In a Nosy Crow blog post warning about the dangers of the UK leaving the European Union, illustrator Axel Scheffler has said there would have been no Gruffalo without the EU.
Germany-born Scheffler came to the UK in 1982 and said that without the EU, and the freedom of movement within the region, he would never have met Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo (Macmillan Children's Books).
“The Gruffalo, if it had happened at all, would have been an entirely different beast… And without the success of The Gruffalo there might not have been all the other books Julia and I have worked on together, or all the books that Julia and I have worked on separately,” he said, adding: “So without British membership of the EU, millions of British children would have grown up without The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and Stickman.”
He also pointed out that The Gruffalo is a British-German collaboration in commercial terms because it is published by Macmillan, which “was bought in 1995 by the German company that still owns it”. The animated films based on his and Donaldson’s books are “even more of a European project” because they were made by a British company, working with a German animation studio and a French composer.
“As a German, with a deep-rooted sense of the consequences of a fractured Europe, I’m seriously concerned for the future of a united, peaceful Europe,” said Scheffler. “I’m concerned for the future of the children who have grown up and are growing up with the books I illustrate. I am concerned for the future of my own child, born in the UK to a German father and a French mother. I am concerned for my own future in the UK: I have no wish to live outside the European Union.
“I know that I am just an illustrator, but I felt that, given my experience of being a German who feels at home here in the UK, I have an obligation to speak out, and given the global popularity of the books I have illustrated while I have lived in this country, maybe someone will listen to me.”
A survey of conducted earlier this month by The Bookseller revealed that the majority of the book trade (70.6%) is against leaving the EU. Nearly half (45.9%) said leaving the EU would be “negative” for their business.
Waterstones’ m.d. James Daunt described himself as “a firm and passionate believer that we should stay in the EU”, saying: “It would be catastrophic on many levels if we were to exit.” He argued: “It brings overwhelming benefits to this country. We need a stable, productive economy without uncertainty; certainty brings confidence, which encourages people to spend their money at retailers.”
Bonnier c.e.o. Richard Johnson echoed that view, stating: “A ‘Brexit’ would be a financial disaster for UK publishing. It would trigger widespread uncertainty among consumers and businesses and this would almost certainly impact on growth.”