Axel Scheffler said that Brexit makes him “sad and angry every day” as he picked up the Illustrator of the Year prize at The British Book Awards last night (14th May).
When receiving the award, Scheffler, who is German, said that while he was "grateful" to receive the prize, he did so with "a heavy heart and maybe even a slightly bitter feeling – it feels like a consolation prize, or even a farewell gift."
"It’s just ten months until 'Freedom Day' – next March (the date the UK is officially meant to break ties with the EU)– and I – and my fellow EU citizens, many working in the UK book industry – are still living in uncertainty," he said. "We have, so far, no guarantee that we can still live and work here in the future. In a worst-case scenario, I might not be allowed to stay here by the time my next book with Julia Donaldson is launched."
He continued: “Britain has decided that it doesn't really like us and it does hurt. The UK has been my home for 35 years and there wouldn't have been this Gruffalo (which he created with Julia Donaldson) if it hadn't been for the EU facilitating my studying here. I would have had to leave after my studies in 1984. There would not have been this very successful Anglo-German venture 'Donaldson Scheffler'.”
The illustrator pointed out that author Judith Kerr, who had presented a prize earlier in the evening, was a refugee to the UK fleeing from the Nazis, but “after Brexit the country is saying ‘sorry we don’t really want refugees and migrants in this country'”.
“Brexiteers will say ‘we want you here if we profit from you’ but how do you know if a student or young girl comes to the country (what she will go on to do). I worry when I look at the post-Brexit future for the children who grew up with our books. What went wrong? Weren't their parents or grandparents reading Room On The Broom [a book he created with Julia Donaldson] with its message of the importance of friendship, kindness solidarity and partnership?"
Scheffler has previously spoken out about Brexit, saying last year that he has considered leaving the UK. "I would like to stay but I think about leaving more and more,” he said. "I feel that if I go, I won’t want to work for a British publisher again.”
Scheffler was the first recipient of the Illustrator of the Year Award and was chosen for his work on picture books. He has illustrated more than 100 books for publishers such as Scholastic, Macmillan and Nosy Crow, and his titles with Julia Donaldson have achieved sales of more than 48 million copies worldwide.
In 2017 Scheffler generated sales of £9.5m through Nielsen BookScan from the 60 different titles that he has in print in the UK.
You can read the full speech here.