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Chris Riddell

Illustrator, Author and Political Cartoonist

Chris Riddell

Our Keynote speaker this year is Chris Riddell – illustrator, author and political cartoonist, whose work is familiar to both children and adults. Passionate about the act of creation, politically committed, and currently meeting thousands of young people from every background across the UK in his role as Children’s Laureate.

In his own words Chris says ‘I grew up in draughty vicarages in Yorkshire, Bristol and Worcestershire before moving to the mean streets of Brixton, South London. I escaped a university education by running away to art school in Epsom, Surrey and then Brighton, where I owned a small blue Vespa and was taught by Raymond Briggs. Graduating in 1984 with a first class honours degree, I was shocked to discover that I wasn’t as brilliant as I thought I was. Chance meetings, a lot of luck and a serious sketchbook habit led to a career in picture books in the eighties; political cartooning for The Independent, New Statesman, Economist and The Observer in the nineties and co-authorship of a best-selling fantasy novel series called The Edge Chronicles in the noughties. With an expanding waistline and thinning hair, I am currently extremely busy being eminent as the UK Children’s Laureate, but still find time to draw every day’.

He has enjoyed great acclaim for his books for children. His books have won a number of awards. He has won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal twice, in 2002 for Pirate Diary and in 2004 for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver. His solo work includes the Goth Girl series, the Ottoline series and the picture books The Emperor of Absurdia and Alienography. The first Goth Girl novel won the Costa Children’s Book Award in 2013. He also received the Hay festival Medal for Illustration last year.

He is known especially for his distinctive line drawings with their clever caricature, fascinating detail and often enchanting fantasy elements.  He has worked widely with a variety of collaborators including Paul Stewart, Neil Gaiman and Russell Brand.

Chris displayed artistic talent from an early age and was encouraged by his mother. She gave him paper and pen to keep him quiet during father’s sermons. As a child, he admired the work of John Tenniel, the first illustrator of Alice in Wonderland, and W. Heath Robinson

Chris appeared on Blue Peter’s World Book Day show in March to announce this year’s winners of the Blue Peter Book Awards, and to give the winning authors their trophies. However, he was surprised when he also received a Gold Blue Peter badge for his services to children’s books and illustration. Chris said ‘This is a brilliant surprise and a very well-kept secret, I’m thrilled! I will wear my Gold Badge with pride.’

Chris will bring his unique wit and world-view to a keynote, which promises inspiration and challenge in equal measure.

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