This year, CILIP announced that the Kate Greenaway Medal would become ‘the Carnegies for Illustration’. Rose Roberto co-ordinated the campaign to reinstate the Greenaway name as she explains in this article.
Illustrating how illustrators are erased
On the morning of August 16, 2023, in response to the BBC News article, ‘Call to reinstate illustrator Kate Greenaway’s name on literary award,’ author Patrick Ness made the first of two tweets. The first one read:
Hey @BBCNews I won the Carnegie Medal for A Monster Calls, but I did NOT win the Kate Greenaway Medal for it. That was won by the genius illustrator Jim Kay. Further underlining the need for illustrators to get more recognition…
Also in response to the news article, I (Rose Roberto) tweeted at BBCNews:
Both [the illustrator Tamsin Rosewell] @autumnrosewell & I made KG petition. Thanks for covering story, but why is article obscuring the illustrator again?
Within an hour of our Tweets being posted, the BBC quickly corrected most mistakes. However, Patrick made a second tweet:
Article has been updated to reflect that I’m the author, not the illustrator, but still doesn’t mention the actual illustrator, the amazing Jim Kay (who won the Greenaway Medal). A Monster Calls is what it is because of Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay and myself, all of us.
Jim Kay’s name has still not been added to the article, and the BBC News page does not acknowledge any omissions were corrected, as it does on most of its stories. It is ironic that even a story by the BBC about the erasure of illustrator Kate Greenaway from a medal founded in her honour, managed to erase the illustrators from its story, and needed to be corrected.
This social media exchange on Twitter and the story the BBC covered outlined the CILIP (Library and Information Association) decision to change its distinguished, seventy-year-old award from ‘Kate Greenaway Medal’ to the ‘Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration’ due to sponsorship with Yoto, an audio-based educational publisher, in 2023. In complete disagreement with CILIP’s renaming decision, as well as CILIP’s failure to respond for weeks when contacted in April/May directly, Tamsin Roswell, an illustrator and bookseller, and myself, a librarian and historian, created a petition to reinstate the Greenaway name. The petition pointed out that the Kate Greenaway Medal was one of the very few British literary awards recognising illustrators, and actively promoting the importance of their work. The petition was launched on 17 July and within its first 24 hours online, nearly 1000 people had signed it. By the end of August, it had gained over 3000 signatures from around the world. The first person to sign the petition was Jackie Morris, who won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2019 for The Lost Words.
Partially addressing the petition, a CILIP press release on 19 July 2023 justified their action in removing Greenaway’s name by stating ‘the decision…to adopt a ‘family’ of awards under the Carnegies name… adds clarity to the awards structure for young readers…,[with] the intention of elevating the illustration Medal…[through] association with Andrew Carnegie.’
The press release further stated that this rebranding decision had been made in consultation with former Carnegie Greenaway judges. Since I ran a 2023 shadowing scheme at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) Library in Lincoln, which has been training teachers since the 1830s, I questioned statement. I had not heard this news until I received CILIP’s shortlist award material in late February. None of the other librarians I spoke to knew about this decision either, not the Lincolnshire School Librarians group I’m in touch with, nor other more general members of CILIP. In fact, Charlotte Everett, one of my colleagues at BGU Library said, ‘I don’t believe any librarian in their right mind would think removing the name of a beloved female illustrator like Kate Greenaway from a medal, would be a good idea.’
Greta Paterson, Head of Children’s and Young People’s Services, East Sussex signed the petition and commented, ‘As a former judge on the medals [panel] I strongly oppose this move which undermines the role of illustrators. Carnegie Greenaway is a strong brand without any need for tampering. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Scotland-based Moyra Hood also writes, ‘As a retired librarian and former judge on the Carnegie and Greenaway panels, I support this petition. Hugely disappointing decision by CILIP.’
Cambridge-based librarian Susanne Jennings wondered how CILIP could make such decisions without wide-ranging consultation, and London-based Phil Bradley wrote, ‘It is very disappointing [that] CILIP has made this decision. It is wholly inappropriate and completely out of step with how members and wider society feel.’
Other librarians, who have been active in CILIP contacted Tamsin and me directly to offer their support to illustrators in general, and have reported to Tamsin they were told by CILIP not to engage with the petition, due to behind-the-scenes negotiations with the sponsor.
A mis-matched sponsorship?
I believe the Petition has generated so much support because we are not the only ones who questioned CILIP’s decision-making process. Matt Imrie, a British-born librarian, who previously served as a CILIP, Youth Libraries Group judge for the Carnegie and Greenaway medals and is now based in the US, seems to be more aware of what is going on in the UK than we were. Matt first queried CILIP’s decision in late 2022. Months before any of my colleagues in the UK took notice, Matt’s blog wondered how a partnership with an audio media company was going to work in promoting the Kate Greenaway Award. ‘Being a screen-free device’, he pondered, ‘how would a Yoto Player show the best of the illustrated works nominated for it?’
In a September 2022 blog post, he wrote that ‘The Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal were always two distinct awards and now the line between has been blurred…I feel that with this rebrand something is being lost.’
Specifically, Matt wondered if making the Kate Greenaway Medal just one of ‘The Carnegies’ was the price that a CILIP working party had to pay to close the sponsorship deal with Yoto? Instead of ‘elevating the illustration medal’ as CILIP’s press releases have claimed, would this re-branding not just do the opposite?
‘The medal for writing has historically always had a higher profile, but the awards were in no way dependent on each other,’ he posted, concluding that [a previous post expressing] this concern of an audio device sponsoring an illustration medal did not make complete sense [now] seems to have been borne out.
Kate Greenaway Medal is a Cultural Signifier
Critic Robert McCrum of the Guardian, writes, ‘Far more than book reviews, it’s literary prizes that shape the afterlives of new titles.’ Writer and blogger, Emma Rose Hollands writes that book awards especially show us that books should be prized.
‘Like any other form of art, books are important to cultures across the globe. They can bring about change across society; they can touch our hearts in the smallest ways. Regardless of who gets nominated or who wins, it is crucial that our society has these awards in place so we can culturally recognise books as an important part of our lives.‘
The Kate Greenaway Medal was named after British artist Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) who produced fine art illustrations and books for children. Born in London to a woodblock printer and a seamstress, she and her two siblings periodically resided in Rolleston, Nottinghamshire with relatives when their father’s business was financially unstable. Greenaway attributes a vivid childhood with fond memories in a countryside teaming with trees, flowers, and rural animals as inspiration for her later work. Her mother’s sense of fashion also influenced her drawings, and many art critics have praised Greenaway’s human figures with finely designed clothing.
In 1877, Edmund Evans, a professional contact of her father’s, invited her to work with him. Other illustrators working with Evans’ colour printing firm, included Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) and Walter Crane (1845-1915). The collective work of all three, Greenaway, Caldecott and Crane, characterises the ‘Golden Age of Children’s Literature’ as well as the Aesthetic movement. In recognition of her artistic achievements, Kate Greenaway is not only historically important to the British Book Industry, her work remains an influence on illustrators today.
Named awards have meaning. Individuals who have awards named after them should embody the values of the organisation they represent and/or the spirit for which an award was given. As a librarian, I think it’s wrong to make a named award for illustration about anyone but the illustrators, themselves.
Irish-based landscape artist Eleanor Hunt signed the petition and wrote, ‘It’s important that an influential illustrator’s name be on an award for illustrators, especially as Kate Greenaway was a woman. Women are still not recognised or celebrated enough for their achievements in our society.’
New-England based artist, Anne Holt wrote, ‘Kate Greenaway’s Under the Window is imprinted on my earliest childhood memory (a very old edition handed down 82 years ago by an elderly aunt) together with my very first watercolour paint box. Can’t believe anyone would want to erase the Greenaway name from anything to do with children’s illustration.’ Sarah Westfall wrote, ‘As a native of West Virginia in the United States, I am familiar with Andrew Carnegie’s more disappointing and disastrous decisions. As a former librarian, I believe the medal’s name should be restored.’
When Tamsin Rosewell and I first met in July, I did not know I’d be asked to write an editorial for the Bookseller, an article for Books for Keeps, or be interviewed with her for The Illustration Department’s podcast. While I expressed bewilderment and embarrassment at CILIP’s decision as a librarian, and was troubled in witnessing the erasure of a prominent British female artist as a historian, Tamsin articulated frustration at yet another example where illustrators of any gender, are constantly affronted by the book trade and the media. The tight phrasing of the Bring Back the Kate Greenaway Petition is due to her professional experience as a UK bookseller, navigating the current publishing world.
Despite rumours that Yoto has been unhappy with the CILIP sponsorship and might terminate it before the initially agreed third-year contract (in 2024), it is unclear what CILIP will actually do, since their press release has discussed alternative ways of ‘honouring’ Kate Greenaway, which do not include restoring her name to this prestigious medal.
James Mayhew, author and illustrator encapsulates why thousands of people have signed the petition. ‘Kate Greenaway was a pioneering woman,’ he said. ‘It is right and proper that she is remembered, celebrated, and has her name attached to this important prize. Losing this link with an actual illustrator greatly lessens the significance of such an award. Her name should be reinstated.’
Dr Rose Roberto, MLIS, FHEA is Teaching Resources Librarian and Part-time Lecturer in History at Bishop Grosseteste University
Recent publications include Roberto, R. and Alexiou, A. Eds. Women in Print: Design and Identities, Volume 1 Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2022.
Roberto, R. ‘Working Women: Female Contributors to Chambers’s Encyclopaedia’ IN Archer-Parré, C., Hinks, J, and Moog, C. Eds. Women in Print: Production, Distribution and Consumption, Volume 2. Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2022.