The new initiative brings together the renowned illustrator – famous for his interpretation of Roald Dahl’s many children’s books – who has a personal fascination with nature, and Northern Ireland’s only Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre.
Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake at WWT is a year-long partnership between WWT and Quentin Blake, one of the UK's best-known illustrators, to celebrate the wonders of wetlands.
The experience is available nationally at the ten UK wetland sites until the end of February 2024 – including Castle Espie outside Comber in Co Down – and includes a variety of seasonal trails, events and activities.
Throughout the partnership WWT Castle Espie will run three seasonal trails with guides using selected, rarely seen in public, illustrations of a watery nature from Quentin Blake to help inspire visitors to view the wonder of wetland nature in a different way.
Visitors are encouraged to collect the illustrated guides full of Quentin Blake’s drawings and journey around the wonderful wetland world this summer. New seasonal trails will be launched later in the year, each with a different illustrated guide to collect and keep.
Each of the trails, Spring / Summer, Autumn, and Winter, will highlight the amazing nature that arrives each season, showcasing new life, sparkling water and visiting birds, helping everyone experience nature in new, unexpected ways through Quentin Blake’s work.
These trails will run alongside a range of art and illustration activities to inspire all ages and abilities. Including making your own binoculars using recycled cardboard and plastic materials from home, hear short stories and excerpts from Quentin Blake stories narrated by WWT Castle Espie learning manager John McCullough and his team.
There’s also the opportunity to take part in crafty competitions with lots of Quentin Blake goodies up for grabs including the chance to win a one-off, special edition Quentin Blake print.
WWT Castle Espie will also be among four WWT sites hosting an exhibition of some of Quentin Blake’s wetland-themed artworks from October – February ( running from October 14 - December 8 and January 6 - February 24, 2024 with images on display using everything from pens, inks and washes to quills from the birds he has illustrated to help bring their subjects to life.
The selection of 54 prints on display provide a unique glimpse into Quentin’s view of wetlands and of how we humans interact with their wildlife, plants and water.
Both the exhibition and the seasonal trails will offer a chance to explore some of Quentin’s lesser-known work on a theme that has intrigued him throughout his life - birds.
Commenting on the partnership Quentin Blake said: “I am delighted to be sharing my pictures with WWT sites and their visitors through the Drawn to Water experience.
"This project appealed to me because I have a lifelong fascination of drawing wetland wildlife, especially birds. I can’t quite explain why but it may be because like us, they are on two legs and have expressive gestures.
"The drawings you will see are from my own personal archive, and many have rarely been seen in public before. Through Drawn to Water I hope that seeing my artwork in places where these creatures are thriving will allow new audiences to enjoy wetland wildlife as much as I do, perhaps prompting a few people to pick up a pen, pencil or even a quill and do their own drawing.”
Paul Stewart at WWT Castle Espie added: “We are very excited to launch the WWT partnership with Quentin Blake at WWT Castle Espie.This is a fantastic opportunity for visitors of all ages to reimagine and enjoy the magic and wonder of our beautiful place across all the seasons, and all with the help of this great illustrator.
"With lots of arts and illustration activities there will be something for everyone to enjoy. We are also delighted to be one of four WWT sites to host an exhibition of some of Quentin Blake’s wetland-themed artworks from September. Visitors can view the the prints on display in the Graffan Gallery and get a unique glimpse into his view of wetlands – it really will be a very unique experience.”
To find out more go to https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/castle-espie