Thursday, 21 February 2013

Dreaming of Flying

In my third novel ' Kite Spirit' (to be published by Macmillan Children's Books on April 25th) my heroine Kite gets tired of her dad's irritating habit of trying to interpret her dreams.

Paul Day's sculpture 'The Meeting Place' (detail from dream like frieze) in King Cross St Pancras

Since I was a small child I have always dreamed of flying. Sometimes I still wake with the impression that I could spread my arms and soar through the sky. Anyone who has ever dreamed of flying will know that the sensation can carry through into the day and keep you feeling buoyant and light in spirit.

Contemplating 'Kite Spirit.' Research trip to The Lake District last summer

It's been a hard cold winter and it looks as if the snow is about to fall again, but the energetic little birds in my garden are doing a shout out for Spring and I'm all ears.

This Spring, it seems, is all about flying. The piece of Circus Theatre I have scripted and co-created with Kristine Landon-Smith of Tamasha Theatre Company and my novel 'Kite Spirit' are to find their wings at the same time. The serendipity of these flights gave me the idea to share with you some of the inspirations behind the book 'Kite Spirit' and play 'The Arrival'.

The character of Kite, my London girl in 'Kite Spirit' whose greatest wish is to learn to fly on the cloud swing at Circus Space (who are presenting 'The Arrival with Tamasha Theatre Company), came from watching one of the circus artists as Kristine work shopped 'The Arrival.' As I followed her flight I felt the same visceral emotion as I had experienced as a child when dreaming of flying and I knew that I would like to create a flying character in one of my books... that character has now been born as sixteen year old Kite who in my novel has to face a fall of tragic proportions in her young life, and learn how to fly again.

Just as it often takes time to interpret what a dream of flying or falling might mean I find it difficult to understand what has drawn me to my subjects until they are almost complete. Now as play and book emerge it is clear that both are inspired by the work of other artists. In the case of 'The Arrival' the extraordinary sepia images in Shaun Tan's graphic novel is at the core of the production, and in 'Kite Spirit' the work of sculptors such as Antony Gormley and landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy have had a great impact on my characters and story.

An ancient wall of the kind my young sculptor character Garth might aspire to build.

During the course of developing 'The Arrival'  Kristine and I had the privilege to meet Shaun Tan and talk about his work and our Circus Theatre Production. He spoke of his fascination for architecture and I was struck by his ability to swoop in on domestic detail (like packing a suitcase or tasting strange fruit) then to pan out to explore the epic flights of humans leaving their homelands and reinventing themselves in an abstract alien land. Landscape is important in all three of my novels and it is the landscape of the Lake District where I lived as a child that has summoned me in 'Kite Spirit' drawing me back to the landscape of my early childhood just as Dele 'The man in the hat' in  'The Arrival' is transported through 'memory's portal' to his own early life in his village in Africa.

As I, like Seth the dream interpreter in 'Kite Spirit' attempt to make sense of the journey of my own work and inspirations I now begin to see how artists inspire artists... how witnessing the building of a cantilever house 'The Balancing Barn' in Suffolk can inspire the contemporary fictional haunted house - 'Mirror Falls' that hangs off a mountain in the Lake District in ' Kite Spirit'... How a cloud swing artist at Circus Space has inspired the character of Kite and how conversation about architecture with Shaun Tan can inspire the exploration of the impact of landscape on lives from a house in Finsbury Park where we have set 'The Arrival' to the fresh waters of the mountain tarn in 'Kite Spirit.' My character's dreams of flying and the inspiration of circus artists and visual artists connect the two works in ways that I am only just beginning to piece together myself, just as Garth pieces together his sculptures in 'Kite Spirit' slate by slate.

It takes time for work to grow and mull and now as these two stories are preparing to set out in the world I feel my spirits rising at the thought of them setting off on their journeys. No wonder the birds in my garden are setting up such a commotion. They have plenty of kilometers to cover this spring on tour with 'The Arrival' and afterwards heading up North for the summer to my mother's homeland in the Lake District; following Kite on her emotional odyssey of learning to fly again. If only the birds could speak... what stories would they tell of their long migratory journeys? Then again 'the ancient owl of the city' in 'The Arrival' and the Dawn owl in 'Kite Spirit' may well be calling to us from other worlds...

Tamasha and Circus Space Present:
The Arrival is on a National Tour March 21st - 13 April 2013
'An epic tale of migration told through an extraordinary weaving together of theatre, circus and music'
For booking details:

Here is a taster of the last workshop.

'Kite Spirit' is to be published by Macmillan Children's Books on April 25th 2013. For more details keep checking on:

know. Don't ask me how, but at this moment, I know that Dawn is gone...
Kite's dreams have always been of flying ... until the Falling Day 
Reeling after the suicide of her best friend, a grief  stricken Kite leaves exams, facebook memorial frenzy and her London life behind to spend the summer at 'Mirror Falls' - a remote glass house hanging off a mountain. 
But the endless blue sky lonely days and haunted nights offer no escape. The picture book beauty of the countryside feels fake to Kite as potent feelings of bitterness, anger, guilt and heartbreak dam up inside her. Is it wishful thinking that she senses Dawn's spirit drawing closer? 
If only she could speak to Dawn, see her face, just once more to understand why...

At crisis point Kite meets local sculptor Garth and piece by piece she begins to unravel her tangled web of emotions. Talking to a stranger is easier somehow...


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