I was lucky enough to work with students from the Language Unit of John Ruskin School to devise a story for the Gnomes Unearthed Project at Hampton Court Palace. The project involves a number of gnomes hidden around the gardens of Hampton Court Palace and was unveiled in July 2016.
Each gnome has been commissioned by Wild in Art and features a design and narrative created by artists in tandem with local community groups.
Together, the students and I explored the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of the Kitchen Garden at Hampton Court Palace. This was the area of the garden where our gnome was hidden. Through various literacy exercises we developed the character of Umbriel the gnome (our narrator) and those of the animals featured in Umbriel’s story.
I gathered the children’s ideas together into one cohesive narrative and then presented this back to the children in the form of a shadow puppet show.
Once the gnome is in place, the story will be revealed whenever a visitor activates the sound button on Umbriel’s arm. I was privileged to work alongside the talented visual artist Valerie Osment who has designed a bright and bold gnome for the Kitchen Garden.
Boxed edges couldn’t contain the richness within. Like a beacon, the scent drew animals near.
Apricot and cherry trees peered down as crisp salads jostled one another. All eyes upon the Hampton Court Chase!
Jay shook his wide wings for joy. ‘I’m the greatest. The greatest!’ In the Jackdaw’s shadow stood Bella. Butterfly wings soft as a peach.
‘Now’ cried the duck ‘race for the crown!’
Past fragrant herbs the animals flew. Crawled, bounded, burrowed through.
When at the turn – the sweetest smell! Fresh Oldenburg apples – juicy and ripe. Jay faltered.
‘Fly on’ cried Bella. ‘As King you’ll gorge on apples all year!’
Down the home straight they flew together. Past bright flowers and lush leaves. They didn’t see the darkening clouds.
Bella fell with the rain, soaked to the wing. On the damp earth sweet lavender lay. Bent but not crushed.
Meanwhile the golden crowns hung fierce upon the Quince.
‘If I were Queen flowers would never die’.
Then silence. Warmth.
Jay’s wings sheltered Bella all through that storm. ‘You’re the greatest’ he whispered.
They were crowned King and Queen of the Kitchen Garden, the others having slept or ate away their chances. They feasted and summer lived on.