Autistic artist helps top Wakefield author with his new book

New book by John Irving Clarke illustrated by autistic artist Rachel Bate
New book by John Irving Clarke illustrated by autistic artist Rachel Bate

A near-forgotten bedtime story by Sandal author John Irving Clarke has been resurrected and he has called on autistic artist Rachel Bate to illustrate the new book.

Entitled Tom Kieran and the Noises in the Night, and originally written for his nephew, the book was launched at Agbrigg Community Centre where John met Rachel and where he tutors the Agbrigg Creative Writing group.

Rachel works at the community centre and she is a member of Wakefield Autism Leisure Club, which will benefit from sales of the £5 book. The club provides sports facilities for children and young adults with learning difficulties.

John said: “When we were introduced, I was told that Rachel was a very talented illustrator and I said that I had a story lying around at home which needed illustrating and that she might like to have a look at it.”

When he saw Rachel’s illustrations a few weeks later, he was so impressed he said they ought to explore putting the manuscript and illustrations into book format. The story tells of foxes, geese and owls keeping Tom Kieran awake until he gets a hug from his mum.

Rachel is 46 years old and lives with father Barry in Sandal. The book explains: “Although she is unable to read or write she enjoys arts and crafts and her rapid, simple drawings can often capture the demeanour and movement of the figures portrayed”.

Despite the daily challenges she faces, with support she is able to take part in many activities. She plays indoor bowls and has competed in the national Special Olympics at Sheffield and Leicester.

Barry said: “It’s fantastic that John feels Rachel’s illustrations are an attribute to his book. It shows that people with learning difficulties can make valuable contributions in life.”

If the book raises money for WALC, a very worthy Wakefield based charity, so much the better.”

Jo Atter, who worked on the book, is a freelance book designer and when she heard about the Tom Kieran project, she immediately offered her services for free.

The story was originally written on the birth of John’s nephew, Thomas Kieran Randall. John said: “I never actually got it sent off to him. He’s at secondary school now and he is on Carlisle United’s books as a goalkeeper. I’m not sure that he will be interested in a bedtime story for children but I will send a copy to his mum.”

He added: “I am so pleased to be associated with this book and I’m very impressed with Rachel’s illustrations. I hope the book will be read and shared and no-one need fear the noises in the night!”