team Hughes-Vulliamy at the Soho Lit Fest

keeping it in the family

 

 

It was the first time my Mum Shirley Hughes has shared a stage with my brother journalist and writer Ed Vulliamy and me, but I have a hunch we shall be doing this again. It was hugely fun, and very proud-making. For anyone who couldn’t make it, I thought I’d just revisit some of my favourite bits.

With the fabulous Mark Ellen captaining our merry ship, we kicked off with some old family snaps from the 50’s and 60’s to set the scene…

 

                                                                       

 

Mum reminisced about early signs of what we would be doing with our lives – Ed rushing out onto the pavement on election day with a skipping rope interviewing passersby for their views, me obsessively drawing and making teeny tiny plasticine models.

Out of the blue I remembered using up her paints at the end of the day, like licking the mixing-bowl after baking…

We couldn’t remember the dawning realisation that our Mum was Shirley Hughes: she was just our mum. But we DID know that art was in the very air we breathed, and that we owe to her and our Dad our passion for looking at paintings (the five-paintings-then-an-ice-cream rule installed very early on, and still stands!).

Then Alfie and Annie-Rose, everybody’s favourite duo…

 

 

Mum described Alfie (who isn’t one of us, just an imaginary creation like all her characters) running pink-faced into the action. He would be 30 now…

And Dogger – what hard-hearted person can read this book without their voice seriously wobbling with high emotion?

 

 

Ed talked wonderfully about his work – not as a war correspondent but an anti-war correspondent, and being an accidental witness to historic world events, most especially – as the first print-journalist to uncover the concentration camps – the war in Bosnia.

You can read my post about his book, and the devoted friends he has made, here.

 

 

I revealed that I’d only really put myself in a book once (yes, Martha IS me!)…

 

 

and Mark thought it was great that we’d left the hands in our photographs – very analogue, he said!

We talked about boredom being an essential ingredient for a creative childhood, from my Mum’s early years in WW2 with acres of time to make up stories, put on shows and draw pictures;

 

 

we had time on our hands, too – no rushing from club to class to organised activity for us, but days of daydreaming and playing and pottering about.

Coincidentally, to illustrate the idea of encouraging children to look out at a beautiful world, Mum and I both chose a moonlit picture…

 

        

 

and Ed told us that a psychiatrist had once said to him she didn’t envy him having to get over a happy childhood.
That really made me laugh!

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Library Mice

    How wonderful, Clara, and how I wish I could have been there! You are part of quite an extraordinary family! LOL at the psychiatrist!

    Reply
    • clara

      Hello Melanie, thank you very much for saying so!
      We want to do another one soon, but next time with lots more joining in and wine flowing. Would love you to come along!

      Reply
  2. Natasha

    What a wonderfully creative, imaginative childhood you have had. I love to hear about children being free to use their imaginations and ‘potter about’ rather than being dragged from baby class to toddler group all the time. I often tell my son he is lucky to be bored (although he hates hearing it!) because that is when he is free to make up his own games, read and be creative. The less dashing around we all do the more fun we have at home getting out the paints or playdough or making a town map out of cardboard and bits of scrap paper! Thankyou for the lovely insight into your childhood and your wonderful mother and brothers lives. I wish we could have come along and seen you all talk together!

    Reply
    • clara

      Thank you so much, Natasha, for calling by and for your lovely comments!
      I’m really glad to hear that this account of an unhurried, creative life struck a chord… it sounds very much as if you are offering this too for your children. I wish I could join in with the cardboard town map – that sounds brilliant! All it takes, I think, is facilitating rather than steering – what not to love about pottering around with crafty bits and pieces and all the time in the world?

      Reply
  3. James Mayhew

    What a lovely post. It *almost* makes up for not being there. Hurrah for the lot of you!

    Reply
    • clara

      Thank you, dear James, it WAS a lovely event.
      So you’re back from your epic tour of Spain… How did it go? Can’t wait to hear all the details! Hurrah for you too!

      Reply
  4. Jo Bowers

    Oh, what a lovely event and yes, please do this again as I too, would really loved to have been there too. -:)

    Reply
    • clara

      Thank you so much, Jo! Would have LOVED you to be there, and to introduce you to the gang. Next time definitely!

      Reply
  5. Anne Booth

    PLEASE do another one very soon….

    Reply
    • clara

      Yes indeed!
      And was so thrilled that you & friend & daughter made it to The National Portrait Gallery… I was very proud to see you and Mum chatting away. Thank you so much!

      Reply
  6. jo

    Aaahhhwww that sounds so fab! Also, I love seeing the photos – aw, you should have one from the event up too!

    You’ve made me think too – I like the idea of boredom being something which sets off the imagination – course, working four days a week and then spending the other three rushing around like crazy doesn’t leave much room for it – so maybe I should set aside some time for that each week… and you’re right. My mum never rushed my sister and I around like I do with H… food for thought there, and thankyou!

    Reply
    • clara

      Hello Jo! Thanks so much for calling by, and I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful comment.
      Yes I agree – with our busy lives it’s tricky to find time to stop and just BE instead of DO. Mind you, it’s clear to see that H is having a wonderful childhood so I say you’re doing EVERYTHING right…

      Reply
  7. Hilary Jefferies

    Dear Clara, What a wonderful time we had on Saturday morning at the Soho theatre listening to your Mum, Ed and of course yourself. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the family photos and gaining an insight into the wonderful word of illustration. My grandchildren will be delighted that your Mum signed a selection of their books and I am sure they will be thrilled with one of your Lucky Wish Mouse books. I forgot to tell you that ‘Small’ is one of their all-time favourites. Many thanks again – and we would love to come to another of your events. Best wishes Hilary ( wearing white jacket!)

    Reply
    • clara

      Hello Hilary, thank you so much for calling by, and for your kind words. Of course I remember chatting to you… I’m so glad you enjoyed the event – we did too, very much indeed. I hope your grandchildren have many hours of happy reading with the books you came home with – and how wonderful that they liked Small – hooray!
      I look forward to seeing you again very soon. X

      Reply
      • Hilary Jefferies

        Hi Clara. Thanks for the reply. Tuesday will be a red-letter day for us; we are going into Elizabeth’s primary school (St Mary’s C of E school in Selly Oak, Birmingham) to tell the year 2 children all about our trip to London and meeting you and your Mum!. We are giving the class a copy of ‘All about Alfie’ and I have 2 photos of your Mum as well. Apparently we will have to answer a lot of questions as they are all very clued up.
        We would love to come to another event when one is planned. Best wishes
        Hilary

        Reply
  8. Jane Porter

    Five paintings then an ice cream – what an excellent rule! Here’s to boredom-induced inventiveness, the best sort. Sorry I missed this lovely event, will definitely come along next time.

    Reply
    • clara

      So glad you approve of the paintings-to-icecream ratio! And boredom-induced inventiveness – brilliant, you put it better than me.
      Would LOVE you to come along next time, not least so I can introduce you to the gang X

      Reply
  9. Hilary Delamere

    Oh Clara, what a nerve I have complaining that I didn’t know about yr event at the soho lit fest when all along you had trailed it here! It sounds like a great success and hope there will be more, x

    Reply
    • clara

      Not a nerve at all! I think you have other things to do than keep up with my blog at every moment, and I really should be more efficient in sharing my news…
      There will be lots going on next year – I shall badger you constantly X

      Reply

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