CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Writer and illustrator Lauren Child and her exhibition at Mottisfont this summer

PUBLISHED: 12:42 09 June 2015 | UPDATED: 12:42 09 June 2015


There are few country estates that ignite the sense of discovery better than Mottisfont. As best-selling children’s writer and illustrator Lauren Child prepares to bring Charlie, Lola and other characters out to play this summer, Viv Micklefield opens a door into her world

Lauren Child relaxing at Mottisfont. Photo: Laura FordLauren Child relaxing at Mottisfont. Photo: Laura Ford

She’s rubbed shoulder’s with Damien Hirst, campaigned for UNESCO and seen the TV adaptations of her popular children’s books win BAFTAs, yet Lauren Child seems remarkably relaxed within Mottisfont’s hushed corridors.

Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising. Although a visit to nail down arrangements for her first retrospective exhibition opening in July is a novel experience, Lauren’s already made a mark in the county. Call into Basingstoke’s Discovery Centre and a mural she produced on the library wall, with the help of local primary school children, back in 2011 is revealed. Whilst Winchester has provided a stage for several book tours. “I have always loved visiting the Writers’ Festival there as the city is absolutely beautiful,” she says. 
And over a cup of tea, it soon becomes apparent why Mottisfont’s magical house and grounds, in particular, feels like a homecoming.

By Lauren’s own admission she enjoyed an ‘outdoorsy’ childhood. Whether this was joining her father, a former head of art at Wiltshire’s Marlborough College on drawing and painting expeditions, or, exploring the family’s rambling garden, she explains: “I think where you grow up and the landscape that you grow up in does have a huge effect on you. I’ve always loved the Downs, it’s a bit like being here in Hampshire, and this countryside actually feels quite familiar to me with all the trees.”

Surroundings that would also resonate with one of the characters she’s drawn more recently, Pippi Longstocking. Despite the almost fanatical global following enjoyed by this wild-child of Swedish literature, declining the commission was never an option for Lauren, who, having been brought-up on the stories herself, identifies closely with Pippi’s sense of adventure. A trait belied by the outward appearance of this softly spoken, elegantly groomed artist.

Interestingly, it’s Mottisfont’s world famous Walled Rose Garden, one of her parents’ long-time favourite destinations, that echoes another of the books making it on to Lauren’s list of top reads, The Secret Garden (which she again delighted in illustrating). With unreserved passion, she says that giving young readers the opportunity to discover the classics is vital.

“I’ve talked to friends about the assumption that children today don’t have that same level of concentration and patience as they used to. But I actually disagree with that because I think we’ve imposed the idea that everything has to happen really quickly. It depends on the individual. You will still find children who will read The Secret Garden, as I did, and love it”.

As a teenager growing-up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lauren also credits films shown on TV as early influences on her own writing. “I used to watch a lot of old Hitchcock movies back then,” she says. “It’s harder to come across all those really great film directors or actors and actresses like Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn now, because there are so many channels. Then it was all about clever dialogue with patterns of speech, and stylistically they remind me of picture books because they are quite dramatic.”

Deciding on a career path was not clear cut for Lauren. In fact, having bagged an art degree, a stint at Damien Hirst’s studio beckoned before she set up a business making posh lampshades. While JK Rowling retreated to coffee shops to hone her craft, Lauren’s experience of having nowhere to call a permanent home later found a voice in her own tale of That Pesky Rat. Before bursting on to our bookshelves in 1999, she fought hard to establish herself in the face of rejection by potential publishers. Speaking of being “released from a cage”, when allowing herself the freedom to keep her writing personal and above all original, this probably explains why, when asked which out of all of her characters she would most like to spend the day with, Lauren’s unequivocal response is the indomitable teenage super-sleuth Clarice Bean.

Having successfully trained herself to write as though she’s inside the head of a character looking out, Lauren makes no excuse for sometimes taking a more laid-back approach. “I think that staring into space in underrated,” she observes. “It’s no surprise when people say that it’s when they are driving or lying in the bath, that they come up with their best ideas. The mind is in free-flow.

Lauren Child working at home. Photo: National Trust Images, Oskar ProctorLauren Child working at home. Photo: National Trust Images, Oskar Proctor

“I often begin things way in advance. It’s funny because every couple of years I might find a story and I’ll read it and if it doesn’t make me cringe, then it’s probably still a good idea.

“The thing I really fanaticise about now, when I’m having a bad day, is becoming something like a masseur or a reflexologist,” she laughs. “I was originally going to do an architectural interior design course but I backed out of it. Somehow being an illustrator allows you to bring together all these lovely things – furniture, costumes and buildings, without actually having to construct them. It’s great.”

This goes some way to explaining the layered collage, pattern, line and paint effects that appear within Lauren’s colourful pages. A technique which she admits is incredibly time-consuming, requiring up to an extra six months on top of the time taken to write a book in the first place.

“It’s the most ridiculous way to work but it’s the way that works for me. There are lots and lots of process to go through, just to build up one picture. You get the idea for your composition in a drawing, then you draw the characters, then you have to start all over again, cutting them out and colouring them.

“I never finish editing (the words) until the very last minute. The huge advantage of writing and illustrating is that you can completely change your mind about something in a picture and can then go back into your text and change it.”

And that’s likely to have been the case in Lauren’s latest book, which features the long-awaited return of lovable siblings, Charlie and Lola. Hot on the heels of the release of another Child favourite Ruby Redfort, this one’s based on number skills and is due out in November.

Despite having being awarded an MBE in 2010, and receiving a raft of other awards including the coveted Kate Greenaway Medal, Lauren remains refreshingly humble about her achievements and seems most content when in her London home, which she shares with her five-year-old adopted daughter, Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mottisfont has cast its spell and there’s the impending thrill of sharing sketchbooks and drawings from her private collection, with fans both new and old.

“I think our visitors are going to love Lauren’s art,” says Louise Govier, the exhibition’s curator. “Many of them will know her characters already - they’re certainly firm favourites in my family, and it’s fascinating to see up close the illustrations created for her books.”

I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed by Lauren Child, published by Orchard BooksI Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed by Lauren Child, published by Orchard Books

As Lauren reflects: “What’s lovely is to be able to show the breadth of my work, because sometimes the focus is just on the very well known characters - I think it’s so much more interesting to go and also see things that you never knew about.”


Adventures with Charlie, Lola and Friends - Saturday 18 July to Sunday 6 September, 11am-5pm

Meet the author herself on the opening day, 11am-2pm, and join the Family Trail running alongside the exhibition. Enjoy special themed activity weekends on 18-19 July, 8-9 August, and 22-23 August featuring storytelling, craft and a giant book making challenge; plus, there’s a big choice of gifts including limited edition prints on sale. Normal admission charges apply. Mottisfont, near Romsey SO51 0LP. For more details about future events taking place here head to or call 01794 340757.



Marsha Swanzy on running her own Whitchurch clothing boutique - Marsha Swanzy has had job offers from Vivien Westwood and Liberty & Co, but she shunned them all to run her own clothing boutique in Whitchurch… Jane Gazzard went to meet her to find out if she made the right choice

Things to do in Hampshire this weekend - Great things to do in Hampshire this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Mon, 12:00

What does Christmas mean to you? Not everyone celebrates it of course but for those who do it is often simply a time for festive fun and creating new memories. We asked Craig David, Elizabeth Hurley, Colin Firth, Amanda Holden and more of Hampshire’s stars on what Christmas means to them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Graphic artist Chris Gibson is bringing Hampshire’s landmarks in to people’s homes with his nostalgic posters

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

Something Wicked this way comes… the hit musical follows the yellow brick road to Southampton this month. Leading ladies Amy Ross and Helen Woolf share tales from behind the emerald curtain

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Turning 40 kick started a career change for Claire Fuller that took even her by suprise. She talks to Rebecca Fletcher about becoming a best-selling author, and what to expect from her latest novel

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

You can take the lady out of Hampshire but you can’t take Hampshire out the lady. Yes, it’s a corny expression but it is true in the case of actress, singer, dancer and TV presenter Amanda Holden, who has never forgotten her roots in the county

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

With her bold, graphic designs, New Forest artist Evelyn Bartlett captures the magnificent scenery on her doorstep

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

From food and drink to fashion and furnishings, Wickham is home to businesses that are pushing the boundaries. Viv Micklefield meets some of those proud to be different

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

A surf club… on the Isle of Wight? Surely not! 50 years on, Faith Eckersall meets those that say their little island is the surfing community’s best kept secret

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tinnitus affects around 10% of the UK population and often goes untreated. Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care told us everything you need to know about tinnitus

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sir Ben Ainslie’s sights are set on bringing home the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 and hoping to join the battle are the sailors currently in his youth squad. Viv Micklefield catches-up with some of the young guns already taking the world by storm

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

You can’t keep Mary Berry out of the kitchen and the same goes for Hampshire. Bernard Bale hears about her favourite places to visit

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

We are a nation of shopkeepers, but is the shop dying? We head to Winchester’s High Street

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Vibrant and colourful, Overton artist Arabella Ross captures nature in its most vivid form says Sandra Smith

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search