Monday, 29 February 2016


Book Week is HERE! (click for costume ideas)

A cracking start with a couple of workshops with year 3 at Corpus Christi School in Brixton, where the kids knew the answers to all my usually foxing London Calls questions...although they couldn't quite figure out how I have tea with the Queen every day...

On Thursday 3rd March we're visiting Tidemill Academy in Deptford and have the huge honour of being the Author/Illustrator VIPeeps spending the WHOLE OF BOOK DAY at the school, on tap for every literary and/or artistic question or dilhemma imaginable and a 'whole' load of drawing, writing and illustrating fun! So flick those imagination switches to 'on' and hold tight for some exciting storytelling adventures...

And next week I'm off to a couple of schools in Canvey Island, Essex for the next chapter, so to speak. Alex and I were very honoured to be invited to take part in this year's POP UP festival. I'll be visiting 2 schools, reading A Possum's Tail and London Calls and running some workshops based around the books, hoping to inspire, engage and delight...

Pop Up’s Vision and Values

"Our vision is of a more literate, creative society where reading and writing is

valued, enjoyed, celebrated. We are passionate about ensuring children from all

walks of life access the magic of children’s books and their authors, and about

giving children and families the tools to tell their own stories. As such, we are

dedicated to nurturing the storytellers of tomorrow by fostering a lifelong love of

literature, stories and story­making ­ especially in disadvantaged, deprived or

isolated communities ­ and much of our work involves author­led participatory

processes which have the power to transform lives. At the heart of everything

we do is the conviction that by facilitating pleasurable encounters with literature

we can ignite imaginations, inspire future readers and writers, and build more

literate communities."


Saturday, 13 February 2016

SPOTLIGHT - a few thoughts on the issues the film raises

A movie depicting the Boston Globe newspaper's 2002 explosive revelation of historic and systemic child abuse in the Catholic church might not sound like hugely entertaining subject matter but it's compelling stuff. Spotlight is a story that needed telling and this well-paced and lucid movie handles the emotive material with a notable lack of hysteria without losing any of the impact. The film offers no easy answers to the many questions it poses - but then that's not the point. This is a dramatic recollection of a series of events that ultimately proves an effective conduit for debate, because like a good, investigative journalist, it pursues a story rather than an ideal.

One of the biggest issues that stood out for me was the idea that the widespread, endemic and *statistically consistent nature of the abuse would seem to point towards some kind of specific psychosis or 'condition'. (This was mentioned by an ex-priest-turned-therapist in a telephone conversation with one of the journalists.)

Are men with particular character traits attracted to the priesthood as a career that offers them free access to children? Possibly. Are some genuine in their faith but find themselves unable to control their urges once they are in such a position of power? Maybe. No doubt abuse happens in other organised religions but the fact that such a high percentage of Catholic priests have historically behaved in this way does seem to point to a specific combination of factors proving toxic.

The abolishment of celibacy for priests is frequently debated, but argue for it as a means to remove or even tackle the potential for abuse and the argument becomes flawed. Repressed sexuality per se cannot be responsible because obviously not everyone who is sexually repressed abuses children. The acquisition of power can lead to all sorts of unpleasant behaviours but thankfully it does not generally or necessarily include the direct abuse of children. And while the legacy of childhood abuse is far-reaching and corrosive, it does not follow that the victim will perpetuate the damage done to future generations. However, add these three components together, throw in the 'titillation' ecclesiastical guilt might provide and it seems you have all the ingredients for some kind of perverted 'perfect storm'. The icing on the cake being the absolute protection offered by the Catholic church; after all, why confront a problem when you can just move it to another parish or better still, a developing country? 

Apart from the phlegmatically evasive Cardinal Law (under whose watch this catalogue of abuse took place and who now *spoiler alert* languishes within the very corridors of power in Rome) no single human 'villain' is concentrated on in the movie because as each journalist peels away another onion skin, the problem is revealed to be far greater than the sum of its parts; the rot lies at the very core of the establishment and too many people have been complicit in its spread. If there is one pervasive thought the film carries it's that: 'it takes a whole village to raise a child and it also takes a whole village to abuse one'. In this way, Boston had become a kind of litmus paper that provided exactly the right sort of environment to nurture the perpetrators of such a fundamentally damaging crime. But Boston of course wasn't and isn't an isolated case, as the comprehensive list of cities and countries at the end of the film makes painfully clear.

So why has there never been a strong, decent and high-ranking enough member of the clergy to tackle this issue, this shuffling, elephantine shadow that lurks within the bosom of Catholic power? Because it would require nothing less than an overhaul of the entire foundations of the Church to destroy it. Time to step up, Pope Francis...? He has addressed it of course; he has apologised unequivocally. And an acknowledgement is a start, I guess.

We know that a mixture of breathtaking arrogance, shame and at best misplaced loyalty has perpetuated and facilitated the cycle of abuse. But now that that the game is up, where do we go from here? There is already a shortage of priests so it's safe to say that anything that might further jeopardise enrolment won't be explored. There are no easy solutions but I do know that unless someone does something to tackle the problem, this could be the beginning of the end of institutional Catholicism in the (so-called) developed world. It's hard enough to hold onto faith in a beautiful ideal when those who administer that ideal prove so wretchedly earthbound. 

One thing is for sure, 'sorry' means very little at this stage. People need to know that something robust is being done.


*A recent, extensive survey indicates 4% of US Catholic priests were/are abusers. Spotlight suggests that figure to be as high as 6%.

The term 'abuse' in this article refers to 'child sexual abuse'.

BACKGROUND information...

My first picture book - called A Possum's Tail - is a collaboration with brilliant illustrator Alex Barrow and came out 6th February 2014. A second book called London Calls! is a whistle-stop tour of London, led by a Pearly grandma and her granddaughter. London Calls! came out on 4th September 2014 and is my second book with Alex Barrow. A Possum's Tail was nominated for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
Both books are by Tate Publishing.

Please see my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE or CURRICULUM VITAE for more details & updates.

As well as writing children's books, for children's television and two award-winning children's magazines, I do both private and commercial art commissions, a selection of which you can see here.

The children's shoes are part of an ongoing series of "first shoes", including several cards commissioned by the Almanac Gallery.

Hand-drawn, bespoke invitations, announcements, portraits and menus, such as the examples here are also available upon request..

Any enquiries please email:


I've been a regular contributor to children's art and science magazine OKIDO since 2007. HAPPY 10th BIRTHDAY (WOW) beautiful Okido!

An Okido animated kids tv show, based on characters from the magazine is currently in production with Doodle/Squintopera The original adaptation of the show (co-created/adapted by myself, producer Ceri Barnes and Doodle Productions) was acquired by CBeebies. 52 x 11 minute episodes will be coming to a screen near you soon in 2015.......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .............................
N E W S F L A S H! MESSY GOES TO OKIDO Series TWO has now finished production, and will be coming to your screens S O O N ...! (Autumn 2018, to be exact)



Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet

Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet
Okido Cartoon Forum 2011

Happy Birthday OKIDO!

Happy Birthday OKIDO!
Okido was 5 years old this issue...the wonderful art and science magazine for kids I've been lucky enough to have worked on for the past - 8 - years now