Lauren Child, the creative genius behind children’s classics Charlie and Lola, Ruby Redfort and Clarice Bean, and her graphic design guru David Mackintosh, were one of the highlights of the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival. Sagal Mohammed listened in as they revealed the secrets of their working relationship.

The children were all ears as the duo explained how they joined forces in 2000. “He came to my rescue on a book that was sort of going wrong,” explained Lauren. “I’d created this book called Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book about a fairy tale coming to life and I really needed someone who knew how to work text within the illustrations. It’s a lot more complicated than you imagine, but [David] was quite clear at making it so you could actually read the text.”

The pair talked through a slideshow of behind-the-scenes shots of their artwork, from Lauren’s first drafts of storyboards – the margins often covered in shopping lists and other notes as she confessed her tendency to steer away into random thoughts – to David’s final illustrations. “It’s all about communicating the ideas,” David insisted, “[Lauren] always has a clear and wonderful idea of what she wants to say.”

The queues for Lauren Child and David Mackintosh snaked around the tent
The queues for Lauren Child and David Mackintosh snaked around the tent

Giving the audience an insight into the inspiration behind characters in Charlie and Lola, Lauren revealed the character of Lola was created on a train journey in Denmark, inspired by a little Danish girl sitting across from her. “I just began to draw her,” she told the audience.


But she emphasised the team work that goes into creating her books: “I quickly realised how crucial it is to have the right designer when you’re illustrating children’s books.”


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