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Foxy music: children’s book follows vixen to Proms in the Park

Third instalment by BBC broadcaster who was inspired to write after meeting a curious Canonbury fox

05 March, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Zeb Soanes and Gaspard the fox, who features in the new book

WHEN BBC broadcaster Zeb Soanes first encountered a curious Canonbury fox three years ago, little did he think she would one day inspire an orchestra to perform a symphony in her honour.

The third instalment of the children’s books Mr Soanes wrote after his encounters with the fox, which he called Gaspard, was launched yesterday (Thursday).

Gaspard’s Foxtrot follows the fictional vixen as she journeys through London from Islington Green on the number 38 bus to end up at Hyde Park for the Proms in the Park – where she takes centre stage.

The final part of this journey, illustrated by James Mayhew, was brought to life last week when Mr Soanes travelled up to Glasgow where the Royal Scottish Orchestra performed a rendition of the book.

Mr Soanes told the Tribune: “When they struck up, my mind went straight to the little fox that inspired all of this and I just thought what on earth would this animal make of this. Here I am in Glasgow listening to an orchestral suite inspired by this little fox in Canonbury and tears sprang to my eyes because it felt like such an extraordinary trajectory.”

It’s not known whether the real Gaspard is still alive, although the average life-span of a London fox is two years.

However, Mr Soanes says all of her “cubs and cubs’ cubs” come to visit him at his home off Southgate Road and their distinctive facial features mean he can pick them out when he sees them from “several streets away”.

He has given them all names as well. He said: “Having given Gaspard a French name I had to give them all French names as well. Once I started working on the books and knew I was going to be talking to children about foxes, I read up massively on them.

“My favourite fact was that hundreds of years ago we hunted so many foxes that we had to import them from France. So British foxes have French DNA, justifying my decision.”

Mr Soanes, who is best known for his deep voice on BBC Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast or on the Today programme’s news bulletins, added: “In creating these books we wanted Islington to almost be like another character in the stories, in the same way that Notting Hill is to Paddington, because it’s beautiful and so rich architecturally.”

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