Newcastle prodigies enjoy illustration masterclass with Children's Laureate

By Ben Miller | 03 September 2010
A photo of a poet sitting with a group of children smiling
(Above) Children's Laureate Anthony Browne introduces local children to his work at Seven Stories in Newcastle
A group of vulnerable children from Newcastle have enjoyed an “amazing” one-off session with best-selling Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne at the city’s Seven Stories centre.

Twelve young people from St Anthony’s Family Centre, run by the charity Action for Children, worked with artists to make a film about Browne’s creations as part of Through the Magic Mirror, an exhibition about the author which will be held at Seven Stories next year.

Figures from Browne’s 35-year career, which includes favourites such as Gorilla, Into the Forest, Zoo, Little Beauty and Willy the Champ, were used as inspiring starting points for an initiative aiming to help 500 participants discover their inner artistic genius.

A photo of an author looking at an illustrated book with a child
Browne and a team of artists were able to call upon colourful characters from his 35 years of illustration to animate their cause
“I have been involved with these children doing the project and it has just been an amazing, amazing time for them,” said Senior Project Worker June McHale.

“I don’t think any of the children will look at a book in the same way they did before the project started. I think that they will look at the pictures in much more depth and that this experience will last them a life time.”

Staff from the charity will meet at the centre in October to learn more about using creativity in their support work.

“I think it’s so great that art and literature have been brought together like this,” reflected Browne, who said he was “absolutely delighted” and “very excited” to be part of the “fantastic” project.

“One of the things I’m banging on about more than anything is the importance of picture books and the importance to be had from reading and sharing them. It’s about bringing pictures and words together and the idea of visual literacy being as important as verbal literacy.

“I hope they take away some enjoyable memories, but I also hope they realise that authors and illustrators are no different to them – we are not a separate species.

“When I was five or six I didn’t draw any differently to five and six-year-olds now. I hope they know that they can all be writers and artists – they can all be creative.

Senior Curator Gill Rennie said the exhibition – which is due to run for a year from April before touring the UK in 2012 – would be “a fantastic visual treat” for visitors.

“Anthony’s work is a tour de force in children’s illustration and internationally renowned,” she added.

“The exhibition will champion the picture book by bringing the power of illustration to a gallery setting. The artwork is stunning.”
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