Refugee story for children wins student national award

Kate Milner receives her award from Rafi Romaya, art director at Canongate Books.
Kate Milner receives her award from Rafi Romaya, art director at Canongate Books.

An art student from Leighton Buzzard has won a national award and prize of £3,000.

Kate Milner, who will graduate from Anglia Ruskin University this autumn, has won the Student Illustrator of the Year title at the V&A Illustration Awards 2016.

Kate, who has studied for an MA in children’s book illustration at Anglia Ruskin, was presented with her award and prize during a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The annual V&A Illustration Awards celebrate the best illustrations produced over the previous year, and the work will be on display at the V&A until August 21.

Her work, My Name Is Not ‘Refugee’, is a picture book about a boy’s experience of setting off on a long journey to another country. The narrative avoids big political issues and the worst of refugees’ experiences. Instead it tries to express what it is like to leave your own country for a different culture.

The judges singled out Kate’s technical approach for special commendation, praising her combination of pencil and ink sketch-work with post-editing and colouring in Photoshop. Even more so, they were unanimously impressed by her bold attempt to tackle a subject far outside the prevailing conventions of commercial children’s publishing.

Kate said: “I am absolutely delighted, and very surprised, to have won this prize. I found studying on the MA really exciting, challenging and demanding. “Being a student on the MA is like being admitted into a club of people who are all trying to help each other make the best of their talents. I was, essentially, a women returner coming back to education after raising my children and Anglia Ruskin offered me a second chance.

“The idea for this book came to me while driving home from Cambridge one evening. My daughter, who works in a school, had told me that the children in her class were asking her about the refugee crisis.

“They didn’t understand what was being discussed in the news and she had nothing to show them. I asked myself if there was anything I could do and by the end of the journey the book was clear in my head. It’s a story which asks children from a safe, comfortable background to think about what it must be like to leave your home and make a journey into the unknown.”

Martin Salisbury, professor of illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “We are especially pleased that the book will be published by Barrington Stoke and we wish Kate continuing success in the future.”

The judging panel for 2016 comprised author and former Children’s Laureate Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Ruth Prickett, the editor of Illustration magazine, Patrick Burgoyne, editor of Creative Review, Rafi Romaya, the art director of Canongate Books, and Annabel Judd, former head of design at the V&A.