Last November the process of selecting the UK’s next Poet Laureate began with the appointment of a new advisory panel made up of experts from across the regions and nations of the UK. Its role is to offer suggestions on the scope and purpose of the next Poet Laureate, whose tenure runs for a decade, with a recommendation put to Her Majesty The Queen.
I’m delighted that West Yorkshire writer Simon Armitage is to be the new Poet Laureate taking over from Dame Carol Ann Duffy, who was appointed in 2009, and was the first woman and first Scot to take up the post. The announcement comes after Armitage won the prestigious Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2018.
He has translated medieval poems about King Arthur and Sir Gawain, retold The Odyssey as a radio play and written Last Days of Troy, a stage play for Shakespeare’s Globe and the Manchester Royal Exchange. He is currently professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and was professor of poetry at the University of Oxford between 2015-2019.
According to BBC News Armitage says he wants to celebrate what’s best in poetry and build on the work Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy have done over the last two decades in terms of encouraging and identifying talent, particularly among young people.
As this was part of the London Book Fair it’s only right to include a section on another vital aspect of the business, so it was great to see a separate area where illustrators could exhibit their work, present portfolios and meet prospective publishers. Three people I’d like to give a special mention to: Tita Berredo – a talented writer and illustrator based in Glasgow (www.titaberredo.com); Lizzie Harper – natural history and general illustrator (www.lizzieharper.co.uk); author and illustrator Patrick Kennedy (www.upfunt.com). Their websites are all worth checking out for the sheer variety of styles they offer.
A quick shot of Tita Berredo’s display panel (below left), Lizzie Harper (below right) at work illustrating in water colour and Patrick Kennedy (centre) working on a lino cut of a Pangolin – detailed, painstaking work.
David McKee was the Illustrator of the Fair celebrating 30 years since the launch of his Elmer the Elephant character published by Andersen Press. The 84-year-old picture book illustrator was interviewed for a ‘Fireside Chat’ in the Podcast Theatre situated on a very busy corner of the Grand Hall. It was a fascinating insight into an ‘old school’ illustrator – no computer, scanner or fancy software – ‘If I make a mistake or don’t like the finished picture I just start again’ – gasps from the assembled crowd grasping their digital tablets. He still uses gouache, crayons and pencil for his work.
McKee’s inspiration comes from his love of elephants and the influence of artist Paul Klee. When asked to give a professional hint or tip to the waiting audience he replied that he hadn’t got anything much to say, but aspiring illustrators should really enjoy what they are doing and, if they didn’t they should do something else. I think that goes for pretty much everything in the book world.
I hope that this section will be repeated next year.
An interesting vending machine has made its debut at London’s Canary Wharf according to the company. Called the Short Story Dispenser it prints out free short stories on eco-friendly paper at the touch of a button. All you need to do is choose the length of your story, one, three or five minutes, and the dispenser will select a story for you from classic and new writers from genres such as suspense, crime, science fiction, romance, humour, fiction and children’s stories. Invented by the French company Short Édition, it was first debuted in Paris and has sites in the USA, Hong Kong and Canada.