The "Anthea's Garden" Project: a children's book!!

The history of the project

Anthea’s Garden is a requiem for Anthea McKie (1980 – 2003): a close school friend and fellow creative artist. Anthea had wanted to illustrate children’s books and I had intended to ask her to illustrate the pictures for this work, when I learned of her unexpected passing. Instead, the themes explored in the musical content became a reflection of my memory of Anthea herself. Her interests, and things that she loved, inspired the creation of Anthea’s Garden. 

Anthea’s Garden tells the story of a girl who has fallen asleep outside in her garden and is dreaming. The work contains five movements. The first and fifth movement depict the girl asleep and dreaming, while the second, third, and fourth movement portray the things she is dreaming about: in her dream she has shrunk to the size of a mouse and explores her garden where she finds; runaway pot plants; her giant cat; fairies dancing; and very busy insects.

Commissioned by Carmen Chan for her Master’s recital entitled “Children’s Games”, Anthea’s Garden was originally written for solo percussion and multimedia (completed May 2003), illustrated by Kelly Hobbs and first performed by Carmen on the 12th of June 2003. The sheet music for Anthea’s Garden: for solo percussion and multimedia was never published and appeared in its entirety in concert only once. As it was originally written for a Master’s recital, the music was intentionally quite technically difficult to play. Over ten years after its original conception, Carmen suggested that I arrange the piece for percussion duo to ease its level of difficulty and to make it more accessible to less advanced players. I immediately embraced this idea, however the inclusion of another player opened up a range of musical possibilities that were previously impractical. For this reason, the new percussion duo version of Anthea's Garden, while referring closely to the 2003 edition, has been significantly rewritten.

I've always loved illustrated children's books. The original Anthea's Garden had simple black and white pencil illustrations that were projected onto a screen as the music was being performed. This intended to convey a similar construct as a children's book, but music was used instead of words to convey the story, with much left open to the imagination. It wasn't until I had my first child however that my love of illustrated children's books was re-ignited, and it is perhaps because of this reclaimed love that my interest in creating a children's book, with a new edition of Anthea's Garden, came about. But my motivation to see this project through is driven first and foremost by my desire to collaborate with fellow artists, as I have never been happier in my profession, than when I have connected and worked with the people who, through their craft, have brought my music to life. 

The 2014 edition of Anthea’s Garden was written at a time when I was deeply interested in the power of artistic collaboration. I had seen it mentioned a few times in a number of books, and I am quoting Austin Kleon here, that “good work isn’t achieved in a vacuum… creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.” Researcher of mindset Professor Carol Dweck points out that: “there are many myths about ability and achievement, especially about the lone, brilliant person suddenly producing amazing things”. Researcher of creativity Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says “an idea or product that deserves the label “creative” arises from the synergy of many sources and not only from the mind of a single person.” Anthea's Garden began as a collaboration and I was again interested in finding out what could be achieved by sharing this project with other artists, by combining the minds and resources of more than just my own, and by collaborating to transform Anthea’s Garden into a children’s book with music. Anthea’s Garden is now an experimental multi-art form project that brings together composer, author, illustrator, percussionists, graphic designer, sound engineer, and arts/music educators, to create an illustrated music and storybook for children.

The current progress of the project

The percussion duo arrangement of the music for Anthea's Garden was completed in May 2014. The recording: performed by Collision Theory was recorded by Frank Pearce in July 2014. Author of "The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon", Ailsa Wild completed the words in December 2014 and recorded the audio book with Frank in February 2015. The illustrations, by Simon Howe are almost complete and we are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, to help recover some of the costs of production, printing, publicity and postage. To support this campaign and to make a pledge, visit and search for antheasgarden. We are hoping to launch our campaign on Saturday but if you're on my mailing list, I'll keep you posted.