Celebrating the launch of The Pavee and the Buffer Girl

Last week was World Book Day and we marked it in a very special way, with the launch of The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd in a stunning new edition illustrated by Emma Shoard.

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl is the story of Jim Curran, a Traveller boy who is forced into the local school when his family halt in the town of Dundray. Jim struggles with reading and describes the thought of books, ‘with the ugly black marks like secret codes’ as ‘worse than all the fights put together’.

Jim’s struggles are of course close to our hearts here at Barrington Stoke and we were delighted to be able to bring his story – Siobhan’s first published work – back into print with Emma’s incredible artwork. In order to research the setting, our good friends at Children’s Books Ireland arranged for us to visit a halting site in Kilkenny with Emma, where we received an incredibly warm welcome and Emma was able to sketch and photograph while a succession of dogs and horses were brought to meet us. The boys even hooked up their racing sulky so we could see the horses in action.

In school, Jim befriends Kit, a ‘buffer’ or settled girl who introduces him to the idea of kindness in buffer life. Kit takes Jim to the great cathedral cave below the town and teaches him to make sense of words and letters. He finds solace, too, in the library, where Mrs MacKenna lets him take refuge at break times. Kit is a wonderful singer, and excitingly the Siobhan Dowd Trust have worked with us to take Emma Shoard out to schools in Northern Ireland with singer and storyteller Geraldine Bradley, who will bring Siobhan’s words to life while Emma draws to an audience of settled and Traveller children. We wish them all the best for their mini tour and can’t wait to see them at various UK book festivals later in the year.

Here are some snaps from the wonderful launch. Thanks to Daunts Marylebone for hosting us and to all who came along.

Finally, today is International Women’s Day and so we’ll close this post with a nod to lots of inspiring women who helped us create this project.

First and foremost, we remember the late and much missed Siobhan Dowd, a human rights champion who worked for freedom and equality across society and wrote books where, in her own words, ‘the ordinary meets the extraordinary’. Emma Shoard approached the project with incredible commitment and an artist’s eye, and a desire at all times to be true to Siobhan’s vision and beliefs. Thank you, Emma – you have done us proud.

Siobhan’s agent and executor Hilary Delamare was a huge support, as have been the Trustees of the Siobhan Dowd Trust, and Trust Director Kate Powling. Thanks to all.

The team at CBI introduced us to Paula Leyden, who is a writer committed to human rights and works to support the community at Kilkenny. Our visit brought the book to life – and opened our eyes, too.

And finally, we’d like to mention a fictional woman – Jim’s Mam in The Pavee and the Buffer Girl. Mam has had few chances and has many frustrations but she is the warm centre of Jim’s life and of the story. As Patrick Ness says, ‘There’s an incredibly moving moment where Jim – who can’t read – is being tucked in bed by his mum. She leans over and whispers, “If you learn a few words, could you ever pass them on to me?” Gorgeous.’

Here’s to more chances for more women, worldwide.

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