More than 170 primary school pupils have enjoyed a sketching masterclass with Children’s Laureate and renowned artist and political cartoonist, Chris Riddell.
Introducing himself as the 'Children's Laundrette' – a funny nickname given to him after his wife’s friend mixed up his official title – Mr Riddell kept the laughter going all the way through his session with the Primary 6 pupils from Cookstown, Holy Trinity and Phoenix Integrated Primary Schools, showing some of his sketches on a visualiser and getting the children to have a go. Each child was given one of Mr Riddell’s books as a memento of the day.
The event in the Burnavon, Cookstown, organised by the reading charity BookTrust, with funding from Arts Council of Northern Ireland, took place as part of Mid Ulster District Council’s Seamus Heaney Education Programme in advance of the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace opening in September 2016.
Mr Riddell, a multi-award-winning author whose books include Goth Girl and Ottoline, is known especially for his distinctive line drawings with their clever caricature and often enchanting fantasy elements.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Linda Dillon, was delighted that such an accomplished writer and illustrator was in the area.
“Given that Seamus Heaney HomePlace will open in Bellaghy in September, I am thrilled that the Council have engaged with renowned writers such as Chris Riddell to deliver workshops to school children in our area as part of our education programme.
“Hearing from others involved in creative work allows them to explore and understand more fully the beauty and craft of the arts which is a perfect way to pay homage to Seamus Heaney. The fact that Mr Riddell delivers his masterclass in such a fun, interactive and enjoyable way is a bonus as it ensures the engagement and cooperation of the children at all times.”
Mr Riddell said: “I'm delighted to be in Northern Ireland and working with BookTrust again, helping spread the message to schoolchildren that to develop a love of reading can bring not only enormous pleasure, but will lead the way to all kinds of advantages and opportunities in later life.
“As an illustrator I'm also keen to encourage children to do daily drawing and doodling. It’s a great way to express yourself, boost visual awareness and creative thinking. I always enjoy school visits and in the same way that I hope I might inspire and stimulate, I am sure I will return from these visits inspired and stimulated too!”
Mrs Heather Watson, Principal of Phoenix Integrated Primary School said:
“The visit of the current Children's Laureate Chris Riddell to our arts centre in Cookstown is something very special indeed. We are delighted that our pupils have had the opportunity to hear directly from a high-profile professional artist and to see him at work."
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:
“The Arts Council is thrilled to support this tour with UK Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. The importance of introducing children to books and encouraging a love of reading at an early age cannot be overestimated. The experience of spending time listening to these wonderful authors will inspire and delight our young people and remain with them for a long time.”
Brought to Northern Ireland by reading charity, BookTrust, Chris Riddell’s tour has also seen him host an event with Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer and visit several bookshops where he illustrated their walls.
Further workshops and activities will take place in the coming months as part of the Council’s Seamus Heaney Education Programme.