“I love the name of the festival, Scribblers, which seems to me like a call for activity of a fun kind,” says UK political cartoonist and children’s book author Chris Riddell, over the phone from his England home.
He’s discussing his upcoming visit to Perth to headline the inaugural Scribblers Festival – a collaboration between the Town of Claremont and independent cultural organisation FORM to celebrate and nurture a lifelong love of books and art.
“I think in our schools, children have a lot to cope with; curriculums are full to bursting with things they need to do. We need advocates for reading for pleasure or spending time just doodling or drawing,” Riddell says.
“I see an activity such as drawing as a sort of meditative experience. It’s much closer to the sense of wellbeing and mindfulness for me than the end product. I like to talk about drawing as a verb, not a noun. The actual finished drawing is less important than the act of drawing. And that can get lost when we focus on attainment rather than simply doing something.
“A great sadness for me is when children tell me they stopped drawing because they’re not good enough at it. We should never stop. It’s such a shame.”
Riddell’s wildly popular, award-winning books, including the Ottoline and Goth Girl series, earned him the title of 2015–2017 UK Children’s Laureate. He’ll be presenting workshops for junior school students, such as how to bring characters to life and a session for senior students on political cartoons in the era of “fake news”.
“Each week I get to do a single panel cartoon for (UK newspaper) the Observer and it feels like catharsis,” he says. “But in private moments I feel guilty. My job has been made increasingly easier by the extraordinary things going on in this world.
“I stop and think ‘it’s terrible’, but I’m also personally benefitting from having a ludicrous president like Donald Trump or having a sort of Bond villain like Vladimir Putin. And the trade wars and ‘fake news’. I’m heartbroken by Brexit but it supplies me with endless material. So I’m conflicted.”
The festival will include three days of school-specific programming from May 9 to 11, hosted by Scotch College and a weekend for families on May 12 and 13, which will include a Mother’s Day market.
FORM’s project space The Goods Shed will serve as the festival hub. Workshops and talks will be held at the Claremont Lawn Tennis Club, with marquees set up outside both venues.
The line-up includes nationally and internationally celebrated children’s book authors, such as American novelist and screenwriter Jesse Andrews, English poet A.F. Harrold and Melbourne-based author Tai Snaith, as well as the 2017 Children's Laureates from the UK, Ireland and Australia.
The Golden Feather Treasure Hunt is running in the lead-up to the festival, with feather bookmarks hidden inside children’s and young adult books at participating libraries throughout Western Australia.
Scribblers Festival is on May 9–13 at various locations around Claremont. Visit scribblersfestival.com.au for the full program and further details.