Isabel paints a butterfly world for children to share

Though the artist didn't know it at the time, an interactive children’s workshop and performance taking place this coming half-term holiday began life in a rumbustious revolution that grabbed the art world 30 years ago.

Isabel Bee – who wrote ‘The Song of The Butterfly’ being performed in Southend-on-Sea on Thursday, 13th April – learned the ways of the art world at London’s Hornsey College of Art, Middlesex University and the famous Whitechapel Gallery in the ‘90s. 

Isabel Bee

She was part of the revolutionary Brit Art scene, making waves with her own large artworks and thoroughly enjoying life – until M.E. struck her down in 2003.

“I then became bedbound for several years, leading a very little life, before I started to come out of that bit by bit”, the 52-year-old children’s author said this week.

“One afternoon I managed to get out into the garden and saw this butterfly. It was just a plain butterfly wrapped up in black wings. I had my camera with me and as I watched the wings began to unfurl and show these amazing colours. 

“I suddenly had an idea for this story. I shouted out to my partner, Darren, to get me paper and and a pen and I had mapped it all out in 10 minutes!” 

The jottings eventually became the illustrated children’s book, “The Butterfly Who Wouldn’t Open Her Wings”, which has enchanted many children since then. It tells the story of a brave little girl who helps a butterfly find its wings. 

Isabel made the illustrations by hand – sitting at her dining room table for 20 minutes at a time when she was well enough.

The half-term holiday show is based on the book. But the event been has been renamed “The Song Of The Butterfly” to reflect its new musical content.

Isabel, who has two grown-up sons, lives in Leigh-on-Sea. The workshop and performance will be held outdoors at the Metal community hub in Chalkwell Park, Southend, on 13th April (details below). It had a well received try-out last year with new words and music added since then.

Isabel will narrate, her friend Val Harron will dance the part of the butterfly, tenor Niall Windass – a guest opera singer from The Trinity Laban School – will sing and it’s a pretty safe bet that, if they’re around on the day, sons Austin and Christopher will be involved as well. 

And we're told there will be a collection for The ME Association at the end of the performance. Thanks so much, Izzy!


The performance will take place in a cordoned-off area outside Metal’s HQ by the old peacock enclosure.

Isabel adds: “Children who attend the workshop will be in parts of the production, performing dance and drama.”

The workshop for ages four to 10 – who must be accompanied by one adult – is facilitated by two very experienced professional dance and drama teachers, and starts at 5-30 pm, for 45 minutes, with the performance starting at 7pm.

“There is magical lighting as it will be dusk when it commences.”

24 children’s workshop tickets are available and 60 tickets for people to watch the performance.

To book, visit:


Tony Britton
Senior Fundraising Consultant, The ME Association Mob: 07393 805566

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