Waltham Forest to host year-long celebration of Moomin creator Tove Jansson, opening June 2021 with exhibition and outdoor trail

27 Apr 2021 -

Walthamstow Wetlands and the William Morris Gallery are pleased to announce a unique collaboration that will see them host a year-long celebration of the Finnish artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001), starting with an enchanting indoor exhibition and outdoor trail opening to the public in June 2021 at Walthamstow Wetlands. 

Known to many as the creator of the much-loved Moomins, Jansson was a painter, cartoonist, satirist, writer and a ‘genius’ (Philip Pullman). The project is supported by Jansson’s family and estate.

The Woman Who Fell In Love With An Island will draw on the parallels between the island of Klovharun in the Finnish archipelago, where Tove Jansson spent her summers immersed in nature, and the scenery at Walthamstow Wetlands which is Europe’s largest urban wetlands and has eight islands of its own.

Visitors to the Wetlands will be able to enjoy:

  • an exhibition about Tove Jansson’s island home and the inspiration she took from nature, featuring beautifully rendered and displayed facsimiles of photographs taken of Jansson on Klovharun, quotes, and her own work including her nature studies and descriptions of birds 
  • a family trail with an interactive map
  • a unique downloadable audio piece from multi-instrumentalist and composer Erland Cooper, which includes field recordings from Klovharun and a new reading of Jansson’s essay ‘The Island’ by her niece Sophia Janssson

Erland Cooper said: “Tove Jansson was an inspirational creator and cultural icon. To be able to score an exhibition and retrospective of her work is a great honour. I have a fondness for London’s Walthamstow Wetlands and so to try and transport a listener through that world and into hers, over to the tiny island and cabin on her remote, treeless Klovharun where she created a timeless body of work, is a joy. She seemed like a child of nature and I’ve tried to bring that gentleness into a score to support this exhibition. To me it feels almost like a soundwalk through her creative world, across the seas and back again into a city where local sounds of birds may interact freely with those of the score itself. She seemed to have such grace and affection towards her surroundings, and I hope this meditative score touches on just a little bit on her magic.”

The Woman Who Fell In Love With An Island will run at Walthamstow Wetlands from June 2021 until January 2022.

It will be followed by a second exhibition which will open at the William Morris Gallery in 2022 (date tbc). This landmark exhibition will bring together personal objects, photographs and archival material to tell the story of Jansson’s life and development as an artist through the lens of her deep affinity with nature, which is something that she shared with William Morris. The exhibition will invite visitors to consider Jansson’s most famous creations – the Moomins – as creatures in touch with the environment and connected to nature in a powerful way.

The year-long celebrations are being curated by Alison Williams and Mhairi Muncaster on behalf of the William Morris Gallery. 

Alison Williams said: “We are delighted to bring Tove’s island, the inspiration behind the Moomins, all the way from the Baltic Sea to London. Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve is a very special place – it has the same conservation status as the Amazon and the Nile, right here in Walthamstow! These exhibitions will explore how island life, the weather and an ever-changing landscape informed Jansson’s work, which still captures the imaginations of children and adults alike, and share some thoughts on what we can learn from the Moomins when it comes to ecology, conservation and the climate crisis.”

“There are more similarities between Tove’s archipelago and our Wetlands than you might think – from the islands and their rich ecosystems to the fact that Finland and Walthamstow both have a history of pioneering social progress. After a year filled with challenges, we’re looking forward to safely welcoming visitors to a pair of exhibitions that will inspire, delight and offer new ways of looking at the natural world. And you don’t have to be a visitor to enjoy Erland and Sophia’s piece – fans from all around the world will be able to download it and enjoy the magic of the island wherever they are,” added Mhairi Muncaster. 

Leah McNally, Director of Strategic Projects & Engagement at London Wildlife Trust, said: “London Wildlife Trust is delighted to host ‘The Woman Who Fell In Love With An Island’ exhibition and outdoor trail at Walthamstow Wetlands, we can’t wait for visitors to explore and experience the new show on site, learning more about Tove Jansson’s love of nature and linking that to conserving London’s nature. Walthamstow Wetlands is a special place, designated as a site of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and internationally designated as a Ramsar site, as well as being an operational Thames Water reservoir.”