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Chris Riddell is the ninth Children's Laureate

Days after speaking at Hartlepool's Festival of Illustration, Chris Riddell is handed an influential role in children's literature

Lauren Hurley/PA Wire Author, illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Riddell
Author, illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Riddell

Illustrator Chris Riddell has been announced as the new Children’s Laureate – just days after he was a guest speaker at Hartlepool’s inaugural Festival of Illustration.

The 53-year-old, whose work as author and illustrator includes The Edge Chronicles, becomes the ninth Children’s Laureate, taking over from author Malorie Blackman.

He will hold the post, which since 2013 has been sponsored by Waterstones, for two years.

Speaking after his appointment was announced, he said he will focus on creativity and visual literacy.

He said he wanted to encourage people to draw every day and promised to turn up at Waterstones branches around the country for impromptu drawing sessions.

As well as illustrating his own books, Chris Riddell has illustrated the work of many other authors including Neil Gaiman and Michael Rosen.

He was one of the speakers at the opening weekend of the Hartlepool festival which attracted about 2,000 fans keen to see their favourite illustrators, cartoonists and artists.

Many of them are represented in an exhibition at Hartlepool Art Gallery which continues until the end of the festival on July 4.

It features more than 250 works of art from contributors including Chris Riddell, Hartlepool-born artist Keith Robson, who worked for DC Comics, Marvel artist John McCrea, Ralph Steadman and Dave McKean.

The free Festival of Illustration is hosted by Cleveland College of Art & Design who have worked in partnership with Hartlepool Borough Council and Newcastle-based Seven Stories.

Illustrator Tom Newell, one of 16 weekend speakers, said: “I was really blown away by the exhibition and the festival, especially meeting other artists, students and visitors.

“The festival is a really positive event for the college students and the artists, as well as Hartlepool and the North East generally.

“There is such a great range of illustrations and having my work alongside artists that I have grown up with and been inspired by, such as the Beano and 2000AD, is great.”

Pat Chapman, head of employability and enterprise at the college, said the festival had been a great success, showing people’s passion for illustration.

The Children’s Laureate post was established after a conversation between children’s author Michael Morpurgo and Ted Hughes, who was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998.

They envisaged a new role for someone who would champion children’s literature, both writing and illustration.

Illustrator Quentin Blake was the first Children’s Laureate, holding the post from 1999 to 2001 when he was succeeded by County Durham author Anne Fine.

Since then the post has been held by Michael Morpurgo (2003-05), Jacqueline Wilson (2005-07), Michael Rosen (2007-09), Anthony Browne (2011-13), Julia Donaldson (2013-15) and Malorie Blackman (2013-15).

At the announcement ceremony each new Children’s Laureate receives a silver medal.

One of Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s pleasurable duties during her period in office was to open the new Seven Stories centre for children’s books, in Newcastle, a job she shared with Nick Sharratt, illustrator of her bestselling books.

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