Stand-up comedian Agalawatta among inaugural FAB Prize winners

Stand-up comedian Agalawatta among inaugural FAB Prize winners

Stand-up comedian Rohan Agalawatta and freelance illustrator Lucy Farfort have won the Faber Children’s and Andlyn Agency’s inaugural FAB Prize for BAME writers and illustrators.

Agalawatta, who has had sketches broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4 Extra, won the writing prize for The Monster Orphanage, described as “funny, atmospheric, and self-assured, with a charm all of its own”. It stars a boy called Odel and a deadpan talking yeti, and combines pacy storytelling and laconic humour.

Freelance illustrator hoping to break into the children’s market Farfort won the illustration prize  for a collection which had the judges “enchanted by the richness of her jewel-like colour work and Lucy's sumptuous reimagining of familiar traditional fairytales”.

“With a strong eye for colour, pattern and textile, there was an ornamental beauty to Lucy's work that excited us enormously,” the judges said.

The Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize launched in December 2016 as a joint initiative between Faber Children's and the Andlyn Agency with the purpose of helping discover new writers and illustrators from BAME backgrounds, and to provide a year-long mentoring scheme for one author and one illustrator.

The second writing place went to Ramsey Hassan for Sanctuary, about the author’s own experience of coming to the UK as an asylum seeker. The judges were impressed with Hassan’s dialogue, which they said was “bursting with life and humour, and was pitch perfect”.

“The humour, tone and voice made for a poignant but age appropriate text about the author's own experience of coming to the UK as an asylum seeker,” they added.

Judging panel: Faber children’s publisher Leah Thaxton, Andlyn literary agent Davinia Andrew- Lynch, Faber creative director Donna Payne, Faber children’s art director Emma Eldridge.

Cindy Chang, meanwhile, won second prize for illustration with her picture book Bear's Hat, which the judges described as having “a gentle, magical colour palette moderated by strong, confident lines and a lovely sense of movement”. Chang originally grew up drawing in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Dublin, Ireland.

The first prize winners will receive £500 plus a year of mentoring with Faber and Andlyn, and the second prizes will have a consultation meeting to discuss their work.

After naming the winners, Davinia Andrew-Lynch at the Andlyn Agency, said the range of stories and artwork submitted stood out. “It’s proof that fantastic writing and illustration shouldn’t separate us; commonalities can be found whilst teaching us something new,” she said.

The judges have also selected a list of Highly Commended and Commended entries, who will also be invited to the prize celebration at a later date, where their work will be available for press and agents to view.

 Leah Thaxton, Faber children's publisher, said the prize would return again next year.

 “We were thrilled at the high calibre of entries we received in both categories of the prize, and would like to celebrate the best of them with the rest of the industry, in the expectation and hope that many of these brilliant writers and illustrators will find opportunities there within,” she said. “Yes - we will want to run this prize again.”