Pride of Rotherham: Ed Vere paints stunning new mural for Clifton Park and Museum

Published on: 11 August 2020

Leonard, the gentle, poetry-loving lion from Ed Vere's How To Be A Lion, has found a forever home guarding the Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham - and he's made a new lion friend too!

As part of his residency at BookTrust, Illustrator in Residence Ed Vere was really keen to paint a mural in a public place that could tie in with a community reading focus and help spread the love of books. Luckily, Rotherham council were the perfect partners for Ed’s wonderful Leonard the lion mural, which will be a new addition in the grounds of Clifton Park Museum. 

Clifton Park is already home to a roar-some lion - the much-loved Nelson, who is on permanent display in the museum. Nelson was born in South Africa in the mid-1800s before going to live at London Zoo, where he was described by his keepers as very friendly and gentle - the perfect friend for Leonard. Sadly Nelson has been inaccessible to the public for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic but together, Leonard and Nelson will help the museum as it starts to develop its new Early Years programme. There will be many opportunities for young children to explore the museum, enjoy stories and develop their creativity.

The 8 foot by 12 foot mural can be found outside the Garden Building, close to the museum in the award-winning Clifton Park, from Wednesday 12 August.

Ed said: “I’m a great believer in the power of art. During my time as Booktrust’s Illustrator in Residence, I wanted to make a mural that felt enormously positive right in the centre of a community. I hope to draw attention to the importance of reading with and for young children by painting Leonard from my book, How to be a Lion.

“When the Booktrust team suggested Rotherham through their contacts with Grimm & Co, and Rotherham Council made the link with Nelson it felt like the perfect fit. I hope the mural will be a warm and positive presence for many years to come, and to remind everyone of the pleasure of drawing and reading. I also hope that Leonard and Nelson will like each other.”

How to be a Lion is the winner of Oscar's Book Prize 2019, elected by the children's laureate Lauren Child and a jury including Sarah Brown. The book tells the tale of a lion who is kind and compassionate, writing poetry and making friends with a duck named Marianne. The loveable Leonard stands up to his peers who criticise his friendships and proves that you don’t have to roar to be heard.

Ed said: "How to be a Lion tries to show that being gentle, considerate and exhibiting a sensitive side are not weaknesses. They’re part of being a well-rounded, thinking, human being. It’s a book about thinking for yourself and standing up for who you are.”

Cllr Sarah Allen, Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Cleaner, Greener Communities, said: “We’re delighted to support Ed’s work both as a muralist and as an advocate for children’s literacy and learning. The mural of Leonard will help to raise awareness of the importance of reading from a very young age. The story is one of kindness, compassion and hope which will be hugely important characteristics of our communities as we recover from COVID-19, and it will be a fantastic welcome back to Clifton Park Museum for our residents and visitors.”

Rotherham-based children’s literacy charity Grimm & Co helped to facilitate the mural coming to Rotherham.

Louise Treloar, Communications Coordinator at Grimm & Co, added: "We are thrilled that Ed's mural will be sited here in Rotherham. It's so important to us that children and young people can take pride in their town, and we think this mural is a great way to start with the joy of stories. This has been a wonderful collaboration between Grimm & Co, Clifton Park Museum, BookTrust and Ed to help children enjoy stories and illustration from an early age. We hope we can continue this relationship and make Rotherham a story destination together."

The mural will be on display initially outside of the Garden Building, with potential to incorporate the mural as a permanent feature within the surroundings of the museum.

A programme of events with the artist will take place both in person and online over the coming months. For more details follow Clifton Park Museum on Twitter or Facebook.

Topics: News, Ed Vere

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Every six months, BookTrust appoints a new Writer in Residence to write blogs, run competitions and give us their own unique perspective on the world of children's books. Our current Writer in Residence is Rashmi Sirdeshpande.

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