A few days ago I read the sad news that author Clive King had died, at the age of 94. While his name never meant a lot to me but one of his most famous books certainly did. Clive wrote Stig of the Dump, without question one of the most influential books of my childhood.
Between the ages of 7 and 12 I spent pretty much any spare time I had on my own playing Stig of the Dump. The story of a modern-day boy discovering a cave boy living in a chalk pit near his home captured my imagination in a way no other book ever has. I loved Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the first books I remember my dad reading to me, and Dick King Smith’s The Sheep Pig, which had me screaming with laughter, but neither of these books made it into my imaginative play in the way Stig did.
I spent hours pretending to be a cave girl, making dens, searching for the perfect stones to become plates, transforming sticks into bows and arrows.
This game, played best wearing just pants, gave me endless hours of joy. Whenever I’m asked about my strongest memory of play as a child it’s always Stig that springs to mind. In fact, I’m sure this game is part of the reason why I became a playworker, working in adventure playgrounds that give children living in cities safe places to let their imaginations run wild.
I might not have known Clive’s name, but his work left an indelible and positive mark on my childhood. Thank you Clive