Illustration graduate and Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell was awarded an Honorary Doctor Arts by the University of Brighton during Winter Graduation ceremonies at the Brighton Centre on Friday.
Professor Andrew Lloyd, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Operations, listed her accolades and awards in his introductory speech.
Cressida responded: “Thank you so much – I feel quite tearful actually. It sounded very good when you put it like that. Thank you so much for this incredible honour.”
The author and illustrator, the second University of Brighton graduate since 2015 to be named Children’s Laureate, studied MA Narrative Illustration at the University. She is best known for her How to Train Your Dragon books, which have been adapted into film and television series. She follows Brighton alumnus and honorary graduate Chris Riddell, who held the Children’s Laureate role from 2015 to 2017.
Cressida, a number-one bestselling author-illustrator, is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, a trustee for World Book Day and a founder patron of the Children’s Media Foundation.
She offered advice to graduates: “Try and do what you are obsessed by, what you couldn’t live without doing – and then work won’t feel like work.
“In my case my obsession from a very early age was writing and illustrating children’s books and getting books into the hands of all children.”
Cressida’s second piece of advice was “don’t panic”. She said: “Go at your own pace and don’t look to left and right … it’s important to remember, it’s not a race. People’s lives careers go up and down so never compare yourself to anyone else.”
Cressida urged graduates to be creative and to be practical: “Meet deadlines. If you are ever struggling with a deadline think of William Shakespeare. In the
single year of 1599 Shakespeare completed Henry V, wrote the whole of Julius Caesar and As You Like It, and drafted Hamlet.
“If he can do that while London has been shut down by the plague and his theatre is being burnt down round his ears you can definitely meet that deadline guys.”
She reminded graduates: “Be thankful. Give back. People love to be thanked and this is an opportunity (for me) to thank the people who taught me when I was on the MA course at Brighton.
“It was incredibly inspirational.”
She said she loved Brighton because “the University, even the town itself, is such an inspiring, creative, entrepreneurial kind of a place. If it is still like that now, which I think it is, then I urge you to take that creative spirit into the rest of your lives.”