Happy ending for lost writings of artist

Dorset Echo: Jenny Billet Jenny Billet

TWENTY years after her death Jenny Billett’s work is set to enthrall a generation of children.

Her previously unknown manuscript will will be launched next Saturday, June 21 at the Bridport Arts Centre.

Unbeknown to her family Jenny wrote children’s stories and it was only after her death in 1994 that the manuscripts were found.

Now mum Helen has decided to publish them to raise money for The Dorset Wildlife Trust in her memory.

Helen said: “Jenny was passionate about wildlife and loved animals. She was a volunteer for the Dorset Wildlife Trust when she was doing her A-levels so it seemed fitting to raise money for them.”

Jenny died aged 25 years in 1994, attempting to rescue a stranded sheep from the clifftop at Thorncombe Beacon, near Bridport.

The manuscript for The Battle of Binthrop was found in her belongings and has now been published by The Bridport Press.

Jenny, who lived in Symondsbury, sang and wrote folk songs as part of the Bridport folk scene in the 1990s. She sang with Mitch Norman, the Madrigals and Show of Hands.

She made a living as an artist, working in stained glass.

Mum Helen said: “We found three manuscripts, but when we first found them we weren’t up to doing anything with them, we just didn’t really have the heart.”

Helen’s husband Michael was also an author and it was after he died last July that Helen thought about getting Jenny’s stories in print.

She said: “We’d already done fundraising for the wildlife trust and produced a CD of Jenny’s music for them.

“I just wanted to be able to raise funds for wildlife in Jenny’s memory.”

There were no pictures in the story but a friend of Helen’s has done some and is also busy illustrating the other two manuscripts.

The story of the Battle of Binthrop centres on a young orphan called Oliver Gershwin, known as Olig, who is invited to spend his holiday with Lord Winterbottom in his manor house in West Dorset. There is a mysterious west wing and Olig’s whole life is changed forever, as his enthusiasm for books leads him to a real life adventure.

Former Bridport News editor Margery Hookings, who founded The Bridport Press to publish books written about the local area, said: “When Jenny’s mother, Helen, showed me The Battle of Binthrop, I thought it was enchanting. I was more than pleased when she asked if she could publish it under The Bridport Press banner. “It’s a lovely story and Helen has done a great job in getting it published.”

The book launch is from 11am to 1pm. It costs £5.99, and is also available from feedaread.com.

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