Chris Riddell on being Children's Laureate - 'a humbling experience'

Published on: 04 June 2017

Chris Riddell has been a magnificent Waterstones Children's Laureate for the past two years, but his tenure is about to come to an end. We just had to ask him all about it, and hear what he's made of it all...

It’s been a rollercoaster two years.

Our Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2015-17 Chris Riddell has thrilled us with three Laureate Tours, visited more than 80 schools, drawn live at over 20 festivals and other events, judged 11 awards, and harnessed all the former Waterstones Children’s Laureates in a campaign supporting school libraries. He's also encouraged us all to draw more - and have a lot of fun doing it.

But his time in the job will come to an end on Wednesday 7 June when he passes on the mantle to the brand new Waterstones Children's Laureate in a special ceremony in Hull.

So on his last visit to the BookTrust office, we had to ask Chris all about his time as the Laureate - from how he wants his time in the role to be remembered to his most embarrassing moment...

Watch the video below or read on to hear Chris talk in full about his time as Laureate.

What’s been the best thing about being the Children’s Laureate?

I think it’s been the opportunity to be an advocate for things I care about, specifically school libraries and the vital work school librarians do within schools.

Has anything about being the Waterstones Children’s Laureate taken you by surprise?

Many things. You can’t go around and do events and meet people without being surprised by them! The genuine surprise is what I thought I knew but didn’t: how the book industry really works, what jobs are being done in schools every day, arcane things about logistics and publishing and the work of BookTrust. It’s been a humbling experience but a really good one. If I hadn’t been the children’s laureate I’d have missed out.

Do you have one special laureate memory to share with us?

One of my abiding memories is going to the Commonwealth Essay writing prize at Buckingham Palace, hosted by my good friend the Duchess of Cornwall.

I got chatting to a chap who turned out to be the custodian of the Houses of Parliament. The week before he’d emailed me as Children’s Laureate and asked me would I be interested in doing something to be projected on Big Ben, St Stephen’s Tower, for the Armistice Day commemorations. There I was talking to the guy who’d sent me the email. The next day, I scanned a little drawing in and emailed it to him. Then two weeks later I looked at my Twitter feed and there was Big Ben with my drawing projected on it. That’s the weird world you end up in!

What’s the one thing you want people to remember about Chris Riddell as Children’s Laureate?

All I want is that people remember he tried hard. I want an "A" for effort. 

What’s your message for the new Laureate who will take over on 7 June 2017?

I would say relax and enjoy it – and don’t worry. The role is supported so well and there’s such good will.

You will be able to be an advocate for something so worthwhile and you will be put in all sorts of wonderful situations. 

On 7 June, Chris Riddell, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2015-17, passed on the gauntlet to a new Children’s Laureate in a special ceremony in Hull, City of Culture. Two hundred children from Hull were present at the ceremony.

Chris Riddell ends his time as Children's Laureate: five questions

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