Elliot’s Arctic Surprise

Elliot’s Arctic Surprise by Catherine Barr

Introduced by Catherine Barr

This story emerged from a strange coincidence and a meeting across the years. My editor, Janetta Otter Barry, with whom I was working on my first book was interested in telling stories inspired by organisations working for social and environmental change. She asked if i knew anyone at Greenpeace and thus unknowingly re-opened a huge chapter of my life which had seemed a long way from my new beginnings as an author. Doors re-opened as we explored stories with Executive Director of Greenpeace UK John Sauven. John inspired the Arctic idea and I left to write my first fiction story.

I wanted to create the spirit of ‘bearing witness’ that is the foundation of Greenpeace: that is, a determined, brave, non violent protest against something you believe is wrong. So this is Elliot’s story. In the company of polar bears, a seal and sea bird, Elliot protests to save Father Christmas’s home, the Arctic. Francesca Chessa, has brought his story alive with beautiful, vibrant and warm illustrations. We have yet to meet, but have together have shared such a lovely journey and friendship, creating the book.

The Greenpeace Ship that sails to the Arctic is called the Arctic Sunrise – the original title of the story was Elliot’s Arctic Sunrise – later changed by the publishers to ‘surprise’.

The happy ending was pure fiction, but the extraordinary news that Shell has pulled out of Arctic drilling for ‘the foreseeable future’ has given the story an added, unexpected twist with reality. To me, it is a story connecting the past to the future; and as such it has become more timely and full of hope than I could have imagined.


Catherine Barr is partner and communications director at BWA Design agency in Hay-on-Wye.

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