Devizes fairground tale to beat prejudice

This Is Wiltshire: Back row, from left, Laura Myers of Childrens Services; John Days of Jennings Fair; author Debra Tomlinson; pupils Ronnie, Arthur and Isaac; Louise and Billy Whitelegg from the fair; front row, pupils Anna, Dennis, Taiya, Maisy and Cherise Back row, from left, Laura Myers of Childrens Services; John Days of Jennings Fair; author Debra Tomlinson; pupils Ronnie, Arthur and Isaac; Louise and Billy Whitelegg from the fair; front row, pupils Anna, Dennis, Taiya, Maisy and Cherise

Southbroom Junior School in Devizes was the venue last week for the launch of a new book designed to explain the life of fairground people to children in Wiltshire.

The book, Magical Mirabel, was commissioned from Devizes writer Debra Tomlinson by the Wiltshire Traveller Education Service of Wiltshire Council.

Ms Tomlinson, a former head teacher at Avebury Primary School, had just completed a masters degree in writing for children at the University of Winchester when she was approached by her friend, Nicole Powell, of the traveller education service.

Ms Tomlinson said: “I had just finished writing the book when Nicole, who I go tap dancing with, approached me about the project. All I had to do was do a bit of rewriting and it was ready.”

It is the first book that Ms Tomlinson has had published although she has written another, Bingo the Whirligig Beetle, and is currently working on a third, Ghost Baby, a novel for older children set in Bishops Cannings.

Magical Mirabel is the third in a series commissioned by the service and the profits from the first two, Two for One and Horse for Joe, will pay for the publication of Magical Mirabel, about a young girl from a fairground family.

At the launch last week, Ms Tomlinson and Kate Davies, from Colerne, who illustrated it, explained to children how they went about it. They were joined by Billy and Louise Whitelegg of Jennings Fairs, whose winter quarters are right next door to the school. Mr and Mrs Whitelegg explained what the life of travelling fairground workers is like.

Nicole Powell said: “The service aims to explain to children the life of travelling people to combat discrimination.”

The book is available from the Traveller Education Service through Wiltshire Council’s website. It is hoped copies will be on sale at local bookshops soon.

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