Fairy Tales Retold for the Emergency Services, by Matthew Owen and Emmeline Pidgen

Writer Matthew Owen and comic artist and illustrator Emmeline Pidgen recently worked on Happily Ever After, a project with North West Ambulance Service and Smoking Gun PR, recreating Grimm’s Fairy Tales to teach people when best to call 999 or 111.

Happily Ever After has been distributed in book form to schools around the North West, and also features in short Public Information films.


Stories such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel have been given a modern twist in the new book, which is available to primary school children across the North West, and digitally from the North West Ambulance Service web site.

The concept comes after NWAS revealed that over one million 999 calls were made to them in 2019, but over a third of these were for non-emergency situations, with callers ringing for incidents such as slips and falls, minor stomach pains and back ache. In some extremely unusual circumstances, people even called about stubbed toes, hiccups and being unable to reach the toilet roll.

NWAS are now trying to educate young children on which scenarios are considered to be an emergency, in a bid to reduce the number of non-emergency callers and help people understand where else they can get help.

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After illustration by Emmeline Pidgen

Happily Ever After illustration by Emmeline Pidgen

The new book, Happily Ever After, sees classic characters such as Snow White in scenarios that require emergency attention, whereas characters such as Sleeping Beauty deal with less serious incidents by dialling 111.

“Calls to the ambulance service increase year on year, however of the 1.3 million calls made last year, only 10 per cent were actually for immediately life threatening incidents,” noted Ged Blezard, Director of Operations at NWAS. “There is clearly a need to educate the public on what constitutes an emergency situation, and what better way to connect with children than to turn the old fairy tales we all know and love into stories we can all learn from?

“The book is filled with beautiful pictures and engaging stories which will hopefully stay with children throughout their lives and help them make the right decisions in future.

“By educating children early on, we hope to provide them with the knowledge they need to act responsibly and with due care should they ever find themselves in an emergency.”

Happily Ever After illustration by Emmeline Pidgen

Happily Ever After illustration by Emmeline Pidgen

Typical examples of a life threatening emergencies include a cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness, a confused state, fits that aren’t stopping, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, severe allergic reactions, burns and scalds, suspected stroke, suspected heart attack, fall from height, serious head injury, stabbing, shooting, serious road traffic incident.

The stories in the book mirror a selection of these incidents – for example, Snow White takes a bite of her apple and falls unconscious due to an allergic reaction. Sniffley returns home from work with a cold, and after seeing Snow White unconscious realises that he does need to call 999 in this instance, as she is very ill.

“It was so fun to work on (despite how tricky ambulances are to draw,” says Emmeline Pidgen of the project. “I hope it helps someone!”

Happily Ever After by Matthew Owen and Emmeline Pidgen is available on the North West Ambulance Service web site

Comic artist and Illustrator Emmeline Pidgen

Comic artist and Illustrator Emmeline Pidgen

Art by Emmeline Pidgen

Art by Emmeline Pidgen

Emmeline, who has worked for IDW and Egmont, works in advertising, comics, picture books, chapter books, book covers, and editorial illustration from a cosy studio in the North West of England.

Her work specialises in narrative and sequential illustration for both children and adults, strong use of character, and a bold colour palette; using a combination of digital and traditional media.

“I draw on my love of history, popular culture (mostly TV shows, boardgames, podcasts and video games!),” she says on her official web site, “learning new things, nature, and mythology to inspire my illustration work. “You’ll spot a lot of strong female characters, side profiles and coral/teal colour palettes in my portfolio.”


Emmeline also runs workshops and lectures for all ages on illustration, comics, the creative industries, and freelancing; which led to her being awarded IPSE’s ‘National Freelancer of the Year’ in 2016.

Happily Ever After by Matthew Owen and Emmeline Pidgen is available on the North West Ambulance Service web site  | Direct Download here (PDF)

Emmeline Pidgen is online at emmelineillustration.com | Facebook | Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

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