(noun) an unusual, exciting or daring experience, journey or series of events.

In the spirit of the approaching summer and Covid restrictions easing, stretching our legs further afield or planning a little holiday may be at the forefront of our minds. A longing to escape the confines of the borough will have driven some of us to scrutinise the new ‘rules’ and look at what kind of accommodation will be open to use should we wish to plan our escape. Some would say that this ‘lockdown’ has been a long trek.

One of the easiest ways to get away and stay Covid safe is to go camping. Now it might still be a little chilly for some of you to consider getting your tent out, but if you own a caravan or campervan then you are likely to be able to load it up with all the essentials and motor off somewhere this summer. Campervans are possibly the greatest, and coolest, invention to date. A compact home on wheels, they can take you anywhere, plus they allow you to access all basic amenities with minimal set-up on arrival. Not only that, they are great fun!

It was one local couple’s love of the campervan lifestyle that lead to a delightful creative project that captured our imagination for this issue of the Beestonian. James and Alice Kellett embarked on their children’s book almost five years ago. ‘Dub! A Campervan Adventure’ was written by James and Illustrated by Alice, who has a little bit of an obsession with the VW campervan and left behind a career in teaching to pursue her dream of becoming an artist – mainly painting the classic VW split screen campervan.

James started the story, asking Alice to illustrate it, knowing that Alice’s young daughter Isla would love it. Shortly after getting together, Alice started her business Pretty Splitty and James was kept busy running Froth at Chilwell’s Creative Corner, which later became known as Canvas & Coffee. Getting married, buying their first campervan and then having their first child meant that Alice didn’t get much spare time to work on the illustrations for Dub, and it wasn’t until the national lockdown last spring that Alice returned to them. With the coffee shop closed and Alice heavily pregnant with their second child, having the book to work on was a real positive focus.

The book

Alice completed the illustrations in May and their son was born shortly after. The book still needed to be digitised, layout defined, a cover added, and edits completed before it was ready for publishing. The couple self-published, and due to the second lockdown, they were able to get off to print ready for release in December 2020. Since then Dub! has been shipped to Japan, Australia, the USA, Canada, Spain, Sweden and all over the UK.

Isla is the ‘baby’ at the front of the book amusing herself with the jangly keys when Dub becomes detached and tumbles into the gutter. He appears to have been woken from a slumber by the fall, and free from the chains of the keyring he embarks on his own adventures. The call of the open road beckons but it was a lonely life for Dub. He tries to make friends and meets an assortment of characters along the way with humorous but also disastrous consequences.

Reflecting on his less than perfect adventures, he is nevertheless filled with an air of contentment, a poetic parallel for those of us who may be looking back over the past year remembering the challenges with an air of relief, reassured that somehow we got through it. Sometimes the journeys we find ourselves on are less than smooth, but we learn from them and we grow. And judging by the final image in the book, Dub is definitely a lot surer of himself than he was when he first started his journey! These adventures end with him basking on a sun-baked beach and giving us a cheeky wink.

James enthused about how well the book has been received: “We’ve absolutely loved receiving feedback from the little ones who have read our book. To think that there are Dub books all over the world, potentially being enjoyed at any moment is a really cool thought. We had a friend who brought their little boy over this week and he saw our campervan on our drive he said “look Mum it’s Dub!”, which was amazing! Our lives have been so full-on during lockdown looking after our children and home-schooling that releasing the book feels like a distant memory at times, so whenever we get a bit of feedback it makes our day.”

The book is gorgeous. A great introduction to Dub and so well written and illustrated.’ (Paul) ‘My son loves it and asked me to read to him 3 times when we got it.’ (Emma)
Work has already started on Dub’s next adventure, though James realises that finding time in their busy life will be a challenge. Nevertheless, he is really looking forward to his coffee shop reopening, seeing his customers again and their reactions to Dub, which will also be on sale as well as their famous waffles!

Click here for the Canvas & Coffee website
The book can also be purchased here