Seven Stories are currently engaged in a research and development project with Tessa Bide Productions entitled 'The Anarchist’s Mobile Library '.  In a previous blog Tessa reflected on the project so far and in this instalment Luned Gwawr Evans shares her experience of exploring the Seven Stories archive as part of her design process on the project.  


My journey started from South Wales to the North of England, I was fortunate enough to be able to fly from one side of the country to the other! It took almost no time at all, even though I was travelling over 300 miles.  It felt very glamorous going on a work research trip, something I don’t get to do often.

The next morning I started on my research at Seven Stories, where Tessa and Eline had been previously. It’s where the core of my research began, for me it’s all about the visuals. I had heard about the stories they had been reading but I needed to not only read the stories but explore and see for myself the colour, texture and atmosphere of those wonderful books that are in the Seven Stories archive.

As a designer I tend to remember stories by the images contained inside books, what the characters look like and the finely illustrated worlds that reflect their intricate descriptions. I like to create worlds that reflect what’s on paper to an audience, so that it’s a real experience, weather it’s fictional or otherwise, I hope to carry on that sense of atmosphere, colours and texture within the caravan of The Anarchist's Mobile Library.

I started by delving into the 1970s and catching up with the research Tessa and Eline had done by reading the Nippers collection of books and others of that era. These books highlighted a real surge in political engagement, major social change, feminism and the sense of finding your own identity. Once I started to understand these shifts, I wondered if there had been any changes in children’s books visually, at the same time.

I read a mountain of newspaper scrapbooks from the 1970s which contained articles, reviews and pictures of the most popular books from the era, most of which are still popular today! For example The Enid Blyton books, Where the Wild Things Are, Tin Tin, The Gruffalo, Roald Dahl and many more.

When I started to ask the Seven Stories team about various illustrators and their changing styles of illustrations, my research veered to a very different direction. I started to find more illustrators that were being brave and innovative for the time, making artwork that had never before seen in children’s books. For instance artists like John Burningham, Charles Keeping, Judith Kerr, Quentin Blake and Brian Wildsmith.

This has opened a new world of books that I had never seen before, illustrations that were different and that were artwork in their own right. This presented an idea that the Anarchist's Mobile Library could be in a world, that the Children might have never experienced before, a more abstract, magically illustrated world, that clashes with the interior ‘reality’ of the 1970s that co-exists within the interior. Unfortunately, my time of research came to an end at this point; I feel this was only the tip of the iceberg, after gathering a long list of names to research I have brought my findings home and intend to research into these illustrators over the coming weeks.

The next step in the design process

Previously, I drew the caravan interior and exterior with the help of Georgie Shire (the Fabricator of the design). I will develop various ideas to present, reflecting the numerous ideas I’ve had for the look/use of the space of the caravan. These ideas will be put to the test with the team with the hope of choosing some of which to move forward with in the coming months.

Luned Gwawr Evans