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Funding announced to promote illustrators of colour

POP UP Projects, the not-for-profit children’s literature agency and charity House of Illustration, the UK’s only public gallery dedicated solely to illustration and graphic art, have been awarded £192,000 in funding from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Projects Grants to pilot new business venture ‘Pathways into Children’s Publishing’.

This ambitious industry-focused talent development programme is for diverse aspiring illustrators from under-represented — particularly ethnic minority and disadvantaged — backgrounds. It has also secured the collective £108,000 investment from a pioneering affiliation scheme including publishers Penguin Random House UK Children’s, HarperCollins Children’s Books and Hachette Children’s Group, and universities offering illustration BAs and MAs, such as Anglia Ruskin, Birmingham City University and Canterbury University of the Creative Arts.

Pathways’ USPs include:

· open to artists who don’t have formal illustration training as well as undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates

· designed and tutored by world-class children’s illustrators, university illustration tutors, and children’s publishing editors and art directors

· packed learning programme includes residentials, masterclasses, short courses, one-to-one mentoring with illustrators and editors, publisher placements and opportunities to learn education and events practice

· students will all create, publish and launch works of illustrated children’s literature throughout the programme, with the best sold by House of Illustration and new diversity-focused bookshop Round Table Books

· graduating students will be showcased internationally and awarded an industry-endorsed ‘quality badge’

Pathways is launching in the context of research published this week by BookTrust Represents, which revealed that less than 2% of published children’s authors and illustrators in the UK are British people of colour; and following the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s 2018 ‘Reflecting Realities’ report that found just 4% of UK children’s books in 2016-2017 featured BAME characters.

Pop Up Projects’ own findings from surveying and consulting with 63 children’s author (40% of whom were BAME), 32 publishing professionals and 20 university leaders and tutors were that while 100% of publishers agreed children’s publishers should publish more BAME illustrators, 75% of university tutors perceive barriers to BAME students undertaking illustration degrees, and 50% of BAME authors said they had encountered discrimination, racism and censorship in their careers.

Surveyed publishers cited barriers to aspiring/emerging BAME authors entering the industry including ‘not understanding how the industry works’, ‘not following traditional routes into publishing’, ‘not being connected to publishing elites and networks’, and ‘being unprepared’.

They also identified issues of risk, commercial viability, limited industry initiatives and few recruitment channels as barriers to BAME authors getting published.

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