Rhubarb Festival

rhubarb 2014

We’re settling down again after a weekend promoting my walks booklets at Wakefield’s Rhubarb and Food and Drink Festival, although Barbara works in a bookshop so it’s not such a change for her! We were guests of Trinity Walk shopping centre.

As it was a food festival, in addition to selling books we couldn’t resist doing a bit of bartering and we exchanged a copy of Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle for a box of four muffins from the next stall! But we spent most of our profit on takeaway lattes from Cafe Costa to keep us warm as the breeze funnelled around the precinct!

Robin Hood’s Wakefield

Walks in Robin Hood's Wakefield

Saturday proved to be the best day, when Morris Dancers created a suitably festive background. It conjured up an impression of what it must have been like when Trinity Walk was a part of the town known as Goodybower, ‘God’s bower’, where statues of saints from the parish church, now the cathedral, were paraded, displayed and decorated with ribbons and flowers and where some performances of the town’s guilds’ cycle of mystery plays took place.

Mystery plays of course had a religious theme, although the second play in the cycle, Cane and Abel, could claim to be the world’s first murder mystery.

Cursed by God, Cain taunts his fellow men to capture and kill him;

And harshly when I am dead,
Bury me at Goodybower at the quarry head

The quarry was approximately where Trinity Walk had set up the stall for us, later the site for Wakefield’s market.

One of my booklets retraces the steps of a Yorkshire Robin Hood, a Robert Hode who lived in Wakefield but who found himself outlawed after the battle of Boroughbridge. There are several walks exploring the town’s connections with the story, at Sandal Castle and Pinderfields for example, the latter associated since medieval times with Robin’s great rival and supposedly cousin, George-a-Green, the Jolly Pindar of Wakefield. Then there’s a walk around the battlefield site itself at Boroughbridge and a tour of Brockadale, including the look-out post at Sayles, mentioned in the earliest Robin Hood’s ballads and still overlooking both the ancient Great North Road and its modern dual-carriageway equivalent.

The book ends up at Kirklees Priory, long associated with the death of Robin and supposedly the site of his grave.

Rough Patch

Rough Patch

We were pleased that we sold as many Robin and Liquorice walks books as we did the Rhubarb, which was good considering theme of the festival. It’s so encouraging for me when people have done all the walks in two of the books then they come back for the third in the series. I feel that I  must be doing something right.

Because of the local food connection we were also selling my sketchbook from the wilder side of the garden, Rough Patch.

It was good to meet up with several of our friends, including people we haven’t bumped into for several years, who had spotted that we would be there and come along to see us. I saw my junior school teacher from 1960 and an illustration student of mine from my days at Leeds college of art, then part of the polytechnic, from 1983.

Shopping malls aren’t my natural habitat but, as there’s a ‘Walk’ in the name of this particular shopping centre, perhaps I’ll get a chance to link up with them again.

After three four hour stints at our cart I have enormous respect for retailers and all the hard but unseen work that they put into to making shopping a seamless experience. They make it look so easy!

Don’t mention the rain

As the dark clouds whipped themselves up on the Friday morning, the street cleaner who regularly patrolled the precinct kept our spirits up;

‘Don’t talk about the rain and it won’t come!’ she advised us.

She was wrong, the shower came through just the same, but at least she made us smile!

Link; Trinity Walk

Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates

backdrop sketch

Wouldn’t it be great if I always had a team of young helpers ready to fill in the blanks when I had a big illustration to do? While the crew set up the eight flats that we use as the backdrop for our Pageant Player pantomimes I set about sketching out some ideas.

Robinson Crusoe & the Pirates starts in a village in some unspecified country in South America. We’ve never featured South America in one of our productions before and as I’ve never visited the continent I’ve got the nearest thing that I know in mind; Pollenca, Majorca. I add Rio’s Sugar Loaf mountain in the background, although Pollenca has some pretty impressive limestone crags of its own.

sketch to scaleWhen they get the flats in place,  I realise that I need to go for more of a letterbox, wide-screen format, cutting out the ground altogether.

Robinson Crusoe backdrop designI usually concoct this year’s scene from the basis of last year’s but this time I decide we ought to make a fresh start.

While my team of young helpers put a coat of white emulsion over last year’s Snow Queen village, I make a more accurate drawing to grid up onto the 11×4 ft flats, which have three cross-members – easily visible beneath the canvas – which I adopt as as my grid.

The swatches are a reference for Ken for mixing the emulsion paint.

My proportion goes awry as I get to the right hand side mapping things out and the village church ends up looking more like Barnsley town hall. No bad thing.