked occurrences in his
life through the newspapers, including the striking assessment in his obituary
in the Reading Observer that he was ‘one of the most famous men that
Reading has ever produced’. By this time, I had begun to understand why and to
agree with that sentiment.
Having learned so much about Goldwin Smith, I inevitably brought him into my conversations, usually with the opening ‘have you ever heard of…’ No one I spoke to had heard of him, but many were interested to know more because of his local connection. That led me to the thought of writing about Goldwin Smith, the plaque and why Reading people had wanted to commemorate him. Thus my book, Signs of the Times, was born, with twenty of Reading’s memorials as starting points to look at why that memorial is there, what or who it commemorates, and what was the story behind the setting up of the memorial itself – stories that our forebears thought important enough to fix into local memory.
A Robinsonade in which our narrator, weakened and marooned by illness, walks his local streets, pondering on recovery and rescue, for himself and for the diseased society in which he finds us confined.
Another lovely cover and a fascinating and unusual portrayal of Reading through the eyes of a figure haunted by being called Crusoe in childhood. What does he discover about the place in which he’s settled with his wife, whom he will call Friday, and their ocean-haunted daughter as he ‘sets out to avert global catastrophe, hoping to trigger the end of neoliberalism by going for a walk’?
The original artwork for the cover, designed by Sally Castle, will be on display at Whiteknights Studio Trail (venue 9) on 15/16 June where you can meet both artist and author. And there will be a launch party at 24 New Road on Saturday 15th June, 6.30pm, with readings and a chance to ask Peter about the therapeutic links between reading, writing, walking and thinking.
Can we encourage you to join Adrian and Geoff on a series of guided walks to celebrate the publication of Rural Reading and inspire you to notice the abundance of nature on our doorstep? Please note the BOOK LAUNCH on Saturday 22nd June, with cake and elderflower cordial at the walk’s end at Kennetmouth (2nd event above).