Much ado about... me
I was born a really long time ago. 5th October 1943. In St Alban’s in Hertfordshire. My mother was there too, strangely enough, but my father was away at the war, in Baghdad. I had one older brother, Pieter. We both were evacuated to Northumberland when we were little, away from the bombs. After the war it was all change at home, not that I remember much of it. My mother wanted to be with a man she had met while my father was away in the army. He was called Jack Morpurgo. So my father came home to find there was no place for him. There was a divorce. Jack Morpurgo married my mother, and so became our stepfather. We lived in London then. We went to primary school at St Matthias in the Warwick Road, then were sent off to boarding school in Sussex – the Abbey, Ashurst Wood. I was there for six years, hated being away from home, loved rugby and singing. Then I went off to a school in Canterbury, The King’s School, where I got more used to being away from home and still loved rugby and singing. We wore strange uniforms, wing collars, black jackets, boaters. And when I was older I got to wear a scarlet gown which made me feel very important. Read more
Spring 2021 News from Michael
Hello from me,
Where to start? The last year has been a long dream. For so many a nightmare. I thought right from the beginning that there was only one way to get though. I would have to set sadness aside, and just do what I do, tell my tales. Time passes more easily when your busy, I knew that. So be busy. Lose yourself in your Dreamtime. Read. Write.
I think I have written more, brought out more books, been involved in more theatre and film over this last year than ever before. And I’ve loved doing it. I’ve worked to a routine, with no interruptions, few excuses not to get on. Procrastination was always a weakness of mine. No more. I knew instinctively I think that I had to hide myself away deep down in my stories. So procrastination was banished. Needed a pandemic to do it!
I can’t remember the order in which all the stories and poems and projects tumbled out of me. It’s all been a bit of a tumble-jumble. Let’s unjumble.
Books first maybe.
In October there will be my very first book of poetry, Carnival of Animals, beautifully illustrated by my old friend Michael Foreman, to be published by Harper Collins. I wrote them for a new Decca CD of composer Saint-Saens’ famous musical piece, played by the brilliant Kanneh-Mason family. Their playing is glorious, and some of my animal poems are read by the Queen – sorry, I mean Olivia Coleman. And she makes them sound wonderful.
The Birthday Duck, published on 15 April by HarperCollins, illustrated by the amazing Sam Usher, is a story about a boy who comes from the city to spend a week on the farm we live on, Nethercott Farm – which is of course run by the charity, Farms for City Children – and he decides to rescue a duck from the market, hide her away in his bag, and take her home as a present for his Grandpa. But there are problems! I’ve written nine more stories about children coming down to the farm, which will all be published next year. All these ten books will help raise funds for Farms for City Children, which sadly has had to close down for a year and more. We hope, all being well, to welcome our first city children back to the three farms very soon.
A Song of Gladness. I wrote this about a year ago because I felt what we needed most in this pandemic was gladness, because gladness drives out sadness. It is a story-poem inspired by a blackbird I heard one morning singing his heart out in our vegetable garden. I remembered an email I had received just the day before from that hugely talented children’s author, Katherine Rundell, who had asked me, amongst many writers and illustrators too, to contribute to a wonderful idea of hers. She wanted to create a Book of Hopes, a book right for its time. Hope, gladness, I knew as she did, how badly we needed both. In A Song of Gladness, to be published very soon by Macmillan, there are the most extraordinary illustrations by Emily Gravett. So thank you my blackbird, thank you Katherine, thank you Emily, thank you Macmillan.
And in time for the summer Puffin Books are bringing out the paperback edition of The Puffin Keeper, set as so many of my stories have been on the Isles of Scilly, where I go every year on holiday, where I write and write. On Scilly stories are everywhere if you can find them, but you have to look and listen. They hide in amongst the rocks, in wrecks under the waves. Seals and whales sing them, the wind sings them. It’s where I dreamed up Why the Whales Came, The Wreck of the Zanzibar, Listen to the Moon, The Sleeping Sword and many others. Now The Puffin Keeper, brought to life by Benji Davies’ beautiful pictures. It’s the story of the life of Allen, a small boy saved with many others from a wreck by a mysterious and silent lighthouse keeper.
More books in autumn, but more of those another time.
As we all know theatres and cinemas and concert halls have been closed. Our wonderful film of Waiting for Anya, directed by Ben Cookson, came out a week before cinemas closed. But you can see it on DVD. Glorious photography and acting, an unforgettable film, a story seen through the eyes of a twelve year old boy, set in the French Pyrenees during the German Occupation of France in WW2.
Excitingly, there are two feature length animated films of my stories now in production, unaffected by the pandemic, because much of the animation can be done at home. Kensuke’s Kingdom is being made from the same studio in London as Raymond Briggs’ wonderful Snowman, and Michael Rosen’s much loved We’re all going on a Bear Hunt. And Toto – Toto’s take (and mine) of The Wizard of Oz, his side of the story – is being made by Warner Bros in the US.
Oh yes, And I’ve been busying away myself on a screenplay, but that’s still a secret. So I’ll say no more.
And now theatre. After all the recent trauma theatre has endured as much and as inventively as it can, and is finding ways to survive, mostly virtually for the moment. But the seeds of live theatre and live music are growing, plays and concerts being planned and some in rehearsals.
The Barn Theatre in Cirencester has been at the forefront of this revival. I have had five of my stories adapted or being adapted for their stage, one way or the other, Private Peaceful, The Butterfly Lion, Elephant in the Garden, and in preparation The Mozart Question and An Eagle in the Snow. Like so many theatres now, it’s alive and kicking, doors opening soon, lights going down, curtains going up.
And that great storyteller Danyah Miller is telling again in her own inimitable way her wonderfully inventive adaptation of my short story I Believe in Unicorns.
Maybe it won’t be long now before I can get out and we can all meet up, alive-alive-O!, at book shops and book festivals, in libraries or schools, in concert halls or tents – wherever- how great would that be!
Meanwhile we can zoom together, not the same but a whole lot better than nothing. I discovered after one zoom event recently, to which I had been expecting about 90 people, that more than 90,000 linked up and looked and listened in, from all over the world. I mean that’s more than Wembley Stadium, and I’m no rock star. And then there were 240,000 subscribers to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website wanting to be there for the performance of retellings I had written of ten of Shakespeare’s plays. Virtual may not be the real thing, but my goodness it has more reach than I had ever imagined, and to such good purpose too, the spread and joy of stories we can all share. We are, countrywide, the world over, joined by our stories. And that’s good. That’s great.
On we go.
Please contact Michael Morpurgo via his social media channels. However, for other enquiries, please contact the following people:
Publishing agent David Higham Associates contact: Veroniquebaxter@davidhigham.co.uk
TV, film, theatre and radio agents – Berlin Associates firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 020 76325282
Farms for City Children
Michael and his wife Clare founded Farms for City Children in 1976 at Nethercott Farm, deep in Devon river country, and Michael has called the project his ‘greatest story’. The charity now operates three working farms: Treginnis Isaf on the Pembrokeshire coast opened twenty years ago and Wick Court in Gloucestershire opened in 1997. They aim to expand the horizons of children from towns and cities all over the country by offering them a week in the countryside living together on one of their farms. The charity has inspired many of Michael’s books, including one special visit that planted the seed that would later become War Horse. Over the years the formula has changed very little. Simply, children are involved in everything necessary to keep the farms going. They learn hands-on where their food comes from, the importance of caring for animals and the land, and the value of working co-operatively as a team. The rewards are, unusually, non-material and self-generated: children discover an active enjoyment in life and a sense of achievement, the effects of which remain with them long after they have waved the farms goodbye. Farms for City Children is a UK registered charity. To find out more about how you can help the children to get the most out of their experience please visit farmsforcitychildren.org. Visit Farms for City Children