Stephen L. Holland announced as new Comics Laureate at LICAF Live

Stephen L. Holland, Comics Laureate 2021 - 2023
Stephen L. Holland, Comics Laureate 2021 – 2023

Stephen L. Holland, the co-owner, co-manager and sole curator of Page 45, the European-style comic shop in Nottingham, who’s also a freelance artist and and is a fervent champion for quality and diversity in comics, was announced as the new Comics Laureate at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival earlier this evening, Friday 9th October 2020.

The announcement was made as part of the opening event of this year’s online event, LICAF Live, replacing the usual physical Festival in Kendal due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and resulting restrictions on mass gatherings.

The Comics Laureate, a role initiated by LICAF and supported by Lancaster University, 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 and Lancaster University, 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 art form in schools, libraries and throughout the education system.

When young, Stephen, who takes over the Laureate role from graphic novelist Hannah Berry next April, was a very reluctant reader – to which his mum successfully applied the then-inspired solution of comics. The proof of the pudding: he now has a degree in English Literature and History of Art, which is certainly pretty handy when preaching and teaching comics.

Stephen L. Holland outlines his aims as Comics Laureate
Stephen L. Holland outlines his aims as Comics Laureate

“As soon as I take up my tenure as Comics Laureate, I want to start making a direct, quantifiable difference to this country’s knowledge about comics by showcasing the true quality and diversity of graphic novels available from all over the world, as well as exploring how they work,” Stephen told online Festival goers earlier tonight.
 
“My fervent hope is that this will galvanise more people to begin investigating, reading and relishing graphic novels, and inspire yet more individuals – from the broadest possible backgrounds and with an even wider range of perspectives – to start creating them. We can never have enough new voices in comics! Never!”

Reflecting his determination to reach new, diverse audiences and encourage young people to create comics, Stephen’s first appearance, thanks to its Learning Resource Centre manager Rowena Singleton and LICAF’s very own Hester Harrington has already been arranged for Monday 26th April 2021, at the Abraham Moss Community School in North Manchester.

“I want to get straight into schools and start spreading the word in order to generate a renewed love of reading for pleasure, and empower young minds with the knowledge that they can create for themselves,” Stephen enthuses.
 
“Wherever I roam – in schools and elsewhere – I want to surprise, as we explore together what the comics medium actually is, where it has appeared, what it can do and how it can do it, while emphasising the limitless breadth of subject matter that comics can cover.

“This is the most massive honour of my lifetime – one entirely unexpected – and I’m so very, very charged up about it,” he continues. “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be worried, but I’ve been given this golden opportunity to replicate everything I’ve done for 30 years at Page 45 in Nottingham nationwide! To show everyone in this country who’ll look and listen the true diversity of this medium we all love, and promote its most individualistic voices!
 
“Because here’s the thing: comics is a visual medium. You can’t tell the public that they must start reading comics! You have to show them this medium’s full, diverse and fascinating glories – which they won’t be expecting – and so tantalise them into exploring graphic novels for themselves!”

During his tenure as Comics Laureate, Stephen has also said he hopes to work closely with Sandeep Mahal, director of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.

Julie Tait, Director, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival said: “We’re delighted Stephen accepted the role of Comics Laureate and we’re confident he will build on the work of previous incumbents in the role – Charlie Adlard, Hannah Berry and Dave Gibbons.

“The Comics Laureate has been and continues to be a vital role for the comics art form. 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 Stephen’s appointment as the new Laureate.”

• For more on the role of the Comics Laureate visit www.comicartfestival.com/project/uk-comics-laureate

• For the latest news about Lakes International Comic Art Festival Live 2020 visit www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast | Tapas | Sign up for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dl479j

• The Virtual Comics Clock Tower is online at licafclocktower.com

• LITTLE LICAF is on Facebook and Instagram

• Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2021: 15th – 17th October 2021

MORE ABOUT STEPHEN…

A young Stephen L. Holland reading comics with his Mum!
A young Stephen L. Holland reading comics with his Mum!

Stephen is the co-owner, co-manager and sole curator of Page 45, the European-style comic shop in Nottingham which he co-created in 1994 with Mark Simpson (1968-2005) in order to promote and celebrate quality and diversity in comics.
 
When young, Stephen was a very reluctant reader to which his mum successfully applied the then-inspired solution of comics. Proof of the pudding: he now has a degree in English Literature and History of Art, which is certainly pretty handy when preaching and teaching comics.
 
Being a reluctant reader is an increasingly common trait, particularly prevalent among boys. Along with its hundreds and hundreds of Young Readers and Young Adult graphic novels, Page 45 highly recommends The Phoenix Weekly.
 
Aged 18, Stephen’s first full-time job was as the in-house artist for Ralawise Ltd, designing screen-printed t-shirts and tea towels for coastal resorts like Little-Known-By-The-Sea and Chester Zoo. While studying, he worked in the classical music and art book department of Dillons (later absorbed into Waterstones). He has also been a barman, freelance artist and journalist.

Over the last 30 years he has written over 25,000 comics and graphic novel reviews, thousands of which you’ll find on the Page 45 website.
 
Stephen joined the comicbook industry on 20th August 1990, working alongside Mark Simpson for a retail chain which had a concession in Nottingham’s Virgin Megastore. For four years they figured out what was wrong with the British comicbook industry – frustratingly suffocated by being in thrall to American superhero corporations – then set about putting it right.
 
On 17th October 1994 they opened Page 45, championing independent British comics by the likes of Nabiel Kanan, Andi Watson, Posy Simmonds, Eddie Campbell, Bryan Talbot, Jeremy Dennis, Simone Lia and Gary Spencer Millidge, and spotlighting graphic novels full of fiercely thought-out and individualistic autobiography, history, travel, crime, comedy, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, socio-politics and contemporary, everyday fiction.
 
Page 45 won Nottingham’s Best Independent Business / Retailer for two successive years in 2012 and 2013, the only ever Diamond Comics Award for Best British Retailer in 2004, and in 2005 Neil Gaiman declared Page 45 “the best graphic novel shop I have ever been to”.

(You can read a 2014 interview with Stephen about the success of Page 45 and his declared mission to promote the best of independent comics here in an issue of The Nottingham Independent).
 
Stephen has taught comics as an inspirational medium in full-day five-lesson sessions at the likes of Queen Elizabeth School in Cumbria and Arnold Hill Academy in Nottingham. His first day teaching as Comics Laureate will be on Monday 26th April 2021 at the Abraham Moss Community School in North Manchester.
 
His favourite song is David Sylvian’s ‘Orpheus’, his favourite poem is ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats, and his favourite prose book is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. His all-time heroes are Rosa Parks and Congressman John Lewis for whose MARCH graphic novel trilogy he wrote three extensive, impassioned reviews.
 
Stephen L. Holland is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

• For more on the role of the Comics Laureate visit www.comicartfestival.com/project/uk-comics-laureate

• For the latest news about Lakes International Comic Art Festival Live 2020 visit www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast | Tapas | Sign up for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dl479j

• The Virtual Comics Clock Tower is online at licafclocktower.com

• LITTLE LICAF is on Facebook and Instagram

• Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2021: 15th – 17th October 2021

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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