Remembering Marcus Sedgwick - Pop Up

Remembering Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick’s passing, in November, was the loss of a voice with so much yet to say and tell. One of our greatest children’s writers, his books have that lasting feel to them, you just know that in the future whole new generations of readers will rediscover him, long after we all are gone. There was something very classical about him, dashing, mercurial, not stuffy or elite. I was so fortunate to have had the chance to work with him, to publish with him but also to collaborate and innovate with him. He was a generous artist, sharing his time and ideas with us, embracing what we like to do: think outside the box, exploring new ways to bring literature to life for kids who you won’t find at your typical book festivals.

As a guest curator of one of our Pop Up Festival of Stories, in 2012, he had us build a tiny theatre to stage a performance inspired by his sublime vampire novel, My Swordhand is Singing, producing a thrilling and complex work (that did the trick and scared the kids) on a meagre budget, enthusiastically embracing his directorial persona yet always remaining warm, real, solid.

We took him into schools from time-to-time, always into those deprived and cut-off places where writers like Marcus don’t often get to go, where that higher end of literature doesn’t often show its face. In a one-off commission during lockdown he created, with Alexis Deacon, a series of digital workshop concepts that would – if we ever had the kind of money you need to build a sophisticated digital product – fire young people up to explore their untapped writerly side. They’re there, in our magic box of ideas for Maybe One Day.

As part of our 10th birthday celebrations in 2021, he didn’t just donate us a brand new story, he wrote about the very thing that unpins this organisation: the urge to disrupt the status quo, to catalyse something brilliant and change-making, to act up for social good. Together We Win is a strange sort of story-essay, its narrator passing through various historical moments witnessing the birth of revolutions. It urges the young reader to consider this time, now, as the moment things must change. I read it as a small work of activism, a belief in the power of words, writing, to do something good in a world of so much bad.

Marcus cared passionately about the role of stories in young people’s lives and, the past few years, was increasingly using his small place of influence to advocate for emotional peace, mental wellbeing. It was so sad to learn of his passing, not least because he had so much more to write and say on and about the world. Thank you Marcus, for your bright sparks, for the stories, and for giving what you gave. x