An Evening with May Gibbs - pure bliss

Friday, 12 May 2017

Belle Alderman, Jane Brummitt, me
There was a full house at ALIA House last night for An Evening with May Gibbs organised by the amazing Belle Alderman of the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature. Who could resist sitting in on the unveiling of a divine original May Gibbs artwork, gifted to the Centre by Jane Brummitt?

Jane, May aficionado (and related by marriage), Nutcote saviour and impassioned advocate of May's legacy, travelled from Adelaide to donate the artwork. We sat in rapt awe as she spoke of May's life and work... it never fails to astound me how much I learn from Jane each and every time she speaks, and how further I fall down the rabbit hole of admiration for May and the incredible person she was.

Margaret Hamilton and husband Max also travelled from Pinerolo in the Blue Mountains for the event. Margaret was also involved in saving Nutcote and it was so wonderful to have her in attendance.

Belle opened proceedings then Jane spoke, followed by a few words by NCACL Chair John Faulks and the grand unveiling of the artwork (covered by the beautiful May quilt I won in a raffle run by  NCACL last year, and which I donated back to NCACL! I mean, was fate at play or what?).

John Faulks

The work is from Gumnut Babies, Angus and Robertson 1916, May's first published book in Australia (along with Gumblossom Babies). It's vibrancy is what struck me the most--so bright and lucid--and clearly something that's never really captured in reproduced work. If you're ever in Canberra, you must pop into the NCACL at the University of Canberra, to view this spectacular piece. Your heart will race out of your chest.

Jane Brummitt

After the unveiling, I spoke on writing about May for younger children, the importance of writing biographical books for children about women (in a market flooded with books about men) and my passion for May's work and life.

NCACL will be publishing our talks--both mine and Jane's--in their upcoming journal, so look out for that one.

Above, leafing through my 1977 copy of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Find Ragged Blossom.

Above, having our May-original-work moments.

Huge thanks to Leanne Barrett for the photos and to everyone who came along last night. I was so honoured to be part of this amazing event (and the brilliant long-table dinner afterwards!) and this evening was truly me a life moment for me, that I'll never forget. New friendships forged, old friends reunited, serendipitous connections galore--all, I am certain--orchestrated by that beautiful, long-gone and dreadfully missed May on high. Last night was a celebration of her life, inded.

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