Publication Day, May 24th!

After a year in the making, the published edition of Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes, is about to launch. It was a pleasure from beginning to end, made so by the commitment of the small team who worked tirelessly to realise it. We shared an ambition to make something lasting and fine, and I believe we did just that.

My heartfelt thanks to Simon Armitage, who entrusted the project to me, and to publisher Joe Pearson at Design for Today, who unhesitatingly took up the challenge and then didn’t stop until everything was perfect. Thanks and admiration for Laurence Beck at Design for Today, who so beautifully designed the book. Huge thanks too to my regular collaborator Pete Telfer, who has been present at all stages of the Hansel & Gretel adventure, and was my cameraman and editor on the animations and film sequences of the stage production, as well as the book-trailer shown here.

And finally my warmest appreciation to the team on the stage production, whose unfailing creativity and cheer buoyed me up when the waters got very choppy: Di Ford and Lizzie Wort, Jan Zalud, Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths, Jonathan Street, Peter Lloyd and Phil Cooper. Every one of you, a hero in my book!


Clive Hicks-Jenkins, May 2019

12 thoughts on “Publication Day, May 24th!

  1. Clive, it was a real pleasure to be able to make a flying visit to London to be at the book launch for “Hansel & Gretel (a nightmare in eight scenes)” at the Art Workers’ Guild on Wednesday. My abiding impression of the evening is of being given the privilege to witness the rare magic that happens when artistic soulmates meet, find lots of common ground and inspire one another to greater creative heights. Your collaboration with Simon has been blessed by the publisher Joe Pearson of Design for Today, and the designer, Laurence Beck, whose impressive work on this project is proof positive of how vital both these roles are in creating a book which I am sure is destined to become a classic of its kind.

    What struck me the most on Wednesday evening, and stays with me as I enjoy your book, is how completely present both you and Simon are in this collaboration. There is never any sense that one of you is simply deriving ideas from the other, but instead the reader shares in the thrill of observing how two artistic talents, each at the top of his game, can bond into a creative whole.

    I am reminded of the relationship between Ted Hughes and the artist Leonard Baskin and their collaboration which gave birth to beautiful, complex works, such as the illustrated poetry collection “Crow: From the Life and the Songs of the Crow”. Baskin described his collaboration with Hughes as “a relationship of presence” rather than “a relationship of influence”, and part of the joy for me, with your “Hansel & Gretel”, is noticing the wealth of knowledge informing each individual’s contribution, as I turn each page, and imagining the fascinating exchange of ideas that must have taken place between you all as you journeyed together towards such a satisfying end.

    Ted Hughes said that the essence of genuine collaboration, including his one with Baskin, is that they work on a “hidden telepathic level, or not at all”. I can’t help but believe that it is this same hidden telepathy which has played its part in bringing you and Simon together, in the first place, and has now become the foundation in the success of your collaboration. I offer in evidence last year’s illustrated edition of “Sir Gawain & the Green Knight”, where seven of the prints were made before Simon even knew of your project’s existence, yet on looking at the book there is a sense that this marriage of poem and images was always meant to be. I had the same feeling of an imaginal dialogue taking place on Wednesday whilst listening to Simon read his libretto, as your images were projected onto a big screen. You have the gift of extending and illuminating poetry with images that are powerful enough to stand on their own, but stand even taller when accompanied by the poet’s words.

    I am delighted to see a much-loved poet from my home county become our next Poet Laureate, and I am sure that after both “Gawain” and “Hansel & Gretel”, I am not the only one left hoping that the end of this particular fairy tale is only the beginning of so much more in your collaboration. One of my wishes is that a Yorkshire Sculpture Park exhibition may come to pass, as it would be wonderful to see what would happen if you were given the opportunity to explore more myths, legends and fairy tales together, in a place which is very close to Simon’s heart. Whilst I continue to watch this space, my heartfelt congratulations go to you all on creating a work of such deceptively simple profundity and bewitching beauty with this book.

    • Thank you, Sarah, for your warm appreciation. I’m glad you were able to be present. It was a wonderful evening, wasn’t it? Simon has been in such a whirl of activity since the Laureate announcement that, there was no rime for a rehearsal before the doors opened. He arrived twenty minutes before things kicked off, and yet gave a mesmerising delivery of the text. So tender and thought provoking.

      Interestingly, Simon and I don’t spend a lot of time discussing ideas before our collaborations, and I suspect I share rather more with him once I’ve finished and presented the results, than before or during. He’s a marvellously appreciative collaborator, and my impression is that once he trusts you, then he leaves you to get on with things. That works for me, and the hands-off allows me to explore with a great deal of freedom. I like having the clear space to develop, rather than selling a good idea short by offering an early, less than satisfactorily thought-through expression of it.

      I’ve always responded to text rather better than to images. I like having the completely different expression of ideas to draw on. And Simon being such a staggeringly good wordsmith, I’m never short of compelling ideas when getting creative with his poetry.

      My thanks to you for bringing Johann. Lovely to catch up with him.


      • It was a wonderful evening Clive, where the stars aligned and all the right elements came together in the right place at the right time. I was especially touched by the contribution made by Lizzie Wort and Di Ford to Simon’s reading, I think anyone observing the two puppeteers with you on Wednesday evening could see how much the strength of their connection has gone on to influence the brave, playful, sympathetic and very human Hansel and Gretel you have now immortalised forever in the pages of your book.

        I’m glad to have given you and Johann the opportunity to catch up as well, as it has been too long since you were last together in Wales.

    • I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it, Lizzie. It was a great pleasure to make. I had to be speedy as we had only a couple of hours to get the shot, but I’m really happy with the result. A little rough and ready, but none the worse for that! Sending love to you and Graham.

  2. Charm may be an ‘old fashioned’ word BUT I will use it boldly.
    What I’ve just viewed is full of charm and, after all, isn’t charm a significant part of magic?
    Hooray for the visionaries who ‘kept faith’ with the ‘specialness’ of old, never old, stories.
    Congrats, love as ever
    B xxx

  3. The Design for Today guy must be over the moon about the laureateship. I hope it helps makes up for the losses he sustained in that warehouse fire back in January.

    • After that terrible setback, Joe came out fighing, supported by family, friends, fans and many who just love his passion for the art of illustration. One due a great deal of praise, is artist/illustrator Alice Patullo, who together with Joe’s daughter set up a fund-raising campaign to enable Design for Today to re-publish some of the lost stock. It was a dark time for Joe, but I know too that it was revelatory for him, in terms of the great swell of support to get Design for Today back up and running.

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