New Children’s Laureate to appear at The Festival of Brilliant in Biddulph

Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce has been named the new Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate for 2024-2026, and will be making one his first appearances in this role at The Festival of Brilliant in Biddulph on Saturday 13th July.

This new festival celebrates brilliant children’s books, and features a raft of world class authors, illustrators and artists for readings, talks, workshops, performances, installations and activities. It takes place at the magical Biddulph Old Hall with sessions for schools on Friday 12th July, followed by a day for families on the Saturday. The festival is being organised by arts programme OUTSIDE and Staffordshire Moorlands librarians working with a group of children and young people, teachers, artists and authors from the district who share a love of reading.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a champion of children’s literature, writer of award-winning books and screenplays, and now holds the prestigious role of Children’s Laureate. At The Festival of Brilliant he will talk about his latest book ‘The Wonder Brothers’. Cottrell Boyce will be joined by Nadia Shireen, author/illustrator and co-host of the podcast The Island of Brilliant which inspired the festival. As well as talking about their books, they will also present a live recording of the podcast, joined by author/illustrator Steven Lenton, and their resident band Ukulele Uff Trio.

Festival goers are invited to an array of interactive sessions. They can see how easy it is to draw a seafaring elephant with author/illustrator Ed Vere, and discover if they have what it takes to be the hero of their own film with author/director Christopher Edge. Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Book Trust’s writer in residence, will invite festival goers to discover how fascinating factual books can be, and learn about real-life heroes and world changers. Comedian author Samantha Baines will talk about her critically acclaimed children’s books with deaf main characters, and host a fun workshop creating new alien worlds. Poet Jean Atkin will also be on hand offering Poetry on Demand – poems provided to people on request!

Local talent will be showcased at the festival. Staffordshire Poet Laureate Dawn Jutton will share a specially commissioned poem for The Festival of Brilliant. Writer Gabriella Gay will invite festival goers to create their own poem and hide a Lost Haiku for someone else to find. There will also be a poetry workshop with headteacher Charlotte Rowley, a talk from author Jenny Spangler, storytelling with Julie Moss, and creative sessions with illustrators Ella Kasperowicz, Kate Slater and Ruth Hearson, author and illustrator Matt Buckingham and cartoonist Marc Jackson.

Biddulph Old Hall will provide a magical setting for the Festival of Brilliant 2024

Festival goers can also enjoy brilliant literary themed performances. Circus theatre company Tit for Tat bring their high energy show BOOKS! featuring acrobatics and fire juggling. Songwriter David Gibb will present a musical adventure, sharing his hilarious songs and stories, and discussing his most recent musical for families and children. Children’s comedian and author James Campbell will inspire children to do something about the climate crisis, pollution and ducks with swords (!) in his side-splitting stand up show. FRONTLINEdance Explorers Team will perform a show where audiences can help bring to life two stories with dance, colour, sound and teamwork. The Magic Lantern, a curious contraption that travels the land telling and collecting stories, will be visiting the festival with storyteller Ian Douglas and puppeteer Jo Douglas. And arts organisation Wild Rumpus will be challenging everyone to add a line to the longest tale to help create The Brilliant Neverending Story.

As well as authors, illustrators and performers, the Staffordshire Libraries and Arts team will be at the festival hosting story and craft sessions. And younger festival goes and their families can join the Staffordshire Moorlands Family Hub for storytelling sessions. There will also be a selection of food and drink stalls, a mini craft market and the beautiful ground of Biddulph Old Hall for visitors to enjoy, including a history walk around the Hall.

Sarah Bird, creative director of OUTSIDE, said: “We believe that books and stories have the power to change the world, so we couldn’t be more excited to have this celebration of brilliant children’s books in Biddulph. And we’re absolutely thrilled to be one of the first events to welcome Frank Cottrell Boyce in his new role as Children’s Laureate – what an honour!

“Biddulph Old Hall is the perfect backdrop, it has such a magical, fairy tale feel. And the festival is a brilliant opportunity for everyone to experience this amazing place.

“We’re inviting schools and families from across the Moorlands to join us and a raft of world class authors, illustrators and artists for an incredible festival that will feed their imaginations.”
Tickets are available at with Friday 12th July for schools and community groups (free) and Saturday 13th July for families (£5 per person, under 3s free).

The Festival of Brilliant is supported by OUTSIDE, Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Libraries, Staffordshire Moorlands Family Hub, The Island of Brilliant, Wild Rumpus, PiCL, The Reading Agency, How Brave is the Wren, Film Hub Midlands, Biddulph Town Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Support Staffordshire and Arts Council England.

Tony Mullins
Tony Mullins
Presenter & News Editor

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