Houseboats at Milton, No.24 by Edward King. Image courtesy of Portsmouth Museums ©

Writing Edward King – Press Release

19 May 2017  



Writing Edward King: Cityscapes of Portsmouth is a literature project inspired by the Portsmouth paintings of Edward King, who resided in St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth for 26 years until his death in 1951 at the age of 88. The project aims to bring to a wider audience not only King’s paintings, but also the artist himself, exploring the relationships between art, mental health and storytelling. 14 local writers have been commissioned to write original stories inspired by King’s paintings, to be published on the project website and performed at various events across Portsmouth in late May and early June 2017.  Story writing workshops will enable local people to write their own stories inspired by King’s paintings.

“Edward King is such an important but overlooked part of Portsmouth’s cultural heritage and this project aims to bring both his art and his story to a wider audience, building on the fantastic work that’s already been done by Portsmouth Museum,” said project director Annie Kirby. “King’s paintings are very accessible, capturing a snapshot of Portsmouth in the 1940s, but at the same time his art seems to really touch people on a deeper level and remains very relevant.”

Media contact – Annie Kirby, 07815 563305,
Website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @WritingEdward #WritingEdward

The Artist
Born in London in 1863, Edward King was a well-regarded artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He held exhibitions at Crystal Palace and The Royal Academy and was respected by his peers including Van Gogh. King experienced poor mental health following the death of his wife, spending the last 26 years of his life residing in St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth until his death in 1951. Encouraged to paint by hospital staff, he depicted numerous scenes of St James’ and its surrounds, including houseboats at Milton Locks, and he was commissioned by the Mayor of Portsmouth to paint scenes of the bomb damage done to the city during World War II. Many of King’s works are owned by Portsmouth City Council, and a selection are currently on exhibit at Portsmouth Museum (Edward King: A Life in Art).

The Project
The Writing Edward King Project is funded by the Arts Council England, and aims to:

  • raise awareness of King’s contribution to British art, particularly his depictions of post-war Portsmouth;
  • explore the relationships between art, storytelling and mental health;
  • provide opportunities for local people, including professional writers, to engage with King’s art and create their own stories inspired by it.

The stories written by the project writers range from tales of war-time Portsmouth to fictionalised accounts of King’s life and even a modern-day story set in Portsmouth Museum itself.

Writing Edward King: Cityscapes of Portsmouth, is funded by the Arts Council England. The project team would also like to acknowledge the support of Portsmouth Museums and New Theatre Royal.

The Writers
(contact via Project Director Annie Kirby 07815 563305

Bernie C Byrnes is multi-award winning playwright, director and dramaturg, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Guild of Directors, who has staged work at The Globe and with the RSC. Bernie was inspired by King’s painting, ‘A View of the Laundry, St James’ Hospital.’ Available for writing or being interviewed about the project generally but especially the mental health aspects.

Charlotte Comley is a writer, creative writing tutor and professional storyteller. Her fiction has been published by Ether Books, Darwin Evolutions, Flash Flood, Chuffed Books, Dagda Press and 1000 Words, among others. Charlotte was inspired by King’s painting, ‘The Connaught Drill Hall, Stanhope Road.’ Available to write or be interviewed about the project generally.

Lucy Flannery is an award-winning writer with credits in radio, TV, film and theatre, including Rent, Like A Daughter and A Business Affair. She is the University of Chichester Royal Literary Fund Fellow 2014-17. Her short story Calm Down, Dear won the Brighton Prize in 2015. Lucy was inspired by King’s painting, ‘High Street, Old Portsmouth.’ Available for writing or being interviewed about Portsmouth 20th century history, particularly growing up in Portsmouth during the 1960s with bombsites still remaining.

Jacqueline Green is a prize-winning fiction writer. She won the Watford Council short story competition twice, the Chorleywood Lit-Fest Short Story Competition and was third in the Town & Village National Short Story Competition.  Jacqueline was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Houseboats at Milton Alongside A Quay with a Girl in Red.’ Available for writing or being interviewed about the project generally.

Margaret Jennings was short-listed for the Bare Fiction Literary short story prize in 2014 and for the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize in 2016 and has had success with competitive storytelling and poetry reading. She reads regularly at Tongues and Grooves and other local events. She was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Penny Street, Portsmouth.’

Annie Kirby is a fiction writer whose stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, as well as being adapted for broadcast on radio and for audio download. She won the Asham Award in 2005 and in 2013 she was longlisted for the Mslexia novel writing prize. Annie was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Trees by a Wall.’ Available for writing copy and being interviewed in relation to the aims of the project, Edward King’s importance to Portsmouth’s cultural heritage, lived experience of poor mental health.

Christine Lawrence is a writer and retired psychiatric nurse. Her novel Caught in the Web was published in 2012 and her short stories have appeared in Portsmouth News and Star and Crescent Magazine among others.  Christine was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Cabbage Field on the Farm at St James’ Hospital.’ Available for writing copy and being interviewed in relation to mental health, substance misuse (from the perspective of a psychiatric nurse) and the history of Edward King and St James’ Hospital.

Jacqui Pack is a multi-prize winning writer whose work has featured in a variety of print and online publications. In 2009, she was awarded Long Story Short’s ‘story of the year’, just one of a number of competition successes. She was inspired by King’s painting, ‘The Ruins of St Thomas Street.’ Available for interview or guest blogs in relation to the project generally.

Richard Peirce is a poet whose regularly performs his work at events home and abroad. His poems appear in This Island City: Portsmouth in Poetry and Ariadne’s Thread and he contributed to sound and video performance projects including Voices from the Front: M33 Ship and Shore. Richard was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Houseboats at Milton, No. 24.’ Available for writing blogs or articles and being interviewed in relation to the history of Portsmouth.

Helen Salsbury is a novelist and short story writer. Her work as appeared in The Portsmouth News as well as anthologies Dark City Anthology and Octomorphosis. She was long-listed for the Ink Tears 2016 Short Story Competition and short-listed for Arvon Mentorship in 2014. She also teaches yoga. Helen was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Houseboats at Milton, No.4’. Available, particularly in relation to yoga and and meditation for working to undo the impact of unhealthy thought patterns and stress on physical and emotional well-being.

Maggie Sawkins is an award-winning poet whose collections include Charcot’s Pet (Flarestack) and The Zig Zag Woman (Two Ravens Press). She represented Portsmouth on the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize Tour in 2013 and in 2014 won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her live literature production ‘Zones of Avoidance.’ Maggie was inspired by King’s self-portraitAvailable for writing copy or being interviewed about writing for well-being.

William Sutton is a novelist and musician. He has published two historical mystery novels – Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square and Lawless and the Flowers of Sin – with a third due out later this year. He has written for The Times, for radio and stage, studied clowning, performed in theatre, sung, played in bands and drawn and painted. William was inspired by King’s painting, ‘Two Buildings.’ Available for writing blogs / articles or being interviews about writing and its conjunction with other arts.

Matt Wingett is an author, screenwriter and publisher. His books include Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920, and he has contributed to numerous anthologies on Portsmouth subjects. His publications include reprints of Portsmouth histories and works by Portsmouth authors. Matt was inspired by King’s self-portraitAvailable to write or be interviewed about Edward King.

The Events

Pop-Up Readings – Various Location and Dates

Each of the project writers will be popping up at a mystery date and location somewhere in Portsmouth to give an impromptu reading of their story. See our news page for some hints about when and where.

Edward King Stories, Minghella Studio, New Theatre Royal – 27th May, 2017 – 11am, 1pm, 4pm, 6pm

A literary showcase event. Our writers will be reading from their stories and discussing how they came to be involved in the project and which of Edward King’s paintings inspired them. There will be four performances, each with a different selection of writers speaking. Tickets available from New Theatre Royal Box Office (023 9264 9000).

Drop-In Readings – Portsmouth Museum – 3rd June (10am – 5pm)

The project writers will be dropping in at various times throughout the day to read their stories alongside the paintings that inspired them in the gallery at Portsmouth Museum where they are currently on exhibit. This is a free, informal drop-in event, with performances spaced out through the day as gallery goers mingle and view Edward King’s wonderful paintings.

 Story Workshops – Portsmouth Museum

Led by our project writers, these free story writing workshops will guide budding writers to write their own stories inspired by Edward King’s art. 


All Edward King images used on this website are by kind permission of Portsmouth Museums and Visitor Centres.