‘It’s a love letter to the area’: Woman’s hour presenter launches South London colouring books

The main presenter of BBC’s Woman’s Hour has launched a series of children’s colouring books with outlines of South London landmarks as a “love letter to the area”.

Emma Barnett, 39, of Brixton, is a broadcaster and journalist. She has been the main presenter of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 since January 2021.

Mrs Barnett said the idea for Colour Your Streets first came to her and her husband, Jeremy Weil, 39, when they were walking their pram and newborn daughter around Brixton, Herne Hill and Dulwich last year.

Mrs Barnett said: “I was on maternity leave at the time. As we were walking around the neighbourhood we wanted to find a way to teach our son about the area. So we took some pictures and converted them into outlines so he could colour in the local landmarks.”

Jeremy Weil and Emma Barnett with their Brixton Colour Your Streets edition outside the Brixton Windmill, which features as an outline (Picture: Brixton Press)

When their five year-old son was colouring in the outlines, Mrs Barnett said his friends recognised Brixton Lido and wanted their own outlines to colour in.

“We thought maybe we could put the sheets together for party bags and presents. We thought a colouring book of South London’s landmarks must already exist, but it didn’t”, Mrs Barnett said.

Mrs Barnett noticed people she spoke to had developed a deeper interest in the history and heritage of their neighbourhoods during lockdown.

She said: “Post-Covid people have really dug into their areas more than ever before. What’s really exciting is most things out there are based on central London landmarks – kids won’t know about Big Ben when they are too young but they recognise the bench in front of the art gallery.

“They ask a question or recognise it when they see it.”

Peckham Colouring Book (Picture: Emma Barnett)

Mrs Barnett said understanding local history was a key part of children’s education and development.

She said: “Understanding the importance of what is around us is part of Key Stage One and Two in the curriculum – to have a sense of where you live.

“It’s a hard thing to teach but it’s amazing what children can recognise from outlines and colouring in – it’s not just statues and buildings, it’s a particular park or permanent street art.”

Word spread quickly about the colouring books and soon people were asking Mrs Barnett to buy the collection as gifts for their friends and family who had moved out of South London.

She said: “One mum brought it for her daughter who had moved away – to continue telling the stories of the place she grew up.

“People feel like it’s a love letter to their area – they are really proud of where they live.”

Each book contains 16 outlines of landmarks from the area (Picture: Emma Barnett)

What started as a small family project has now become a regional initiative. Together Mrs Barnett and Mr Weil launched books featuring 16 outlines from 13 neighbourhoods including Brixton, Peckham, Battersea, Clapham and Croydon.

The books – printed on recycled paper from sustainable sources with vegetable-based inks – are sold online and in shops across South London.

The couple have also been working with South London societies for special commissions.

Looking to the future, the Manchester-born presenter said: “The ultimate ambition is to get across the whole UK – our first book out of London will be Manchester, of course.

“We’d also love to do some bespoke books for big institutions.”

To find out more visits:

Pictured top: Jeremy Weil and Emma Barnett thought-up the idea behind Colour Your Streets last year in an effort to teach their son about the area (Picture: Emma Barnett)

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