April 18, 2019

Launching PATHWAYS: Press Release


Pop Up Projects and House of Illustration secure £300,000 funding to enable under-represented illustrators to access children’s publishing


  • ‘Pathways into Children’s Publishing’ is a talent development programme launched to address the issue that under 2% of published children’s authors and illustrators in the UK are British people of colour, as revealed in BookTrust research this week
  • £192,000 awarded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Projects Grants to deliver Pathways
  • 20 publisher and university affiliates provide £108,000 of monetary and in-kind support


18 April 2019: Pop Up Projects, the not-for-profit children’s literature agency and charity House of Illustration, the UK’s only public gallery dedicated solely to illustration and graphic art, have been awarded £192,000 in funding from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Projects Grants to pilot new business venture ‘Pathways into Children’s Publishing’.

This ambitious industry-focused talent development programme is for diverse aspiring illustrators from under-represented — particularly ethnic minority and disadvantaged — backgrounds. It has also secured the collective £108,000 investment from a pioneering affiliation scheme including publishers Penguin Random House UK Children’s, HarperCollins Children’s Books and Hachette Children’s Group, and universities offering illustration BAs and MAs, such as Anglia Ruskin, Birmingham City University and Canterbury University of the Creative Arts.

Pathways’ USPs include:

  • open to artists who don’t have formal illustration training as well as undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates
  • designed and tutored by world-class children’s illustrators, university illustration tutors, and children’s publishing editors and art directors
  • packed learning programme includes residentials, masterclasses, short courses, one-to-one mentoring with illustrators and editors, publisher placements and opportunities to learn education and events practice
  • students will all create, publish and launch works of illustrated children’s literature throughout the programme, with the best sold by House of Illustration and new diversity-focused bookshop Round Table Books
  • graduating students will be showcased internationally and awarded an industry-endorsed ‘quality badge’

Pathways is launching in the context of research published this week by BookTrust Represents, which revealed that less than 2% of published children’s authors and illustrators in the UK are British people of colour; and following the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s 2018 ‘Reflecting Realities’ report that found just 4% of UK children’s books in 2016-2017 featured BAME characters.

Pop Up Projects’ own findings from surveying and consulting with 63 children’s author (40% of whom were BAME), 32 publishing professionals and 20 university leaders and tutors were that while 100% of publishers agreed children’s publishers should publish more BAME illustrators, 75% of university tutors perceive barriers to BAME students undertaking illustration degrees, and 50% of BAME authors said they had encountered discrimination, racism and censorship in their careers. Surveyed publishers cited barriers to aspiring/emerging BAME authors entering the industry including ‘not understanding how the industry works’, ‘not following traditional routes into publishing’, ‘not being connected to publishing elites and networks’, and ‘being unprepared’. They also identified issues of risk, commercial viability, limited industry initiatives and few recruitment channels as barriers to BAME authors getting published.


Dylan Calder, Founder Director of Pop Up Projects, says:

‘Pathways is designed to proactively address the underlying issues preventing diversity in children’s publishing — including, frankly, genuine issues of institutional prejudice. It provides an elite creative and professional development programme, made possible through cross-sector investment, to secure a next generation of industry-prepared, commercially viable artists. Elite, because it’s taught across 10 university campuses and by the best publishing professionals and children’s illustrators in the world. There’s nothing like it, anywhere; and it’s exclusively for BAME and disadvantaged illustrators. Pathways is driven by our shared goal of changing the face of children’s illustration so that truly damning stats like those in the BookTrust and CLPE reports do not continue to be the norm. It’s time to flip the status quo, and thanks to Arts Council England and the unprecedented enthusiasm and initiative of our publisher and university affiliates, through Pathways we are collectively striving to achieve that’.


Nadia Shireen, Illustrator and Pathways Mentor, adds:

‘I’m excited about Pathways and honoured to be involved. If we want this country’s rich tradition of producing outstanding children’s literature and illustration to continue and thrive, we must ensure that the creative minds of the future are supported in a meaningful way. Art is for everyone, and becomes staid and stagnant if it can only be created by the privileged few. It is vital that we push back against the brutal cuts to our schools and libraries, and fight against the systemic barriers that prevent artists from disadvantaged and BAME backgrounds from being able to progress in this industry. I consider my job a privilege and a joy. But I know there are many more out there like me who deserve to be seen and heard.’


Ed Vaizey MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Creative Diversity, comments:

‘Pathways from Pop Up Projects and House of Illustration is exactly the type of industry-focused scheme that the new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Creative Diversity is looking to support. It’s crucial that the creative sector invests collectively to overcome obstacles to diversity. This forward-thinking project is designed to improve access routes for people from all backgrounds in a practical way, which will benefit society as a whole.’


The affiliated publishers are: Andersen Press, Bloomsbury, Hachette Children’s Group, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Nobrow Ltd, Nosy Crow, Penguin Random House UK Children’s, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster UK, Usborne and Walker Books.


The affiliated universities are: Anglia Ruskin University, Birmingham City University, Camberwell College of Art, Canterbury University of the Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire, Manchester Metropolitan University, Middlesex University, Norwich University of the Arts, Nottingham Trent University, Ravensbourne University and University of the Solent.


Illustrator applications

Applications for Pathways from talented illustrators will open on Friday 17 May. Those who want to find out more are encouraged to contact [email protected] to register their interest or to fill in THIS FORM. House of Illustration will also host an ‘open day’ for anyone wanting to drop in and find out face-to-face what’s involved, from 10am to 4pm on Friday 14 June at 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London N1C 4BH.


Dapo Adeola, Illustrator, comments:

‘The Pathways project is the sort of grass roots talent development training programme that I wish had been available to me 10 years ago when I started my own journey as an aspiring illustrator. As it is, it took me a decade of pooling together every available resource I could get my hands on or afford to piece together an education in illustration for myself. I’m not complaining as this journey wasn’t an unpleasant one, but I do often wonder what it would have been like if I’d had the type of industry access that was afforded to my non POC peers back then. I hope it helps usher in a new generation of culturally diverse talent and I’ll definitely be championing it every opportunity I get.’


Sarah Crown, Director of Literature at Arts Council England, says:

‘The Arts Council is delighted to fund Pop Up Projects’ pioneering Pathways talent development programme, providing under-represented illustrators across the country with high-quality training, valuable insights into the industry, and support to successfully launch their careers. The partnership with House of Illustration, publishers and universities is a shining example of how, through collaboration, barriers to access may be overcome.’


Four Culture, April 2019


Affiliate publisher statements

Paul Black, PR and Brand Director, Andersen Press

‘When we heard about Pathways we knew immediately that we wanted to be involved. As an independent publisher we are always looking for new, young talent, so developing and nurturing illustrators from under-represented communities is something we’re proud to be a partner for. We are hoping that from the Pathways initiative that not only will we see a whole host of incredible new talent on the shelves of bookshops in years to come, but that also some of those new books will be Andersen Press books!’


Sophie Stericker, Creative Director, Hachette Children’s Group

‘We are delighted to be part of this important initiative and look forward to sharing our publishing expertise to help develop and support illustrators of the future.’


Ann-Janine Murtagh, Executive Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books

‘Diversity in all areas of our business is incredibly important to HarperCollins and we are delighted to be partnering with Pop Up Projects and House of Illustration on such an innovative platform. The participants will have access to some of the most creative and ingenious minds across children’s publishing and I have no doubt the course will produce a wave of superstar author/illustrators of the future.’


Sam Arthur, CEO/Co-founder, Nobrow

‘The Pathways Project is long overdue! At last there is a credible initiative to encourage a greater involvement of BAME participants in children’s publishing. It is great to see Arts Council England and so many companies and organisations supporting this programme.’


Kate Wilson, Managing Director, Nosy Crow

‘We are committed to principles of inclusivity and representation, and we have been struck by the scarcity of BAME and working class children’s authors and illustrators in the UK. It is clear that an initiative like Pathways could make significant progress in addressing this; by teaching a new generation the knowledge and skills necessary to develop long-term careers as authors and illustrators, and/or to enter the publishing workforce. This should be recognised as a commercial imperative as much as it is a socially responsible one: in order for children’s publishing to continue to flourish, we need to access and appeal to readers from every part of society.’


Anna Billson, Art Director, Penguin Random House UK Children’s

‘Excellent design and illustration are crucial to the success of any children’s book, and fundamental in bringing to life the magic of a story. Children need to see themselves in the books they are reading and that’s why it’s so vital for us as publishers to help discover and nurture more illustrators from different backgrounds. The Pathways programme is a fantastic opportunity both for publishers to discover exciting new talent, and for illustrators to gain practical skills, experience and support. I can’t wait to get started.’


Miriam Farbey, UK Publisher and Global Non-fiction Publisher Scholastic

‘We are delighted to be part of this initiative working with Pathways to address under-representation. We know that children are inspired when they see themselves in the pages of books and mentoring and championing more diverse writers and illustrators to provide those books can only enrich the whole publishing ecosystem.’


Helen Mackenzie Smith, Editorial Director, Picture Books & Novelties, Simon & Schuster UK

‘We are so excited and proud here at Simon & Schuster to be involved in this fantastic initiative. We are committed to seeking out new voices and talent in illustration, particularly in ways such as this which continue to support our determination to improve the diversity of our list. Personally, I am very much looking forward to working with the students via the tutoring and mentoring aspects, and to finding the picture book stars of the future!’


Nicola Usborne, Deputy MD, Usborne Publishing:

‘As the UK’s leading specialist children’s publisher, launching hundreds of illustrated books every year, finding the very best illustrators is crucial to our business. And as an independent, family-run publisher, doing all we can to create a more diverse industry is something we passionately believe in. Pathways is a proactive way for us to support illustrators from diverse backgrounds and – more importantly – ensure that the very best talent gets a chance to shine.’


Deirdre McDermott , Picture Book Publisher and Creative Director, Walker Books

‘At Walker Books, we’re really pleased to be collaborating with Pathways on this project. We’re dedicated to supporting diverse voices in the industry and love that this scheme offers a proper framework for supporting new illustrators in building a solid basis for a career in children’s books. We’re looking forward to mentoring the students here in our picture book studio, and supporting this worthwhile and timely scheme with our skills and advice.’


Affiliate bookseller statement

Khadija Osman, Lead Bookseller at Round Table Books:

‘I’m excited to see Pathways provide a platform for diverse illustrators, especially as children’s books are a world of untapped possibilities when it comes to the breadth of stories and art available to create. Round Table Books is a diversity-focused store to begin with so I truly I can’t wait to stock the amazing talent this initiative will unearth.’


Notes to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact:

James Douglas, account manager at Four Culture
[email protected] | +44 20 3697 4267

Hannah Davies, account director at Four Culture

[email protected] | +44 20 3697 4251

For more information about getting involved with Pop Up Projects as a partner, investor or school, please contact [email protected]