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Saturday, 16 July 2016
Michael Morpurgo comes to Wedmore
London, Wedmore… The Wedmore Arts Festival staged a coup thanks to Hay Festival
connections. I saw the world famous author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, give a talk as part of the local
Asking questions after Michael Morpurgo's talk
is one of Britain’s best-loved storytellers. I relished the opportunity to hear
more about his work. He shared how he puts a story together with an enthusiastic
audience ranging in age from 7 to 80. Some stories take 3 months; others can
take 25 years. He weaves different experiences, anecdotes, facts and fiction
He went into
detail on the various elements that came together to create The Butterfly Lion. It all started with
the purchase of a second-hand book from a shop during the Hay Festival. He had
been reading Chris McBride’s book on white lions on the train. He looked up to
see the Westbury White Horse carved into the Wiltshire hillside.
A boring dinner
party provided a fascinating, true World War One story about some circus
animals. Then, he was stuck. He knew nothing about lions. He met Virginia
McKenna of Born Free fame in a lift
by chance one day. Now, he had his source for information about lions.
The story was
still missing a voice. That voice came from his own memories of running away
from school as a child. Now, the elements were all in place to write the story.
And where does
Michael Morpurgo do his best writing? At a desk? No. Standing up at a lectern?
No. In bed. Just like in a picture he saw of Treasure Island author, Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s by far the
most comfortable place. You can even take a nap if you need one. Dreams can
One child asked
why does the author write so much about wartime? Because all around him when he
was growing up people were grieving about lost loved ones in the Second World
War. He told how he used to get scolded by his mother for staring at a family
friend whose face had been badly burnt in the war. He later wrote the story and
sent it to him. The man replied that he remembered and appreciated him as the
boy who looked at him. Others always
How did he start
writing? It evolved. As a teacher of Year Sixes, he used to read other people’s
stories at the end of the school day. He started creating and telling them his
own stories. 130 books later and still writing…
There were many
fans both young and old in the audience. A show of hands revealed that a
surprising large number had read lots of his books. We were all urged to read
more. The story of a ghost king and the local football team is on the way. Can
you guess which king and which football team provided the inspiration?
also spoke fondly of the Farms for City
Children charitythat he founded
with his wife Clare. The village children perhaps could not imagine how lucky
they are to live in the countryside with animals all around. War Horse was inspired by observing a
badly traumatised boy who had lost the ability to speak. Yet, the words tumbled
out as he stroked a horse on the farm. There is an unspoken connection between
people and animals that can run very deep. Over 90,000 city children have now benefited
from visiting the 3 farms.
The farms are an
additional legacy to Michael Morpurgo’s life’s work. His great talent is in making wartime events accessible
to today’s children. Through his books children can understand the significance
of events long before they were born. They can see the importance of remembering
and respecting the sacrifices. And the importance of continuing to say ‘Never
again’ to the next generation.