I have just read “Princess Ka’iulani of Hawai’i, the Monarchy’s Last Hope” by Kristin Zambucka.

A couple of things jumped out at me:

1. When the princess was living in Cambridge Rd, Phebe Rooke gave her a print for her birthday. “The Soul’s Awakening” This is by an English artist called James Sant (1820–1916). It is a portrait of the artist’s 13-year-old great niece, Annie Kathleen Rendle. In 1888, the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London.

It’s a very sentimental subject matter, typical of that period, and it was apparently very popular and reproduced widely. I think it gives us a glimpse into the character of the 2 ladies – the princess and her landlady/tutor.


I have recently started working with the writer, Mark Wilson who is going to help me with the script for the film. He is concentrating on the relationship between these two women. It’s really exciting to start fleshing it out.

2. Another relationship that was important in the princess’ life was with Theo Davis who acted as her guardian while she studied in the UK. The princess often stayed with the family and it was Theo who encouraged her to travel to Washington to appeal to the American people and meet President Cleveland, in an attempt to stop the overthrow of her country.

Anyway, I noted in the book that Theo lived in the later part of his life in a house called Ravensdale in Tunbridge Wells and the princess spent quite a lot of time there. As I grew up in the town I was interested to know just where this was. A quick search on Google Maps reveals that Ravensdale was just round the corner from my old house, and I walked past it everyday on my way to school, nearly a hundred years later.

Funny that, I wonder if she crossed paths with any of my ancestors!

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Right then.

I now need to refocus after a fabulous, very relaxing summer holiday in France.

Good news is that I have had contact with someone in Hawai’i who might be able to help us in our search for a dance to honour Ka’iulani, which is very exciting.

Also, a researcher employed by Brighton museum to tease out some more details about the princess’ time in Hove tells me that her landlady, Ms Phebe Rooke was a descendant of Samuel Curtis (1799-1860), who was a nurseryman and took over the publication of the famous Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1827. At least four of Samuel’s daughters, i.e. Phebe’s aunts, painted botanical plates for the magazine, and so we might assume that Phebe and her sister Jessie were very well-schooled in the art of botanical illustration. So Ka’iulani may well have been able to continue that side of her education when she was living with Phebe and Jessie. We know that Ka’iulani had a talent for painting.


Poppies‘, oil on canvas painting by Princess Ka’iulani, 1890

The founder of the magazine William Curtis was an apothecary and botanist who held a position at Kew Gardens. Curtis’ magazine has been published continuously since 1787, with a change of name to The Kew Magazine from 1984 to 1994.

I wonder if any of Phebe’s drawings ended up in the archives at Kew Gardens?

I’ve been meaning to go to Kew for a while to see if they have any Hawaiian plants in their hothouses and so we are planning to go up on Monday (a birthday treat for me). It will be a trip with the kids and I won’t have much time for research but it will be good to have a look round.

I will probably have to brave the treetop walk with my boys. I hope its not as high as the basilica in Lisieux that we visited last week. That made me as dizzy as a very giddy goose.

First Day’s filming

Well, the first day filming went quite well I think. I worked with a lovely actress called Elika who seemed to enjoy being a Victorian for the day.

I set myself quite an ambitious list of stuff to achieve and we managed most of it, thanks to Jim and Phil, technicians from City College. I borrowed a chromakey carpet and we were able to film “Ka’iulani” from above walking about in her finery. I  then should be able to superimpose this onto the animated background, fingers crossed. I won’t really know what I’ve got til I look at the rushes though.

On Monday Elika and I went to Harvey’s of Hove where we hired some Victorian costumes –  a lovely mint coloured suit and a white lace dress as well as parasols, gloves and so on. Great fun.

Harvey’s is great, apparently they have 5 floors of costumes, although as a visitor you are only allowed in the downstairs bit. Elika and I fantasized about breaking in there one night and trying them all on.

I asked if they had a Victorian fan we could borrow and they produced this.


I was really delighted with this as Ka’iulani was known as the peacock princess. She loved peacocks and they used to wander the gardens where she grew up. I had been wanting to use an image of a peacock as a theme in the film and perhaps a humble sparrow or seagull for when she gets to Hove. So I may ask to borrow the fan again.

And speaking of names, I think I need to think of a better title. “A Princess in Hove” seems a bit like a children’s story.

Maybe something to do with peacocks – ” A peacock amongst the pigeons”? Maybe not. Don’t know, I will have to give it some thought…… Suggestions welcome!

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Here’s a snap of Elika from above on the blue carpet.


Disappointingly the girl that I hoped could act as the  princess in some little scenes didn’t turn up for the first rehearsal today. She eventually texted me to say she had overslept. Ooph. Never mind.

I fear she wasn’t really very committed.


(Photo pinched from http://www.bn1kitesurfing.co.uk)

More positively we had a fun day out at the Paddle Round the Pier festival last weekend. This is a festival of everything related to beach and water sports and seems to include all sorts of other things. They have what looks like gruelling paddle races and there were some very unusual vessels on the sea.

All very hot though. My oldest son enjoyed cooling off by having a go at scuba diving in a big tank. And my partner was inspired to buy me a ukelele. Well, the idea was that is was for me but I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on it all week. He’s been serenading me with Chas & Dave tunes and has now moved onto Bob Dylan.

Buttons and bows

I’m hoping that we can do a day or two filming in July. For the moment we will just do some very short bits with a young performing arts student from City College, Brighton where I work.

I am very aware that I will never find a girl who looks just right for the part of Ka’iulani so I am avoiding the issue by using drawings and archive photos when I need to show the princess. However, I thought it would be fun to have some shots of the princess from above, from behind and from a distance, as well as behind a parasol. It’s a shame really as the actress has a very pretty face but we won’t see it in this piece.

So I need to think about costumes. A Victorian costume for when she is in Hove and a Hawaiian style nightdress. So far I have only seen photographs of Ka’iulani dressed in fairly formal clothes. And what sort of pillow would a Hawaiian princess have had in the 1880s? Who knows?


Here is an image of 3 actresses in the same dress – Gillian Kearney in the Forsythe Saga, Q’uorianka Kilcher  in the film “Princess Ka’ iulani” and then Jenna Louis-Coleman in Doctor Who. It’s a great dress and they all look good, I would love to be able to track it down, though it’s probably beyond my humble budget.

And later in the year I hope to find an actress and be able to film a scene with Miss Phoebe Rooke as the narrator. She was the princess’ landlady in Hove and as yet I don’t know much about her. I know she was described as a “mother” figure to Ka’iulani. I had an idea in my head that she should be about 5′ 5, straight dark hair, gentle and quiet natured, thoughtful and kind. Thinking about it though, I think I am describing my own late mother. I will need to do some more research.

In the meantime I am working on storyboards and drawing peacocks while I wait for British summertime to begin.

Press & Release

I  went to the Press & Release exhibition at Pheonix Gallery yesterday, an exhibition of artist’s book, curated by Karin Mori. Last day today I’m afraid.

It was great, lots of hand made books and interesting bits and pieces, printed, folding, collaged, hand painted, scrolling and so on. I particularly liked John Bently’s box/book pieces. They looked like books but were really boxes. When you opened the page/lifted the lid there were some intriguing bits of text.

Also good to see my old friend Johnny Hannah’s work.



I’m feeling good and excited about the project at the moment. I’m keen to get on with it though my work is still busy and its hard to fit it in around the kids and so on.

I like this stage in a project – lots of research to do, no deadline looming as yet.

Paper dolls.

So, I’m aiming to make:

1. A short film, a creative interpretation of Ka’iulani’s life.

2. A series of workshops leading to a performance in Brunswick Square, near where the princess lived, thus in a way bringing the princess back to Brighton and Hove

3. A small installation in Hove museum showing both of the above plus some more information about hula and the princess and her significance to Hawai’i.

Oooph……….quite a lot to do. I made a list of all the tasks I need to do for the different sections. Its really quite frightening. And I’ve said I’ll do it by next July – Eek!

All good though. Yesterday I had a meeting with Karin Mori, the artist from Hawaii that I hope to work with, and we went to meet the world art curator at Brighton museum.

Karin and I discussed how we might start the film with a Hawaiian creation myth. And we considered how I might animate her lovely drawings –  It might be easiest to set up a rostrum camera in her studio. Then she can just draw and click a photo and draw and click and so on.


Doing some research earlier today I discovered there is a a Ka’iulani paper doll book available from fancyephemera.com. I just had to order it. It might be fun to play with the image of a paper doll in a section of the film. The princess would get dressed and undressed as a Hawaiian young woman and as a Victorian royal as she struggles with her 2 roles.

Here we go!!

Well, I’ve been trying to be cool about it. I felt the application was stronger than before and was hopeful, but who knows really.

I was hoping to hear during the week but I kept coming home to no post on the doormat other than the usual bills and junk mail.

Today being Saturday, we are all chilling out at home and when Louis was playing out at the front of the house one of the neighbours handed him an envelope that had been too big to go through our letter box earlier in the week.

Hurrah! A nice big fat brown envelope with lots of info including a letter congratulating me on having been successful.

Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Now the project can properly begin. Thank you Arts Council England.

Waiting for news…..

Brighton Festival is buzzing in town. Theatre, music, dance and all that. Here, an image of the Blue Route by Kaarina Kaikkonen, an installation at Fabrica.

My boys ( aged 7 & 9) loved it but got told off for running in between the rows of hanging second hand shirts. While we were there the sun was slanting through the window. Very lovely.The Blue Route at Fabrica

We have been to lots of Open Houses at the weekends. The boys enjoy seeing the art, running about in the gardens and usually eating some cake. Plenty of good work, some in lovely houses. I’m reminded again how very many talented people there are in Brighton.

I am aware that I need to get going on research and preparing artwork for the project but have very little time at the moment, also I’m waiting to hear from the Arts Council this week about funding. Fingers crossed. Toes as well. It may well be bad news of course. I may have to be brave…..

I am still doing my daily self portrait. Just 15 minutes, though sometimes an hour or more will pass by. I feel a bit like a runner who is preparing for a race by doing some limbering up. Its very good to do some drawing without any particular purpose in mind. Also good to draw from life rather than an image found on Google. And I’m enjoying using what feels like old fashioned art equipment – ink and a dip pen, coloured pencils and biros. Without the constant access to Photoshop and the ability to redo, change, adapt and redesign one needs to look harder, draw better and try and get it right the first time. And fail of course …and then try again.

Wild Hawai’i

One can’t help be moved by the plight of the wildlife in Hawai’i and during the project I hope to be able to raise some funds towards the charity http://wildhawaii.org/

HAWAI’I WILDLIFE FUND (HWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Hawaii’s native wildlife through research, education and conservation.

If you wanted to study extinction, Hawaii would be a great place to start. Aptly named as the extinction capital of the world, half of the islands’ 140 historically recorded native bird species are extinct and continue to disappear. Some of these extinct species have great common names like ‘O’o, ‘O’u, and ‘O’o’a’a. So many of them were very beautiful. (Then there’s the O’O’O’O’O of course. More commonly known as the Hawaii Five O !)

Some of these birds were lost when they were shot for their tail feathers. Some because of the introduction of cats and rats to the islands. Others because their habitat has been destroyed or because of disease.

Image    Bishop’s O’O



I finally got round to watching the Descendants, which quite a few people have told me I must see. George Clooney plays a man descended from missionary’s businessman son and a native princess. A parentage rather like our princess.

He is sole trustee for a family trust that owns a large amount of land and there is pressure on him to sell. His wife has had a serious accident and he suddenly finds himself having to handle their two daughters and their grief as well as the news that his wife had been having an affair.

I enjoyed the film a lot, not least because it shows Hawai’i in a very matter-of-fact way, stripped of the cliches and shown as a contemporary place where people live and work, as well as just go on holiday. It has some funny moments and some painful ones. I liked the daughter’s dopey, tactless, surfer dude pal.