AN ANGLO-Armenian family from Syria, who inspired Arthur Ransome, feature in a mixed media exhibition running at Thorney How, Grasmere.

Karen Babayan's Swallows and Armenians is based on the inspiration for the Walker family in the classic Arthur Ransome book Swallows and Amazons.

C-Art Cumbria Artist of the Year 2016, Appleby-based Karen said: "There is a lot of publicity around the current film version of the book, but nothing that tells us about Ransome’s inspiration for the family and children in the book who are clearly the Altounyans, an Anglo-Armenian family from Allepo, who spent summer holidays in Coniston with their maternal grandfather WG Collingwood. He was a notable artist and secretary to John Ruskin, who lived nearby at Brantwood and Arthur Ransome was a close family friend, who for many years, visited them in the Lake District as a child and later, as an adult. He went so far as to name three of the children in his book after three of the Altounyan children: Susan, Titty and Roger.”

Born in Iran to Armenian/British parents, Karen moved to UK following the Islamic Revolution. She has lived in Appleby since 2009.

She added: “It is recorded that in 1928 Dora (nee Collingwood) and her husband Ernest visited Coniston with their five young children, to stay for the summer at Dora's family home by Coniston Water. Arthur Ransome and his Russian wife Evgenia met up with Dora and Ernest and rekindled their friendship. Arthur and Ernest went off to Barrow and bought Ernest's children two 14-feet dinghies, which were to become the catalyst for Swallows and Amazons."

Karen's exhibition shows a selection of work in mixed media, exploring the real-life characters behind Arthur Ransome’s fictional ‘Swallows’ in the context of her own family history, storytelling and mythmaking.

The exhibition runs until October 29.

Meanwhile, there will be a talk by Karen Babayan and screening of the original Swallows and Amazons film on Sunday, September 17 (5.30pm).

Donations will go towards the Tsiatsan Children’s Textile School, Spitak, Armenia.

To book telephone 015394-35597 or email

Thorney How is open 2pm-7.30pm during the C-Art Festival, which runs from September 8-17 (except Sundays); 3.30pm-7.30pm at all other times.

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