Where did the book start?

I’d like to tell you the story of my book.  Once upon a time, on a winter evening my two friends Tony Wigg, Christopher Williams and I met for fish and chips at the Black Lion in West Hampstead. It was a noisy Friday night so I invited them back to my house. The conversation moved around Kettle’s Yard and also towards my 1960s charcoal drawings; and at last I opened a very old and battered suitcase containing my art when I was five, six years old.  My mother had saved those drawing-books for me. That early gift was deeply nourished through my grandparents Jim and Helen Ede.

Tony and Chris fell in love with my Molly and her friends on the Cornish coast.  They said – “why not make her into a small children’s book for young visitors to Kettle’s Yard?”  We got quite excited and started planning it.  At that time the house at Kettle’s Yard was closed during the two-year renovation.  Our idea germinated and began to suggest a creative parallel – with re-opening Kettle’s Yard to new generations.

It swiftly grew much bigger than the slim volume we envisaged.  For us, it mirrored other journeys of mystery and discovery during the hiatus: including Andrew Nairne’s Moroccan odyssey to Tangier in search of White Stone!

white stone tangier

White Stone – the house Jim built in the 1930s near Tangier


We were aware of the new generation – the children who will visit Kettle’s Yard – the timeless child within each artist and visitor there, the creative child in Jim Ede himself …  a quality of education – with which there are painful and constricting issues nowadays.  Educational intimacy develops the imagination and opens the inner life.

in the extension

Local school projects are linked to Kettle’s Yard.  To my delight, on my first visit the day before the house reopened, I met a multicultural flock of school kids in the 1970’s extension;  everything in the house is a part of my childhood.  We took my grandparents’ home for granted but were rather in awe of it; to be careful how we touched things.

Jim was an imaginative grandfather – a child at play himself.  I was in love with my grandparents’ home, the smell of toast and honey, and the strange spartan beauty of its atmosphere and speech.

Early in 2017, my friend Tony Wigg had a symbolic dream.  He was standing in the garden near St Peter’s; there was a long hedge to the left – where the building work on the new wing was actually going on – and in that hedge he saw a huge and beautiful green apple. For a moment he also caught sight of an old man in an upstairs window of the house.  The old man carried a canoe paddle; he smiled shyly and moved away into the interior.   Does’t that green apple hint at the renovation project and its future?

We felt Jim’s curating presence in the house – quiet, still and private while it was closed – keeping sanctuary among crates and boxes and labels; his long-term view that all may turn out well.

The house while closed, from the back – spring 2017.. The building work is to the left offside where the wire fence begins, and somewhere in a hedge growing along the site, Tony saw the green apple.

Lighthouse in Kettle’s Yard” is put together like painting a portrait or landscape. You may open and dip into it wherever you like.  Most readers do this spontaneously because there are more than 500 paintings, drawings and old photographs to look at (370 pages), with the story; later the reader may start – or end – where the story begins.

It is conversational, inspired by the way my grandfather arranged light, furniture and objects in the house as constellations to talk to each other.  There are voices, periods of life, old family letters (particularly some of Jim’s to my mother) and discoveries with other artists. It is a private account, becoming transpersonal.

Today we celebrate Kettle’s Yard’s archival character. Although my “Lighthouse” is a creative archive, filled with eclectic art from different periods of my life, the continuity is with my very early drawings which speak.  It is poetic rather than chronological.  In any creative project there are discordant stresses – the sharp green apple to ripen.  We all knew how Jim suffered these stresses, and how difficult he could be. He was a mystic with a rare ability to embody his vision and make it matter to others.

Version 2



Synopsis of the Book

“I am not particularly interested in the dates of artists or in their names or in what school they belong to, but I am interested in the force of life which pushes them into expression … and it seems to me that every human being must be interested in this force, for in one form or another, it is the thing from which all our own activity is derived.”

Jim Ede, 1941

Lighthouse in Kettles Yard’ by Jane Adams is a free discovery and improvisation on that‘force of life which pushes creativity into expression’.  The book explores an artist and poet’s creativity from within, to contact the inner child and philosopher. It is autobiographical and impressionist, covering generally the period 1953 till the present day.

Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge is more than a gallery: its creator Jim Ede developed it as a dynamic and healing way of life at all levels.  He arranged sea-pebbles, furniture, music, old porcelain and books in conversational placement with the art and sculpture of Gaudier, the Nicholsons, David Jones, Alfred Wallis and many more.  For many visitors, it holds sanctuary; eminent musicians gave concerts there and asked no fee.  From 2015 until February 2018 Kettle’s Yard was closed for renovation, to expand its potential into an educational centre and to develop the exhibition galleries’ capacity to support contemporary installations. 

‘Lighthouse in Kettles Yard’ was written in synchrony, a spontaneous gesture towards the collection’s reopening and rebirth.

The book opens with a drawing of ‘Two Girls’ in the Kettles Yard collection, by a child of five. Jane – Ede’s granddaughter – leads the viewer behind her picture into its story.  She recalls her childhood with the atmosphere of Kettles Yard and its friends and artists: Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, the works of William Congden and Gaudier-Brzska, along with the inspiration of Picasso and many others.  Through this environmental heritage, she discovered her direction and development.

Alfred Wallis fishing boat: detail from a painting in private collection

An open landscape is recalled, before the onset of media technology.  The first few chapters evoke early post-war childhood on the Yorkshire moors and in south Cornwall: the recall of a very young artist at work.  Jane began to draw full-time at the age of four, encouraged by her maternal grandparents the Edes, and by her parents, who combined the physical hardships of hill farming with string quartet playing, the vision of David Jones, and T S Eliot’s poetry.  Later chapters introduce other vivid characters, such as Lionel Miskin (to whose memory the book is dedicated) and Stephen Szegedy Szuts: their creative influence and letters.  In the 1960s, the adolescent artist rebels and discovers street life and the Rolling Stones.

The book is conversational and contemplative in tone, with a colourful interplay of characters and interior worlds.  It is illustrated throughout with Jane’s work at various stages since childhood, including some new watercolour drawings for the book.  The tone is archival, for Jane has access to old family photo albums and her parents’ and grandparents’ active correspondence.  Through their letters, they speak for themselves and bring to life a period of history.  Through this odyssey, a reader may connect with the value of his or her own ancestral resonance.

8 ky two girls 2

There is an association from the first pages, of the drawing of ‘Two Girls’ with the old fisherman Alfred Wallis; his boats, and the slow unfolding of a mystery.  The lighthouse develops as a symbol throughout the book, from those in Wallis’s paintings, to C.G.Jung’s extraordinary vision in his early childhood, of a subterranean ‘lighthouse’. ‘Keepers of the light’ guide seafarers on their journeys.

The ‘Two Girls’ also evolve a recurring theme of sisters – vignettes of Jim Ede’s daughters and of Jane’s childhood companions by the sea with her sister.  The theme of mystical, matriarchal mother and womanhood balances the more masculine world of art, lighthouse-keeping and the management of Kettles Yard: a continuing flow of the feminine  across family, humanity and time.  Jim Ede’s vision combined both aspects.

Jim and Helen Ede are the book’s main stem; his character and especially Helen’s, come forth poignantly in life and death. While their house was closed for the recent renovation, the collection was made available for exhibitions. Similarly, ‘Lighthouse in Kettles Yard’ illumines many rooms of life, returning for renewal to the family centre of gravity.

The book evolves a personal and visionary response to Jim Ede’s vision, including a few extracts from his unpublished writings.  As public interest in him grows, with a desire to know more about his family and domestic way of life, further studies and biographies are being prepared.  This book supplies a more intimate view. The principal characters sprinkled through it include the Edes, their daughters Elisabeth and Mary, some of the painters in Kettles Yard and in Cornwall, the poet Jack Clemo, the pianist Vera Moore, C.G.Jung and the artist Anthony Wigg.

Elisabeth & Mary on Iona, circa 1926