Copeland, Mark 1956-

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Copeland, Mark 1956-


Born 1956, in England; married Sarah Munro. Education: Attended Cambridge School of Art, 1973-74; Canterbury College of Art, degree (graphic design), 1977.


Home and office—Insect Circus Society, 25 Church Rd., Great Livermere, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 1JS, England.


Performance artist, model maker, illustrator, and author. Worked as model maker and prop designer for television and film, including on productions of Hard Times, Cold Lazarus, The Borrowers, and Gormenghast. Exhibitions: Paintings exhibited at Portal Gallery, London, England, 1979 and solo shows 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999; Wally Findlay Galleries, New York, NY, 1983; Halesworth Gallery, Suffolk, England, 1986, 1988; and Heffer Gallery, Cambridge, England. Copeland's Insect Circus Museum toured England, c. 2005-06.


The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.


For British artist and model maker Mark Copeland, writing is a sideline to his main career. In fact, his children's book The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath was inspired by its author/illustrator's work as the creator, proprietor, and—under the stage name Ronald McPeak—ringmaster of the touring Insect Circus Museum.

Copeland's Insect Circus Museum is a touring work of performance art in which an antique truck is transformed into a miniature, magical world. Purporting to

commemorate the 300-year history of a traveling circus operated by the Piper family, the museum features posters, stage costumes, props, and other creations, all focusing on the work of generations of human-sized insect performers. Whether viewed through dioramas, accessed through push-button peep shows, or revealed in an accompanying stage spectacular, patrons are introduced to Ephemera the Evanescent Mayfly, the Mighty Mites, Dungo the dung beetle, high-wire butterflies, and dancing snails, as well as to the human wasp tamers and worm charmers that share the center ring.

Copeland draws on the history of his fanciful Insect Circus Museum in The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, a novel that introduces the Piper family's young scion, Art Piper. On his twelfth birthday, Art is given a brass spyglass by Sir Henry Piper, reigning ringmaster of the insect circus. Although warned not to spy by Sir Henry, Art peers through the glass and discovers a threat to his family's long-standing livelihood when he witnesses a furtive meeting between Sir Henry's ant advisor and a member of a rival circus. Together with Rufus the pet ladybug, an Australian stick bug, and a young bareback beetle rider named Daisy, Art must uncover the plot and save the family business. Noting the book's late-nineteenth-century setting, School Library Journal re- viewer Caitlin Augusta praised Copeland's detailed pen-and-ink art and called The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath "a charming balance of mystery, drama, and the allure of insect-circus life." The author/illustrator's "old-fashioned storytelling and somewhat quaint prose" pairs with his nostalgic illustrations to "create a book with a distinctly retro feel," Norah Piehl noted in a review for, while Booklist critic GraceAnne A. DeCandido described the work as "cheerfully tongue-in-cheek, resolutely old-timey, and intensely imaginative." The novel's "expertly tightened suspense builds to a magnificently funny climax with an entirely satisfying closing twist," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer, while Piehl dubbed The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath a "rollickingly clever, old-fashioned adventure."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, June 1, 2006, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, p. 67.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, p. 515.

Peterborough Evening Telegraph (Peterborough, England), June 1, 2005, "Circus: Wasp Tamer Is Some-sting Good."

Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2006, review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, p. 83.

School Library Journal, July, 2006, Caitlin Augusta, review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, p. 100.


Insect Circus Web site, (May 1, 2007)., (May 1, 2007), Norah Piehl, review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath.

Portal Gallery Web site, (May 1, 2007), "Mark Copeland.", (May 1, 2007), "The Insect Circus."