It’s paperback publication day for The Fountain in the Forest. I recently visited the paint frame that provides the setting for the opening chapter of the novel with photographer Chris Dorley Brown, whose stunning new book The Corners just won the prize for best photographic book in the prestigious BBD&PA, the British Book Design & Production Awards.
Thanks first of all to the great Alastair Brotchie – Atlas Press founder, Jarry biographer, Oulipo scholar, avant-gardist and painter extraordinaire – for in the first place inviting me in to see his studio, the historic paint frame of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The place stuck in my mind, and provided the inspiration for the novel’s opening scenes, which are set in the fictional ‘Royal Palace Theatre’. Alastair then graciously allowed Chris and I to visit in the run-up to publication. But on one condition: that we didn’t get in the way. He had a job on.
Chris Dorley-Brown and I have worked together before a few times (he took my ‘London Author’ photo for one thing, and I contributed to his project BBC in the East End 1958–1973), but I was reminded of these pictures when an audience member came to chat after my recent Stroud Book Festival event and told me that her mother had worked in this very paint frame at the Theatre Royal in the 1960s.
In fact, there are now very few of these historic spaces left in London. Earlier this year Eleanor Margolies wrote a lovely and informative post about The Fountain in the Forest for her theatre design blog From the Jocelyn Herbert Archive. Eleanor’s piece links out to some further resources, including more detailed discussion of another paint frame, Harkers Studio in South London, and the campaign to save it from redevelopment.
The Fountain in the Forest is published in a new B-format paperback edition (with new, neon-blue livery) on 3 January 2018.