Jill Turner is a Fleet Street journalist and novelist and single mum, now based much of the time around Fowey. Like Daphne du Maurier, she visited it as a child and vowed to return there to become a writer. She has taken part in the Fowey Festival and, like Daphne, is inspired by her coastal walk around the Fowey estuary.
As a child been driven back to Cornwall, the gateway was never the ‘Welcome to ..” sign, or even the crossing of the Tamar Bridge, but the journey across the bleak no-man’s-land of Bodmin Moor.
It was there my imagination was sparked by my mother telling me of Dozmary Pool and its part in Arthurian legend as the home of the Lady of the Lake, and the final resting place of King Arthur’s magical sword. For me, the barrier between fairy tale and reality was broken. Dozmary Pool, Tintagel, Slaughterhouse, Camelford, all have made claims to England’s greatest legend and made me believe that somewhere, behind some invisible curtain, in that magical, mysterious county at the end of the country, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table still lay sleeping.
So years later, it was to those legends that I returned when I wrote my first novel. On the surface, a tale of feral children described as an ‘urban Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Trainspotting for teens’ seems a long way from the wild landscapes of Cornwall. But a story needs a structure, and the Tales of King Arthur came into my thoughts. Getting young people reading is also one of my passions, so I wanted to try and encourage an interest in some of the classic literature, poetry, and art inspired by the Arthurian legend.
The Children of Albion tells the story of England’s lost children – some physically, some emotionally, but all living on the edges of life. Set in a present day sink estate, which becomes a microcosmic world where the struggles of life are intensified, the children try to create their own community of lost girls and boys inspired by the Arthurian ideal, while battling parental neglect, exploitation, and interference from the authorities. Led by the charismatic Albie and his ‘Artful Dodger’ sidekick Robbie (the 11-year-old narrator), the children of Albion aim for a hopeful, better future. But can the boys’ friendship see them all through?
“They say he is only sleeping,’’ Albie went on. ”Arthur and his knights are still around, in a cave somewhere deep in the country and when England needs him, Arthur will bring his knights back to save us.”
I thought for a bit. “He’d better hurry up, ain’t he?’’ Then I sat back and said,”Cool”. It was kind of what I’d been thinking about before. That’s kind of nice, innit? That there’s someone out there going to look after you. Take over. Sort it out. It’s kind of nice to think it, even if you know it’s all a load of crap.”
Jill Turner is reading from The Children of Albion at the Great Estates Festival in Scorrier on June 3rd and 4th.
Although Jill was too late for this year’s Cornish Reading Challenge, I’m pleased to announce that she will be joining us for next year! Keep your eyes peeled for information in 2018.