What Pop Up Festival 2018 taught authors about the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators

What Pop Up Festival 2018 taught authors about the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators

Pop Up Festival is a national children’s literature festival created to celebrate and inspire reading and writing. Over the past two weeks, more than 15,000 children took part in workshops in classrooms, libraries, museums and galleries across England and Wales, kick-starting their creative writing and illustration.

We asked the children’s writers and illustrators who took part to share the insights they gained into how the next generation view reading, writing, illustration and books.


Tom McLaughlin: As for what for what Pop-Up has taught me about the next generation, is that kids still really appreciate someone taking time to enjoy stories and all that comes with that without there being a objective. In a world where everything is measured, catalogued and put in a league table, having the space to just draw, enjoy books and have fun is hugely important.

Alexis Deacon: Participating in Pop Up has taught me that the will to write and draw and to read is still as strong as I have known it.  Children today may be inundated with information from a thousand sources but they still want to share their experiences through stories.  Popular cultural forces loom large in their creative lives, just as they did in my own childhood.  But the children I meet are always open minded and eager to learn and they all share a fierce desire for their own voices to be heard.

Alex Milway: It's clear that seeing young children engaging with books in a creative way - in ways I certainly never did at their age - will have a positive effect on them. The energy that comes out of children because of a Pop Up event is amazing. However, I worry that not every child in every school will get to experience what Pop-up does and offers. The arts seem so squeezed and unwanted in the curriculum. Will Pop Up create future readers? Yes. Will it create future writers and artists? Possibly. If schools are able to back them up and sustain engagement in the arts.

Alex Milway, Pop Up Festival 2018 © Zbigniew Kotkiewicz 

Dave Shelton: That, for all the pleasures and distractions that modern life can offer them, they can still be thrilled and inspired by a book, and still be surprised and excited by their own imaginations when they’re given the simplest of creative tools - pencil and paper - and a bit of encouragement.

Katie Harnett: Participating in Pop Up Festival has shown me how insightfully and carefully picture books can be read, and visual literacy skills developed, when given the proper time and attention. Based on the evidence of what I’ve seen in my Pop Up workshops I am sure that the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators will be very inventive, dedicated and passionate!

Joseph Coelho: I’ve learned that we are in desperate need for the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators. I often see the best traits of humanity in the classroom from children who are kind, considerate, brave, insightful and imaginative, these are all qualities we are in desperate need of at present. We have a lot to learn from the young, we’ve forgotten a lot of the basic, simple ‘good’ there is to be found in life, but the children I’ve worked with through Pop Up Festival have those qualities in spadefuls.

Rachel Rooney: Like a hardy plant, a child’s imagination can take root and flourish  in the most difficult environment . We can be the ones to help sow those seeds.

Thomas Docherty: Having visited a wide range of schools right across the country with Pop Up, I can say that without a shadow of a doubt they are full of incredibly creative, imaginative and enthusiastic children who are excited about expressing themselves and telling their own stories. However, alongside all the efforts of fantastic organisations like Pop Up and the inspiring leadership offered by many schools, what this next generation of talented readers, writers and illustrators really need to flourish is a greater access to a wide variety of books of all types with larger, better stocked and professionally staffed school and public libraries. Schools need money to buy a wider range of art materials and equipment and more professional input from local artists. And a publishing industry that is prepared to listen and respond to the incredible, diverse range of voices that belong to the children of Britain today. Without these things, I'm afraid that many of their voices may never be heard.

Gareth P. Jones: The glorious thing about the Pop Up Festival is that it takes authors to schools and areas that wouldn't otherwise be able to access them. I visit schools all over the country (and the world) and I am always astonished by the raw talent and sheer enthusiasm of the children I meet. In spite of the increasingly dry requirements of the literacy syllabus, the creative urge shines through and I love hearing about the children's ideas. In yesterday's school two girls told me all about their story called The Irritating Wallpaper, while another had come up with a sequel to my book, The Considine Curse. Author visits serve to remind the next generation of writers that these things are achievable. In more deprived areas, teachers will often tell me that they are concerned that the pupils see a limited range of role models. Pop Up Festival widens these possibilities and brightens all of our futures.  

Chitra Soundar: Every time I visit a school, it’s wonderful to see children engage with the text and illustrations deeply. Meeting authors and illustrators gives them an insight into the art form, the profession and the human side of writing. Their imagination has immense wings and their insight gives me hope about our collective future.

Jarvis: The shy kid, the kid with a catchphrase, the one with lunch still on their face, the meticulous one, the melodramatic and the bonkers ones all come together to enjoy a story. Participating in Pop Up Festival has shown me that kids of all shapes love to listen, read, create and act out stories... some of them can even draw better than me! I'm sure a few of them will be keeping me on my toes in a few years.

Emily Rand: I would say that their imagination knows no bounds! And with a bit of support, the right tools and investment in their future they will become the best generation of authors and illustrators yet!

Naomi Howarth: Imagination is so strong in children, and whenever I ask them if they like writing, telling stories or doing arts and crafts I am met with unanimous enthusiasm - actual cheers and squeals of delight! Children love creating, and more emphasis needs to be placed on this as they grow up because they have it in abundance. Creativity needs to be nurtured by giving more time to the arts, particularly with older children.

Naomi Howarth, Pop Up Festival 2018 © Zbigniew Kotkiewicz

Patrice Lawrence: The next generation is eager for stories, both writing and reading them. However, the joy of Pop Up Festival is that it takes them beyond the staples of Walliams and JK Rowling to explore work that might not otherwise have come their way. It is also offers the message that all types of people can be writers and illustrators.

Sufiya Ahmed: That children are keen to learn about characters and settings that are new to them. This becomes apparent with the mountains of questions they have ready for me when I visit the school. They want to understand different lives and experiences. Most importantly they express empathy for the characters. 

Polly Ho-Yen: Being part of the Pop Up Festival has taught me that the upcoming readers, writers and illustrators are not only knocking on the door, they are designing a new one, it will most probably feature a portal, and they can't wait to take us through it ...