Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake

Day One of Hay Festival 2013 launched with our Schools Programme where almost 3,000 children were entertained by a programme of free events featuring Cressida Cowell, Korky Paul, The Etherington Brothers, Lauren Child, Katherine Rundell and Jeremy Strong. For the full Hay Fever programme, visit hayfestival.org/hayfever.

Sir Quentin Blake gave the annual Hay Library Lecture reminding an eager crowd of the importance of illustration when introducing young people to reading.

He was introduced by Miranda McKearney, founding director of The Reading Agency, who explained that The Hay Library Lecture  celebrates the Festival’s commitment to the public library service.

After a round of applause for the librarians in the room and Blake’s own salute to his childhood library in Sidcup, it was clear that the possible closure of many libraries in Herefordshire is at the forefront of many people’s minds at this year’s Festival.

However, on a day when almost 3,000 primary school children were in attendance, education and reading – or more specifically learning to love reading and wanting to pick up a book as early possible – were the main messages of the day.

He compared it to Roald Dahl’s creation, Matilda, brought to life on the page by Blake, as she is a manifestation of the magic that comes from reading. She also represents a young girl who is very comfortable  surrounded by books, a message that appears to have seeped through to its young readers, many of whom were in attendance.

Speaking about the potential of illustration to reassure, alleviate and in particular to motivate, Blake reflected on an encounter with a school teacher who had written to tell him her school had purchased 90 copies of A Christmas Carol, which he had illustrated, and now they were all reading Dickens.

Overall Blake’s message was one of reading for fun and learning through exploration. When asked, ‘Is reading for pleasure the best way for children to get into books?’ His answer was, quite simply, ‘Yes.’

After his hour long signing, which included fans Lauren Child and band members from Noah and the Whale, he met a very lucky group of students from Hereford Art College in the Green Room – they’ve been tweeting ‘OMG, I can’t believe we’ve been talking to Quentin Blake’.  http://displayhca.blogspot.co.uk/  And Quentin, literary hero that he is, was the loveliest, warmest man you could ever meet and left the site saying ‘I’ve had a lovely day’.