The Joys of Literature and Moat Brae

Louise Jones is a Dumfries schoolgirl with a love of stories and an ambition to write. Here she explains how her love of literature began and has been nurtured by joining the JMB Creatives - a group of young people closely involved with the Moat Brae house and garden. This is the place where Peter Pan began, which has been saved from demolition to become the new National Centre for Children's Literature and Storytelling.

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My passion for writing and storytelling began in October 2012. Although I was young, I liked to write and even enjoyed presenting in front of audiences! My first story, "Hattie the Heghoge" (now that I can spell, Hedgehog!) was entered into a children’s writing competition at the Wigtown Book Festival. 

You can't imagine how excited I was when I won my category! At the festival the popular author of "First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts", Lari Don, announced my name as the winner of the primary category. 

After that day I knew I wanted to write. My involvement with Moat Brae began in Primary 6 when our teacher, Mrs Kerr, took us on a school trip to a beautiful Georgian townhouse in Dumfries, my home town. Right from the first visit everything enchanted me. The arrow-shaped railings outside, the large towering trees and the magical skylight! 

When I was underneath that skylight, I felt as though heaven's beams were raining around me and I had no cares in the world. I'm currently in my second year of secondary school and I now visit the house every week to help plan events such as Open Days, storytelling sessions and even a Jolly Roger Tea Party. I am hoping that Moat Brae will be my first place of employment. In Primary School I wrote on the topic of "My Dream Job" for the Rotary Speechmaking Competition. Little did I know at that stage that this speech would one day be the inspiration for the 2018 Year of Young People Festival "Dreams for the Future". 

Through the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust I have been extremely lucky to meet some fascinating people. I was invited to an event in London “Joanna Lumley and David Walliams in conversation”. What a pairing!  Afterwards Mr Walliams signed a copy of his book “Grandpa's Great Escape” for me and it sits proudly on my shelf alongside my other prized books signed by Lari Don, Michael Portillo, Streff and famous children’s author Cathy Cassidy who I had the great pleasure of interviewing during a creative writing workshop at Moat Brae. 

Last year throughout the Dreams for the Future Festival I had so much fun! I met so many new and interesting people including Joanna Lumley, who is an amazing supporter of the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling , Cathy Cassidy, Michael Portillo and young composer Patrick Depuy. 

I had the fun of playing in Nana’s kennel with Joanna Lumley. I think she, Wendy and Tinker Bell enjoyed it too! I also had the honour of appearing in the TV programme "Great British Railway Journeys" with Michael Portillo and I was invited to a reception at Moat Brae where I met up again with Joanna, Dame Barbara Kelly, Project Director Cathy Agnew and Streff, the author of the graphic novel adaptation of the Peter Pan story who I had met previously with my Primary class. 

I am still an active member of the JMB Creatives and we are all looking forward to Moat Brae being officially opened so that so many others can start enjoying this fascinating place. I hope to continue my involvement with Moat Brae well past my school years and I am sure that children of all ages will enjoy the house and the Neverland Discovery garden as much as I, Tinker Bell and Peter Pan do!

Matthew Shelley

Moat Brae PR, Scottish Festivals PR

Matthew is a journalist and freelance PR who works with the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust and a number of other arts and cultural organisations across Scotland.