EVENTS Pictures at Play Exhibition Launch

Pictures at Play, SCBWI's biennial illustrators exhibition, had a spectacular launch in central London on 14th December. John Shelley reports on this highlight event.

The launch of SCBWI's Biennial exhibition at Westminster Reference Library on the 14th December was a packed occasion, with illustrators travelling from across the country to attend, and industry professionals ranging from editors to agents present.

This second biennial exhibition for our illustrators has turned out to be a stellar line-up of talent from a range of nationalities based across the UK. Over 90 artists submitted their work for selection, from which our guest judges Tiffany Leeson (Egmont), Louise Jackson (Walker Books) and illustrator James Mayhew helped to whittle down to a final tally of 32 exhibitors. Each artist had two connected images accepted into the online gallery (the whole selection can be seen here!), one of which was chosen for printing, framing and display in the exhibition. The high-resolution art prints were made by the wonderful hard working team at Jealous Prints, to whom we offer our deep thanks!

Giuliani Gregori with her exhibition print. All prints in the show are available for sale, buyers are asked to contact the artists directly. Email John at for details. (photo: Candy Gourlay)
Dave Gray, James Taylor, Su Dore. (photo: Candy Gourlay)

Louise and Tiffany were with us at the launch, and talked about the challenges of deciding the shortlist, and the high standard of work. Our third guest judge, James, unfortunately was unable to join us through illness, but his work is singled out on display, he was there in spirit. I can say he was absolutely gutted to have to cancel, get well soon, James!

Judges Tiffany and Louise (photo: Candy Gourlay)
James Mayhew, guest judge illustrator, has two prints from Mrs Noah's Pockets on special display
A big thanks to our judges, and to the other organisers Anne-Marie Perks, Bridget Marzo and Clare Tovey for the sterling work putting the show together. Biggest thanks of all however to the illustrators who submitted their work, not only those who were accepted into the show, but everyone who sent in their submissions. If you were passed over this time, rest assured it was a very tough decision, with so many quality images. The show will be back in two years time!

Yours truly, with Tania Tay and Bridget Marzo (photo: Candy Gourlay)
Hands up the illustrators! Anne-Marie Perks (left) and our new Illustration Coordinator Soni Speight lead the call out. (photo: Candy Gourlay)
Illustration Committee member Mike Brownlow and Exhibition finance wizard Clare Tovey (photo: Candy Gourlay)

What an impressive turn out on a Saturday afternoon! We're so grateful to the judges, and also the  publishers, agents and librarians like Joy Court  and Jenny Hawke too for coming to support so many of us illustrators at various stages in our careers - especially on a busy Saturday before Christmas. All our behind the scenes work, John's fielding of endless emails and the site, ‪Clare‬ Tovey with the tight budget and ‪Anne-Marie Perks‬‘s brilliant full-colour brochure and all our work, with the help of other precious volunteers framing,  hanging setting up - paid off beautifully.‪  ‬(Bridget)

Layn Marlow, Jo Byatt and husband (photo: Candy Gourlay)
Rob Glenny, Giu Gregori, Irene Silvino, Yoko Tanaka (photo: Candy Gourlay)
Margaret Sturton and Camille Whitcher

The staff of Westminster Reference Library have been terrific, our warmest gratitude for offering this wonderful location, surrounded by fine books in a beautiful building. 
Pictures at Play runs until 4th January on the 2nd floor of Westminster Reference Library. Nestled between Leicester Square and the National Gallery, it's right in the centre of London. If you have chance to visit do drop by!

Just some of the 33 prints on display in the Library. To see all the images, check the Illustration Showcase Website

Header photo © John Shelley 


John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and the illustrator of over 50 books for children, most recently A Purse Full of Tales, a book of Korean Folk stories, for Hesperus Press. He's a three times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

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