Lifeboat at the BOAT!

The B.O.A.T theatre in Brighton played host to a wonderful event on Sunday 19th June to raise money for the School Bus Project, set up to provide education to children in the Calais refugee camps.  A group of amazing authors & illustrators came together to entertain and enthrall an audience of children and their parents, with activities running throughout the afternoon.

Having read about the event at the last-minute, I was unaware of how many people were involved, so I couldn’t quite believe just how many fantastic authors were under one roof – well, not exactly, as it’s an open air theatre, but you know what I mean!    I’ve been to some wonderful book events, but this must surely have been one of the best – the atmosphere was great – and not just because of the wonderful venue and glorious sunshine! Hosted by Sid from CBeebies, we sat with bated breath as author after author performed/ read aloud/ drew/ played games and even sang & danced for the watching crowd.  Children were delighted to be involved, as were even the most reluctant of parent participants.  There was even an opportunity to do some life-drawing with a group of artistes posing in various costumes – including a storm trooper! Phoenix comics were running workshops and there were various vintage type circus games going on, each with a related book theme. From Emily Gravett to Axel Sheffler it was like a who’s who of children’s picture book illustrators and authors.

I was delighted to bump into a Book Activist friend, Adam Stower, who was enjoying talking with fellow illustrators.  He very kindly introduced me to Anthony Browne…! Okay so yes, I was a but start struck but wouldn’t you be? Anthony Browne has written some of the most incredible picture books ever published and there he was right in front of me.  He too joined in the fun, and had the audience helping him draw marvellous pictures. A F Harrold gave a brilliant performance of his poems and had everyone in stitches. But perhaps most exciting was Axel Sheffler, who proceeded to delight one and all by drawing one of the all time favourite picture book characters, The Gruffalo.  How completely magical to see these wonderful images appearing on the paper in front of our very eyes!

Enough of the name dropping – not forgetting the cause that the proceeds of the event were going to. The School Bus in question was actually there and I spent a good deal of time talking to those involved in creating the project.  What an amazing idea – to give those who have no opportunity to access any kind of education the chance to be taught by a range of volunteer teachers on a converted school bus, which will be filled with resources.  Inspiring. And incredibly brave.

This event totally proved the point that having authors share their wonderful creations directly with children and their parents is absolutely the best way to promote and encourage reading. The joy on everyone’s faces was a sight to see. It also enabled a huge amount to be raised for a very worthwhile cause. I defy anyone not to have left the B.O.A.T that day with a renewed love for children’s books and stories and an insight into telling stories through pictures. And of course, the very positive feeling of doing something to support children who live in the most dire of circumstances.

For more information about the event and the project visit:


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