Dame Jacqueline Wilson heads to Chichester with new take on The Railway Children

Multi-million selling children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson will be the guest of Childrens Bookfest Chichester this September.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 7:05 am
Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson

She will be speaking about her new book The Primrose Railway Children, a modern retelling of the classic E Nesbit story, on Sunday, September 26 in a talk aimed at children aged seven years and up and grown-ups who have loved her work for many years.

The talk starts at 2.30pm at Chichester Free School. Tickets are £8 available on https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/chichester/chichester-free-school/jacqueline-wilson-will-be-talking-about-her-new-book-the-primrose-railway-children/2021-09-26/14:30/t-peggpn“I am so looking forward to coming to Chichester, ” Dame Jacqueline says. “I had a lovely invitation last year and I was all set to go and then Covid reared its ugly head again, and it had to be cancelled. I am keeping all my fingers crossed that all will be well this time!

“You can film things and you can do things on Zoom, but none of it is the same as actually having a live audience. If you can see how it is going down, particularly with children, you can make adjustments as you go along because only the most carefully brought up polite children will sit up and smile and look attentive even if they are thinking ‘I am so bored!’ With children, you know when you have got them – and you know when you haven’t got them.”

Dame Jacqueline will be heading to Chichester from Alfriston in East Sussex where she has lived for the past five years or so: “We saw an advert for the property, and there were only two things against it. I didn’t want to live in the country and it really has to be half an hour from London. But we went to see it anyway and we just totally fell in love with it.

“It was just perfect. In the midst of this horrible pandemic, it was such a lovely place to be. We have got quite a big garden, and we have got some lovely views. We were aware of just how awful things were for so many other people, but we were so lucky to be in this wonderful place.”

They moved from Kingston-upon-Thames: “Kingston was an OK place, but I am so much happier here. I can’t really see any reason not to stay here for the rest of my life.”

One of the great frustrations of the pandemic was not being able to have the kind of close contact with her young readers that she loves: “My publishers and agent have not been going into the office so much, and so I missed out on lots of messages and emails and little cards.”

But on the writing front, Dame Jacqueline says the pandemic made her even more productive than ever: “I have always loved writing fiction because it means that you can go into your own imaginary world. I am in control. I decide what happens. My characters are really dependent on me for what their developments are. And it is a great comfort to have that control in your writing when the whole world has gone out of control.”

Dame Jacqueline doesn’t necessarily enjoy the edits, but most definitely she loves the actual writing: “I have become so dependent on writing new stories. If a time ever comes when no one wants to publish me, I am sure I will carry on writing. During lockdown I have written three books. There are two more completed that hopefully will be coming out next year.”

For the moment, the focus is on The Primrose Railway Children: “It seemed a bit of a cheek to use The Railway Children. For so many people, their memories are of the wonderful film, and there are very few adults who can hear that little voice saying ‘Daddy, oh my daddy!’ without a tear in their eye. It is such a lovely story, and it is so beautifully written and the children are so spot on.”

But Dame Jacqueline wanted to give it a modern context: “The original is a bit of a fairy tale. That old gentleman really ought to have a magic wand. He sorts out the Russian gentleman. His care makes the mother better. And he makes sure that the father is eventually found to be innocent of any crime he has been accused of. And the mother doesn’t complain at all!

“I wanted to write a modern version, mining the original story but making it much more how it would be now. My mother has deep reservations about what has happened to her, and my dad is an endearing and imaginative dad that is not automatically innocent of everything just because he is a British gentleman.”

Also, Dame Jacqueline tells the tale from the youngest child’s point of view.

“She is even more imaginative than her dad and I just thought it would be extremely interesting to explore what was going on in her mind.”

“And as soon as I stopped thinking that I was writing a book that was rather similar to E Nesbit’s wonderful book, which was inhibiting, then writing it became an absolute joy.”