Today’s blogpost is by The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler, on the Drawing (for) Europe project.
I remember the day after the EU Referendum very well. My first encounter of the day was on the school run where I met a British mum at the German school who was in tears about the outcome. Later that day I traveled to Germany to take part in a Brexit discussion on the radio and had dinner with a journalist and Markus Weber, children’s publisher at Moritz Verlag, and we were all completely devastated. We all felt strongly, and still do, that a united Europe is the greatest guarantee for peace and prosperity in Europe, and so that evening we wondered what we could we do to convey this idea to children, as it’s predominantly their future that is at risk.
A year later, Markus had the idea to ask the illustrators he has published to create a picture for Europe… the brief was very open. He works with illustrators from many countries and 16 of us responded to the task. The illustrations were presented one evening at the Frankfurt Book Fair. A minister in the German Government, Katharina Barley (herself a fervent European with grandparents from four different nations), happened to hear about the project and suggested exhibiting it at the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs in Berlin. The exhibition was shown there in December and advertised on the German Government website.
In November 2017, The Guardian published a feature about the project, and this gave Sophie, my editor at Scholastic, the idea that the exhibition should also travel to London. The Institut Français very kindly offered to show the exhibition at its premises. We then thought it would be a good idea to extend the exhibition and to ask some British illustrators to draw a picture for Europe, thus creating a kind of visual dialogue in drawing. The response was great and I’m thrilled that the exhibition has now grown with contributions from UK illustrators . A sign that there is hope for international cooperation, common European values and that we do care about the future of our young readers. I hope that many children will be able to come and see the exhibition and that it will make them think about Europe.
The Drawing (for) Europe exhibition will run at the Institut Francais in London from Friday 20 April – Friday 11 May, with the original exhibition complemented by drawings by British artists, including Quentin Blake, Benji Davies and Bridget Strevens Marzo. Join Axel Scheffler on Europe Day, on 9 May for a special tour of the exhibition, followed by a talk on European citizenship with Alexander Freiherr Knigge (Pulse of Europe) and Kalypso Nicolaidis (Centre for International Studies, Oxford University).