Ahead of the Grandad’s Island: from Page to Pavement finale event on Sunday 13 October, we interviewed local award-winning author and illustrator Benji Davies about the book itself, the impact of the project and his plans for the future…
How does it feel to see your book, Grandad’s Island, come to life across the Waltham Forest?
It’s been fascinating to see how the book has spread out into Waltham Forest, with various projects and artworks popping up on social media. It’s really taken on a life of its own and it’s really exciting to see how many people have been inspired and in so many different ways.
What have been some of your favourite parts of the Grandad’s Island: from Page to Pavement project?
I found the Babel Project at Walthamstow Garden Party really moving from a personal perspective. It’s a very solitary pursuit in many ways, the creative process of writing and illustrating, so when my books are translated into new languages it’s hugely exciting and especially to begin with, largely unexpected. It was originally a real achievement just to be published in English. And then it becomes quite abstract, because with most of the languages I have no understanding of the words and generally don’t experience those books being read in those languages. But the energy created by hearing the book read simultaneously in several languages was very powerful to me as it really brought home the impact of them being read all over the world, like tuning into a radio of all the voices who might be reading my books, which is really humbling and an incredible compliment.
Are you looking forward to the finale event at Langthorne Park on Sunday 13 October which will celebrate all the elements of the project? What will you be doing on the day?
Yes indeed! I’m going to be giving a reading and parrot making workshop during the afternoon so I’m looking forward to that, but even more so getting to have a good look round and absorb all the wonderful creations on show whilst hopefully meeting and talking to their creators.
How important is it to bring a community together through shared experiences?
I think we often underestimate the power of coming together as human beings, of making meaningful contact with each other. We can get lost in our own little bubbles. A shared purpose can really bind us. On the simplest level it’s a great way to meet people and find common ground with our neighbours, maybe people we don’t usually come into direct contact with. Art and creativity are a great platform to make that happen.
Do you have any upcoming plans/projects that you can share with us?
My book The Storm Whale, which I wrote before Grandad’s Island, is being turned into a stage production. I’ve just had a sneak preview of the puppets which look beautiful! It’s on in York this Christmas, but will be coming to Little Angel Theatre in London next year.
I’m also currently writing a new picture book which will be published next year and in middle of preparing to launch an online print shop of my artwork, which people can follow by signing up to the mailing list on my website at benjidavies.com if they want to know more.
The free Grandad's Island: from Page to Pavement finale event featuring dancing, a procession, multilingual storytelling, creative workshops and a community feast takes place in Langthorne Park, Leytonstone on Sunday 13 October, 12noon - 6pm.