Inclusivity bursary launched for BAME children’s book illustrators to tackle underrepresentation

Anglia Ruskin University has launched an inclusivity bursary to help improve diversity within children’s book illustration, which remains a predominantly white, middle class profession in the UK.

10 August 2021

The white-washed pages of children’s books are facing a much welcomed wakeup call. The lack of inclusivity within children’s book illustrations have been a long-standing issue, as It’s Nice That have previously reported. Research from the charity BookTrust has shown that, in 2019, only seven per cent of all children’s books published in the UK were by authors from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

What’s more, just seven per cent of books for children (defined here as ages three to 11) featured characters of colour in the last few years. Despite the fact that 33.5 per cent of primary school children in the UK are from a minority ethnic background, as shown by the Center for Literacy in Primary Education.

In an attempt to remedy the vast racial disparities, Anglia Ruskin (ARU) has now launched a bursary for children’s illustrators from BAME backgrounds. ARU, acknowledging the underrepresentation within its Children’s Book Illustration MA course, is offering a bursary for £11,200 which would cover the full course, in an attempt to diversify their course and remedy some barriers facing underrepresented communities from joining such courses.

Anglia Ruskin is well known and respected for the course; ARU students have won the V&A Student Illustrator of the Year prize for five successive years. The bursary is almost trailblazing within the publishing industry by being the first of its kind in the UK and is being supported by publishers such as Bloomsbury.


Copyright © Yasmeen Ismail

The university has also partnered with the charity Picture Hooks to provide mentorship for students a year following their graduation to encourage a career within children’s book illustration.

Olu Oke is an illustrator who’s just completed the course and will graduate later this year. Oke claims that after 20 years of trying to break into the industry with no success, she started to question her skills and, she says, “the worth of my voice”. The course gave her the confidence to find her “creative language”, as she puts it.

Her advice to creatives from underrepresented communities, “be they Black, people of colour, LGBTQ+, neurologically, physically atypical, or other is: people are listening and looking, so if you don’t want others to talk for you or tell your stories, pick up your pencil, brush, whatever and draw and write your own.” She claims that this bursary is one of many wedges being pushed under the doors being opened within creative industries, children’s book publishing in this case.

The value of children seeing themselves represented within their books is unparalleled, argue those in the publishing industry. Lucy Juckes and Vivian French of Picture Hooks said that “our children need to see themselves reflected in the books they read, and in the authors and illustrators who create them.”

Anglia Ruskin University’s new inclusivity bursary is open to applicants who are eligible for UK fees, face financial disadvantages, and/or are from an underrepresented group. The closing date for the 2021 bursary is 13 August at 5pm.


Copyright © Yasmeen Ismail

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Further Info

For further information and to find out how to apply for the bursary, click here.

About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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