Interview: the creator of Hello Hull on our hit magazine

This week is a big week for children’s culture in Hull. Like any other week in 2017 there’s plenty to see and do, but what makes this so special is the debut of Hull’s first ever children’s literature festival, The Big Malarkey. Encouraging school children to write and illustrate comics, newspapers and stories this week at the festival are Studio Anorak, a branch of The Anorak Press – an independent kids publishing house, and creators of Hello Hull.

Over 10 years ago The Anorak Press founder Cathy Olmedillas launched Anorak Magazine. Having had the magazine bug since being a kid, she felt that “the kids magazine market had become very commercial and was mostly attached to cartoons or brands, but there was nothing really substantial that had stories or fun things to do”. Now with 43 editions, the ‘happy magazine for kids’ is available online, in kids bookshops, boutiques and museums. The aim is to encompass everything in a child’s life with stories, things to do and make, activities, games and most of all, culture. Themes and topics in the quarterly mag follow the national curriculum in a creative way.

Following the success of Anorak for children aged 6+, Cathy found that parents also wanted a magazine for the under 5s; something different to the Disney-fied or branded magazines appealing to children because of the free toy. This is when she decided to launch DOT. DOT has been phenomenally successful, and Cathy beams with pride as she tells me that if she were to do it all again knowing the high demand, she would definitely launch DOT first.

I truly believe that kids and creativity should go hand-in-hand and we should plough kids with more and more arts, and more and more culture because it’s massively empowering, it’s using imagination and it does so many great things.

Cathy Olmedillas, The Anorak Press Founder

 Hello Hull. Photo © Sean Spencer

Anorak devise other creations across the UK and Ireland too including a Dublin-themed activity book for Dublin Contemporary visual arts fair, an anthology of poems written by children staying at The Royal London Hospital to distribute back to the children’s ward, and activity sheets and logbooks for the Scouts Association. Then came the commission for Hull 2017…

When creating an issue of Hello Hull for each of our seasons, exclusively for Hull primary school children as part of our No Limits learning programme, Cathy looks through our season guide, the themes, activities and family-led events taking place, and picks a dozen of these to focus on. “I prepare a content plan as a skeleton for the magazine and pass it to the Hull 2017 learning team to check they’re happy with it, then we marry every single story with an illustrator.

“We have a portfolio of illustrators who we pick depending on if they fit with the brand, the overall programme and the theme” says Cathy, “when we launched 10 years ago there were around a dozen illustrators that fitted the style we were after, you know, not like the mainstream ‘Disney’ style you see; now we have nearly 500 illustrators we work with as our clients, brands and cultural associations we work for want different styles.

“Because we have championed illustration as an art form from over 10 years ago, we are known for breaking new illustrators into the industry or commercial work, so a lot of people come to us now, we receive about five new portfolios a day! I also do talks and workshops so I pick quite a few really good illustrators from there… In fact, in the last issue of Hello Hull we had a chap called Max Low who did these patterns (below). He’s from Hereford University, he hasn’t even graduated yet and he’s amazing!”

 Hello Hull illustration by Max Low. Image © Anorak

Hello Hull is now on its third edition for our Freedom season and has already been issued to schools across the city. The magazine, full of Hull-themed poems, stories, drawings, activities and puzzles, is a keepsake for young people, and a memento from our year as City of Culture. Cathy said: “We [Anorak] don’t do throwaway. The idea that they can keep the magazine and are able to look back on it and say ‘I was part of all of this’.  I hope they keep this as a diary.”

“The primary objective was always to make the children feel super proud about their city and the heritage, and to open their eyes to this.”

Cathy wants Hello Hull to make the young people feel empowered by what their imagination can come up with and encourages children to take pride in any drawings they do: “we pin up children’s drawings around the office as they’re just as valuable as an illustrator’s!”

The drawings are very close to children’s drawings, so I think kids understand them very well. They are very simple technically, nothing is CGI or 3D or too complicated, it’s fundamentally a few simple lines that kids can copy and get inspired by. I think this taps into the kids’ creativity and makes an impact.

– Cathy Olmedillas, The Anorak Press Founder

If your child attends a school in Hull, they’ll be given Hello Hull at the start of each of the Hull 2017 seasons, limited copies are available from Hull libraries and selected restaurants across the city. The Freedom issue features an Arts Award pull-out logbook, which is available on its own from shops, galleries and cafes on Humber Street (including Humber Street Gallery).

Find Anorak and take part in their workshops at The Big Malarkey Festival until Sunday 2 July.