The Sea Swallow takes flight

Lancaster Litfest is celebrating the publication of its first book for children – The Sea Swallow by Cumbrian novelist Gareth Thompson, illustrated by Hannah Megee – in its new Foxtail imprint.

The Sea Swallow is based on the history, landscape and tall tales of the Wyre Coast. As part of Wyre Council’s Sea Change programme that is revitalising seven miles of coast from Cleveleys to Fleetwood, Litfest was commissioned to create a book that would capture this exciting environment.

From Autumn onwards the new promenade at Cleveleys, which can now boast 25 awards, will site a trail of public artworks inspired by the book. These will encourage parents and children to explore the real incredible coast.

Cumbrian author Gareth Thompson took the unique geology and wildlife of Wyre, and hundreds of local stories of shipwreck and adventure, to weave the tale of a girl who rescues her village from being swamped by the sea.

“It’s an amazing place”, said Gareth. “I was already familiar with Morecambe Bay, but with the wealth of natural features like the Lune Deep, stories of sunken villages like Singleton Thorpe and the Marton
mermaid, it was hard to know what to leave out.”

Cornish-based illustrator Hannah Megee worked alongside Gareth. “Lots of children’s books are based on real places in Cornwall. The Wyre coast, like Cornwall, has its own natural features and a quality of light that is very special”, said Hannah.

The Sea Swallow is part of Wyre Council’s Mythic Coastline project, which will include new sculptures, electonic and audio versions of the book, education materials for teachers to use, and a website, The project seeks to develop a narrative for the seafront from Cleveleys to Fleetwood that will draw people along the coastline and connect communities together.

Gareth Thompson’s three Young Adult novels for Random House – The Great Harlequin Grim, Sunshine to the Sunless, and The Anarchist’s Angel – have earned him instant critical acclaim. Each story is set in a different season, and all are based in Cumbria.

Gareth offers a modern take on Lake District life, away from the glossy tourist brochures. The novels show his passion for his local area and his love of the region’s dramatic landscapes.

A copy of The Sea Swallow has been sent out to every Key Stage 2 child (7 – 11 year olds) in Wyre district, so this month thousands of children will be reading a new story rooted in their own coastline. You can buy the book from Litfest’s online shop – it’s a beautiful landscape-format hardback with full colour illustrations, thick paper and an old-fashioned cloth spine, priced £9.99 + £1.99 postage.

Sea Change is a CABE initiative, funded by DCMS, that places culture at the heart of regenerating England’s seaside resorts by investing in arts, public space, cultural assets and heritage projects.