Number Seven was honoured to recently host the launch party for The House Without Windows, the first book to be illustrated by Jackie Morris since the publication of The Lost Words. Originally published in 1927 and written by Barbara Newhall Follett, at the age of twelve, The House Without Windows is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it.
'Little Eepersip doesn't want to live in a house with doors and windows and a roof, so she runs away to live in the wild - first in the Meadow, then by the Sea, and finally in the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow her, bringing her back home to 'safety' and locking her up in the stifling square of the house. But she slips away once more, following her heart into the richness of untrammelled nature and disappearing forever.'
When planning the event, it felt natural to hold it in a 'venue without windows' and the tent, set in the meadow at Loyton was the perfect location, we could release Barbara's words, the character of Eepersip and Jackie's swallows and butterflies into the landscape they yearned to be free in - our guests also!
Christopher mowed a labyrinth into the long grass for guests to walk and contemplate a fitting question posed by Jackie on her vintage typewriter. There was musical accompaniment from cellist Julia Vohralik and principal violinist Katherine Shave, who after my 'in conversation' with Jackie played Lark Ascending which seemed so fitting after Jackie read from the final pages of the book - it was also a gentle nod to the recent Lost Words Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, where Jackie had painted live on stage in front of an audience of 5,000.
The resident chef at Loyton, Adam Fanson, prepared the most colourful picnic tea, the cakes were simply delicious and looked like they had been found among the wild flowers. When Eepersip runs away to the meadow, she packs a little picnic of crackers but once home in the landscape untethered from routine she lives on berries and foraged delights.
The question we asked our guests to consider when walking the labyrinth was...
And who hasn't, at some point in their lives,
wished to walk away,
from all the familiar?
Would you walk
to the meadow,
to seek a quiet sanctuary, a new beginning?
In a quiet moment the next day, Jackie read through the answers and chose the most compelling reply to win the butterflies inked at Two Rivers Paper.
Thank you to everyone who was able to join us and enter into the spirit of the afternoon - some wonderful memories were made, including a little mouse that greeted one of our guests at the centre of the labyrinth!
Earlier in the week we visited Two Rivers Paper at Pitt Mill in Roadwater, where Christopher captured this footage of Jackie painting. The musical accompaniment is provided by The Bookshop Band.
The Saturday following our picnic at Loyton, Jackie was resident 'in the kitchen' at Number Seven, signing books and reciting Red Fox, which was written by Robert Macfarlane and commissioned by the BBC for the summer promenade concerts.
We are already making plans for 2020, which will see the publication of The Unwinding.
In the meantime, enjoy listening to Jackie recite Red Fox. . .
The house Without Windows is published by Hamish Hamilton. If you would like a signed copy for your library do contact us directly, copies purchased from Number Seven are also stamped with a silver snow hare, which makes them quite unique.