Award-winning author Hannah Berry, creator of the critically-acclaimed graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock, whose credits include work for New Statesman, was announced as the new Comics Laureate at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival earlier this evening, Saturday 13th October 2018.
Current Comics Laureate Charlie Adlard, who continues in the role until February 2019, was on hand to pass on the role to Hannah – along with the “ceremonial cloak” first presented to Charlie by the first Comics Laureate, Dave Gibbons.
The Comics Laureate is an ambassadorial and educational role for the comic genre and aims to raise awareness of the impact comics can have in terms of increasing literacy and creativity. The appointment is made biennially to a distinguished comics creator, writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the genre.
Working closely with the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, the Comics Laureate champions the role of comics in improving literacy through a programme of educational visits, workshop events, guest appearances and conferences. A key focus will be working to increase the acceptance of comics as a creative artform in schools, libraries and throughout the education system.
Hannah Berry, who takes over the role from Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, is an award-winning graphic novelist, comics creator, writer, illustrator and editorial gun-for-hire. In 2018 she was inducted as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and became the slightly grander ‘Hannah Berry FRSL’.
Her first graphic novel Britten & Brülightly, begun while studying illustration at the University of Brighton, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2008. It has subsequently been published in the USA, Italy, Holland, France and Serbia, with the French edition chosen for the official selection of the 2010 Angoulême International Comics Festival.
Her second graphic novel, Adamtine, was published in 2012 and her third, Livestock, in 2017, both by Jonathan Cape and both to a pleasing amount of critical acclaim. Livestock was nominated in the Best Graphic Novel and Best Writer categories at the 2017 Broken Frontier Awards, winning the Best Writer Award.
She currently does a monthly cartoon strip for Prospect magazine and formerly did a weekly cartoon for the New Statesman. She has contributed to several comics publications internationally, including 2000AD (Rebellion), and wrote the Sentinels reboot as part of the 2017 Scream & Misty special.
A regular guest of art, literature and comics festivals in the UK and around the world, her artwork has been exhibited in solo and collective exhibitions worldwide.
Around the comicking, Hannah co-hosted the No YOU Hang Up podcast (currently on hiatus due to work and family commitments) with Dan Berry: a very relaxed interview programme of sorts with creative guests and silly chitchat. She is an occasional tutor for the Arvon Foundation and was the 2012 Online Writer in Residence for Booktrust.
“Comics are the perfect gateway drug to literacy – warm and inviting yet often surprising and challenging: the artful union of universal pictorial language and the written word,” says Hannah of the medium. “I gained my love of language as a child through reading comics, and I look forward to inviting new audiences to discover comics for themselves.
“Plus, it turns out I don’t have to battle the Laureates Poet and Children’s for laureate supremacy, which is good!”
Julie Tait, Director, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival said: “The Comics Laureate is a really vital role for the comics artform. It isn’t just a title; it’s part and parcel of our wider objectives as a festival, to reach out to new audiences and raise the profile and the understanding of the importance of comics for education, inspiration and literacy. We’re delighted that the Lakes International Comics Art Festival can play a role in co-ordinating the Comics Laureate programme, and Hannah’s appointment as the new Laureate.”
Talking to the BBC, Hannah Berry commented: “There are still a lot of people who think comics are just superheroes throwing stuff at each other.
“With the enormous, diverse, wealth of subjects out there, there’s a graphic novel for everybody,”
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• For more on the role of the Comics Laureate visit www.comicartfestival.com/project/uk-comics-laureate
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival runs until Sunday 14th October 2018 in Kendal at various venues across the town. Tickets are on sale now from the event’s web site. The Festival will return in 2019, running 11th – 13th October 2019