Stephen L. Holland outlines his plans for his time as Comics Laureate

Over the weekend, we reported on the appointment of Stephen L. Holland – owner of the independent comics shop Page 45, and a fervent comics advocate, freelance artist, tutor and more, as Comics Laureate for 2021 – 2023, announced during the LICAF LIVE – the free virtual replacement for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival this weekend.

We’re pleased to now present his acceptance speech, in full, made last Friday, outlining his plans as Laureate, which you can also watch here on YouTube as a part of the Opening Night recording.

The speech was a small part of the 80-plus interviews, workshops, live drawing sessions and more disseminated over the #LICAFLIVE weekend – and that’s not including the virtual exhibitions, creator workshops – which will be posted soon, and much more. (Some items, such as a “Desert Island Comics” interview with Kelly Sue de Connick, also features on Vimeo as well as the LICAF web site).

Stephen takes over the Comics Laureate role from graphic novelist Hannah next April, a voluntary position which is co-ordinated by LICAF and supported by Lancaster University.

Stephen L. Holland for LICAFLive

Hello, my name’s Stephen and I’ll be your next Comics Laureate from March 31st 2021.

As soon as I take up my tenure as Comics Laureate, I want to start making a direct, quantifiable difference to this country’s knowledge about comics by showcasing the true quality and diversity of graphic novels available from all over the world, as well as exploring how they work.

My fervent hope is that this will galvanise more people to begin investigating, reading and relishing graphic novels, and inspire yet more individuals – from the broadest possible backgrounds and with an even wider range of perspectives – to start creating them. We can never have enough new voices in comics! Never!

That way lies a phenomenally positive, self-renewing cycle!

Key to all this, for me, is to get straight into schools and start spreading the word in order to generate a renewed love of reading for pleasure, and empower young minds with the knowledge that they can create for themselves.

Wherever I roam – in schools and elsewhere – I want to surprise, as we explore together what the comics medium actually is, where it has appeared, what it can do and how it can do it, while emphasising the limitless breadth of subject matter that comics can cover

In addition, I want to be candid about my other priority: I particularly want to spend most of my time visiting urban state schools – not exclusively, but that will be my main focus – the reason being that those schools tend to have a larger population of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.

To anyone caring to look, the biggest, most blindingly obvious and shameful problem still prohibiting our progress in comics today – just as it is in the prose and picture book industries – is the comparative lack of material crafted by Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic writers and artists actually being published, and so starting to reach its vast potential public.

Our industry is overwhelmingly, disproportionately white, and that’s wrong.

It’s both unhealthy and it’s un-wealthy for only with greater diversity can we all enjoy new voices, attract a wider range of readers who recognise themselves, and so generate greater revenues for everyone involved in this industry. It’s pure economics; it’s basic common sense. And It Is Exciting!

Now, I’m not a politician or a publisher (though I’m determined to attract their attention as I go along), but what I can do – immediately – is get into schools, open young eyes and galvanise, partly by showing students the diversity of graphic novels that have already been produced in order to inspire more to do the same.

To that end – thanks to its Learning Resource Centre manager Rowena Singleton and LICAF’s very own Hester Harrington – my first full day teaching as Comics Laureate has already been arranged for Monday 26th April 2021 at the Abraham Moss Community School in North Manchester.

Until then I’ve shot four films for LICAFLive which you can watch on this website right now exploring six comics and image-integrated picture books:

If you follow the LICAFLive website to ‘Comics Up Close’ then ‘Comics, Clouds and Kendal Mint Cake’ you’ll find me in what I hope is eloquent awe of Molly Mendoza’s oh-so-supportive SKIP – a masterclass in movement, form and colour composition – shot against the gobsmacking background of High Dam.

Follow the symbols instead to ‘Little LICAF’ for families, and you’ll find me relishing the warm-hearted welcoming of strangers in Sarah McIntyre’s The New Neighbours, her equally exuberant Grumpycorn and Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn; then relishing the maternal wisdom and luxurious, jaw-dropping detail of You’re Safe With Me and You’re Snug With Me by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry.

I’m new to being filmed, but I believe they’ll give you a glimpse of what I intend to replicate as I learn for all manner of graphic novels across this country from 2021 to 2023 wherever I’m asked: in schools, for annual library association meetings, in newspapers, on television, and indeed as a permanent resource online for you to watch yourselves.

The limitlessly rich medium of comics encompasses everything from fiercely thought-out and individualistic autobiography, history, travel, crime, comedy, science-fiction, fantasy, horror and socio-politics to contemporary, everyday fiction which soon, I hope, everyone can relate to.

Thanks to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, its board and director Julie Tait, Lancaster University and Arts Council England, I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to expand what we’ve achieved over the last 26 years at Page 45 in Nottingham, and take this message about our shared, beloved medium nationwide.

Thank you for listening.

Thank you for caring about comics.

I want to show the world what they really are.

Stephen L. Holland

Stephen takes over the Comics Laureate role from graphic novelist Hannah next April, a voluntary position which is co-ordinated by LICAF and supported by Lancaster University.

• For more about the work and role of the Comics Laureate visit

• For more about the Lakes International Comic Art Festival visit

• Read our news story – Stephen L. Holland announced as new Comics Laureate at LICAF Live