How Glyndebourne's bees inspired a new children's book

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This summer sees the publication of The Mulberry Bees, a children’s book set at Glyndebourne Festival. We chatted to authors Rich Joyner and Bethany Moore to discover more about this charming tale.

Over the years Glyndebourne’s landscape, music and ethos has sparked the creativity of countless artists and writers. Now, for the first time, it has inspired a children’s book. The Mulberry Bees is written by Rich Joyner and Bethany Moore, with illustrations by Rich. The writers are very familiar with Glyndebourne and its surroundings as they both work here in our Membership and Development Team.

The story starts with a typical summer’s visit to the Festival, beautifully capturing the train journey through the Sussex countryside that will be familiar to our many visitors. During a performance, the auditorium is besieged by a swarm of bees and it’s up to the Maestro to lead an expedition to safety.

Mulberry Tree

The Mulberry Tree, illustration by Richard Joyner

Rich and Bethany have worked together for three years, and as their friendship grew, so did their idea for the book. ‘You can see the view from our window is the Mulberry tree’ Bethany smiles, ‘We watch the honey bees swarm and cluster in and around that tree each summer. It seems to be their favourite in the garden.’ It was a couple of summers ago that Rich mentioned to Bethany an interesting fact told to him by the Glyndebourne beekeeper, ‘You’ll have to read the book to find out what this fact is! But basically, it provided the first spark of inspiration for this tale.’

A busy work schedule meant the idea for the book took a backseat. It was only after Rich took a trip back to his home town and received a much needed word of encouragement from his mum that The Mulberry Bees eventually took flight. ‘I think we needed that boost of confidence.’ Bethany mulls, ‘When we eventually sat down and talked about what we wanted to achieve with this book, it become clear. We wanted to create a series of stories that engage children in the vibrancy of life at a busy working theatre, as well as the energy of the natural world outside it. And possibly spark an interest in opera too!’

The authors also wanted to portray the intimate connection that Glyndebourne has with the wildlife that lives in and around the opera house, ‘we really wanted to show how nature and opera overlap here’ says Rich. Bethany adds ‘Glyndebourne is a unique and other worldly place. It really is like being transported to a magical world, “the theatre surrounded by hills” is what we call it in the book.’ With a host of other animals calling Glyndebourne their home there is certainly plenty of scope for a sequel.

Chaos in the Opera

Rich has always drawn for pleasure, but The Mulberry Bees is his first venture into publishing. The illustrations are all done by hand on acrylic paper using ink and watercolour pencils. The pictures are filled with tiny details and many references to Glyndebourne’s past and present, including the original set from the 1934 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Bethany explains, ‘We thought it would be fun to include elements that well-seasoned Glyndebourne aficionados could enjoy discovering when reading The Mulberry Bees to their children or grandchildren’.


Photo: Bethany Moore

There are even a few members of staff hiding in the background, including Rich and Bethany themselves, watching events unfold from their office window. A particularly poignant moment for Rich was seeing the illustration of his late pet dog, Bella, set on the completed page, ‘I get a bit choked up just thinking of it now. At that moment we realised that this was the culmination of a year’s worth of passion, hard work and planning finally coming together. We just hope that people enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing it to life.’


Bella the dog, illustration by Richard Joyner

The Mulberry Bees is out now, priced £9.99. The book is available from the Glyndebourne Shop. You can order a copy online, or pick one up on site during your visit.

Look out for book signings by the authors in the foyer by the Shop at the following Festival performances:

Friday 6 July, Giulio Cesare
Sunday 15 July, Giulio Cesare
Tuesday 24 July, Giulio Cesare
Friday 10 August, Vanessa
Sunday 19 August, Vanessa
Sunday 26 August, Vanessa