Posted by Alex Vernon on

10 Years of Bluebell and the joyful freedom of working with an illustrator

Bluebell is a perinatal mental health charity I’ve admired for years (I first wrote about them in 2013).

So last Spring – during the otherwise grim first weeks of lockdown – I was thrilled when Ruth Jackson from Bluebell asked me to work on the charity’s 10th anniversary impact report. She wanted it to be celebratory, informative, emotive – and gorgeous to look at.

I like to think the final result ticks all of Ruth’s boxes.  In 10 Years of Bluebell, we’ve shared Bluebell’s achievements, aspirations and powerful stories from families they’ve supported.  And – I love this touch! – the center spread is a vibrant pull-out poster with Bluebell-themed colouring pages on the reverse.

Be Kind To Yourself Today poster
Our pull-out poster (hopefully destined for fridge doors across the land)

Writing and project managing 10 Years of Bluebell was a gift during such a difficult year. I loved feeling like part of the Bluebell team – and I learned so much. But was my biggest takeaway was discovering that…

…illustrations are liberating!

I love a good photo (and Bluebell has some wonderful pics from Bristol-based photographer Alice Hendy). But if your charity hasn’t been able to invest in photography and you’re scrabbling around on your hard drive for that half decent jpeg someone sent you from a sponsored walk six years ago…well, making your brochure look good can be a bit of a nightmare.

So how freeing it is to work with an illustrator!

If we didn’t have photos of this or that Bluebell service, it didn’t matter: the brilliant Esther Curtis could conjure them up with a wave of her pencil. (Esther, I realise there was far more to it than that, but to me it seemed like magic.)

When one of our storytellers, Ella, wanted to stay anonymous for professional reasons, Esther used a photograph of Ella and her baby to depict them in illustrated form. So Ella could open the brochure and recognise herself and her son, but no one else would. That meant that despite her anonymity, Ella really felt part of 10 Years of Bluebell.

You can find a selection of spreads from 10 Years of Bluebell below. I hope you’ll agree that Esther captured Bluebell beautifully and sensitively. And crucially, her illustrations are aspirational: they reflect the more inclusive charity Bluebell wants to become.

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