Marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of the nation’s favourite children’s poem (poll of 2014), The Owl and The Pussy-Cat, animator Cliff Crawford offers four video insights.

Festival partner Hastings and Bexhill Mencap’s Active Arts inspired the community trail of 150 owls exhibited around the town with their cat partners during the festival. See photo gallery.

For info on the poem, see below.

Video: Cliff Crawford | Narration: Sean Duggan | Music: David Rowan.

#OwlAndPussyCat150 Trail Gallery

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat was first penned for the granddaughter of Hastings MP Frederick North and later appeared in print in the 1871 edition of Edward Lear’s nonsense anthology that we are exploring. The poem sits at the core of the British nonsense writing canon and tenderly opens a world in which Edward Lear lived. As a homosexual living in the nineteenth century, Lear could not open up about his sexuality and the poem, in which the unlikely owl and pussy-cat pair find happiness by sailing off into a make-believe world, relates to his own quandary over whether he should marry a woman. There are many examples of Lear identifying as an owl. His large beaked nose and glasses are a clear physical association but dig deeper and you discover Edward Lear’s wisdom as a sufferer of epilepsy, asthma and depression, the first of which, in particular, had to be hidden from society. Edward Lear’s inner world of difference was one that could be openly shared in our more tolerant world one hundred and fifty years on. And many will identify with his love of cats: his beloved Foss was his pet cat at his final home in Italy.


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