how to change the world

Ten years on, an idea starts to become real

By John-Paul Flintoff

Andrew Marvell's The Garden

I am feeling extremely excited today – because I just had a meeting with people who might make one of my most cherished ideas come true.

Ten years ago, I had an idea for a series of beautiful cloth books based on classic poems from Eng Lit. And I did nothing about it.

But recently I started work on the designs, initially at a brainstorming session with friends at Prick Your Finger, London’s finest haberdashery/art gallery. Then, pushed by my collaborator Morwhenna Woolcock, I mentioned the idea to my agent, Peter Straus, who seemed surprisingly interested (what inner demon made me find that surprising?), as did the brilliant publisher David Fickling.

And now I have had a meeting with Fine Cell Work (FCW), the charity that teaches prisoners to create extraordinarily beautiful embroideries. (I have admired their work ever since I came across it while writing Sew Your Own.) They are keen to help turn my designs into what I daresay will be the most expensive cloth book in the world – yikes! – which I will then present not to baby Prince George but to (eg) another baby called George, perhaps born on the same day.

The idea is to capture the whole process in a TV documentary – how the book is made, what wonderful, remedial work FCW does, the workshop I hope to run with prisoners about Andrew Marvell’s poem, The Garden, and the search for Not-Prince George.

It feels very risky to write this before I have got the TV commission, but my experience is increasingly telling me that the way to get things done is to just start, and be ready for failure – because it’s the possibility of failure that makes anything worth doing…

Posted: October 28, 2013