Award-winning author Hannah Berry, creator of the critically-acclaimed graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock, whose credits include work for New Statesman, begins her term as Comics Laureate this week.
The Comics Laureate is an ambassadorial and educational role for the comic genre and aims to raise awareness of the impact comics can have in terms of increasing literacy and creativity. The appointment is made biennially to a distinguished comics creator, writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the medium.
Working closely with the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, the Comics Laureate champions the role of comics in improving literacy through a programme of educational visits, workshop events, guest appearances and conferences. A key focus will be working to increase the acceptance of comics as a creative artform in schools, libraries and throughout the education system.
Hannah Berry, who takes over the role from Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, is an award-winning graphic novelist, comics creator, writer, illustrator and editorial gun-for-hire. In 2018 she was inducted as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Her first graphic novel Britten & Brülightly, begun while studying illustration at the University of Brighton, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2008. It has subsequently been published in the USA, Italy, Holland, France and Serbia, with the French edition chosen for the official selection of the 2010 Angoulême International Comics Festival.
Her second graphic novel, Adamtine, was published in 2012 and her third, Livestock, in 2017, both by Jonathan Cape and both to a pleasing amount of critical acclaim. Livestock was nominated in the Best Graphic Novel and Best Writer categories at the 2017 Broken Frontier Awards, winning the Best Writer Award.
Hannah currently creates a monthly cartoon strip for Prospect magazine and formerly did a weekly cartoon for the New Statesman. She has contributed to several comics publications internationally, including 2000AD (Rebellion), and wrote “The Sentinels” reboot as part of the 2017 Scream & Misty special published by Rebellion.
A regular guest of art, literature and comics festivals in the UK and around the world, her artwork has been exhibited in solo and collective exhibitions worldwide.
In addition to her comics work, Hannah co-hosted the No YOU Hang Uppodcast (currently on hiatus due to work and family commitments) with Dan Berry: a very relaxed interview programme of sorts with creative guests and silly chitchat. She is an occasional tutor for the Arvon Foundation and was the 2012 Online Writer in Residence for Booktrust.
“Comics are the perfect gateway drug to literacy – warm and inviting yet often surprising and challenging: the artful union of universal pictorial language and the written word,” says Hannah of the medium. “I gained my love of language as a child through reading comics, and I look forward to inviting new audiences to discover comics for themselves.
“I’d like to use my position specifically to help tackle the shockingly low literacy rates within prisons, and in teaching English as a foreign language (because although the role is not a political one, I personally find Theresa May’s hostile environment to be an abomination).
“I’m also hoping to create an online resource and database of comics professionals who deliver workshops around the country to support time-poor teachers in bringing comics into the classroom.”
Julie Tait, Director, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival said: “The Comics Laureate is a really vital role for the comics artform. It isn’t just a title; it’s part and parcel of our wider objectives as a festival, to reach out to new audiences and raise the profile and the understanding of the importance of comics for education, inspiration and literacy.
“We’re delighted that the Lakes International Comics Art Festival can play a role in co-ordinating the Comics Laureate programme.”