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Literacy news

Popular artists and authors design BookBenches

25 Apr 2014

new bench

George Orwell’s 1984 BookBench, created by Thomas Dowesdell – one of 50 BookBenches on display in London over the summer.

Children’s authors Lauren Child and Cressida Cowell have just announced that they will design BookBenches based on their own children’s book series Clarice Bean and How To Train Your Dragon, to be unveiled on the streets of London this summer. The benches, shaped as open books, will form part of a public art trail of 50 BookBenches launched for the National Literacy Trust’s ‘Books about Town’ project to celebrate London’s literary legacy and raise vital funds for literacy.

The National Literacy Trust is working with Wild in Art to bring Books about Town to London as a unique opportunity to explore the capital's literary connections, to enjoy art from some of the country's top artists and to experience the joy of reading for pleasure. From July, visitors will have the chance to discover the BookBenches by following literary trails around London. City of London has confirmed that they will host one of the trails and other benches will likely appear in Greenwich and Bloomsbury.

Ralph Steadman and Paul Kidby are among the top artists and illustrators painting bespoke benches for the public art trails. Steadman illustrated Lewis Caroll’s children’s classic Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1973 (for which he won the Francis Williams Book Illustration Award) and he will reproduce some of these illustrations on a unique BookBench. Kidby, artist for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is on board to paint a Discworld bench.

Both of these BookBenches and a range of other book titles are still available for sponsors who want to put their names behind literary works of art. The Estates of Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming are paying tribute to literary heroes Poirot, Sherlock and James Bond by sponsoring illustrated benches in their honour.

The National Literacy Trust is also launching a London-wide creative literacy project for schools to run alongside Books about Town, funded by the GLA’s London School Excellence Fund. Books about Town for Schools aligns with the new curriculum and combines training for Key Stage 2 and 3 teachers on teaching whole texts with the opportunity for each school to bring reading to life through designing their very own BookBench. Books about Town for Schools will take place during the summer or autumn term 2014 in 100 schools in London on a first come, first served basis.

Children’s author Cressida Cowell who wrote the How to Train your Dragon series says:

I am so excited to be designing a How to Train your Dragon BookBench and to be part the National Literacy Trust’s campaign to celebrate the wealth of writing and illustrating talent in this country. I am hoping that 'Books about Town' will remind Londoners of the joy of reading books.

Richard Pooley at the Conan Doyle Estate says:

We are delighted that so many people around the world have been reintroduced to Sherlock Holmes through the recent Warner Brothers' films, and the TV series "Sherlock" and "Elementary". We are keen to support ‘Books about Town’ which will get people rediscovering Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective and his links with London, in particular Baker Street and Bloomsbury. Hence we readily agreed to sponsor a Sherlock Holmes bench and hope that it will inspire the capital to discover some of Conan Doyle’s other fictional characters too.

Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie says: 

I’m thrilled that my grandmother, Agatha Christie, is to be included in the Books about Town campaign. She was a huge supporter of literacy and would be delighted to see Greenshaw’s Folly featured on a BookBench in the capital, in its 75th anniversary year.

Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Director of Wild in Art says:

Our events are designed to bring the enjoyment of public art to thousands of people while offering new ways to explore a host city or town.  We are delighted to be working with the National Literacy Trust on this project bringing many of our favourite books to life through the visual arts.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says:

We are very excited to be bringing a collection of BookBenches to London this summer to bring the capital’s literary heritage to life. From Conan Doyle’s Sherlock to Lauren’s Clarice Bean and Cressida’s dragons, there will plenty in store for visitors to celebrate reading for enjoyment and the UK’s rich literary culture.

We are already working with a range of partners and sponsors to bring ‘Books about Town’ to the capital and there are still opportunities available to sponsor a BookBench. Visit to find out more.

The National Literacy Trust is a charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Their research and analysis makes them the leading authority on literacy and informs their work. They work with schools, run literacy projects in disadvantaged communities and campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents.

Below is a list of the confirmed book titles featuring on BookBenches and sponsors on board so far. This is the last chance for local and national businesses to be part of this exciting new venture and sponsor a BookBench from the list below or from other well-known titles on the Books about Town list. Please contact to find out more.


Book title




George Orwell

Thomas Dowdeswell

Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame

Mik Richardson

Alice through the looking glass

Lewis Carroll

Ralph Steadman

Time Machine

HG Wells

Diana Ralston

Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham

Oliver Dean

Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling

Ruth Green


Captain Scott

Charles Bezzina

Peter Pan

JM Barrie

Laura Bolton

We're going on a bear hunt

Michael Rosen

Helen Oxenbury


Terry Pratchett

Paul Kidby

Sherlock Homes

Conan Doyle


James Bond

Ian Fleming



Jacqueline Wilson

Nick Sharratt


James Patterson


Mary Poppins

PL Travers





Elmer the Elephant

David McKee

David McKee

Katie in London

James Mayhew

James Mayhew

Greenshaw's Folly

Agatha Christie



Michael Morpurgo


Peter Pan

JM Barrie

Sian Storey

That's not my meerkat

Fiona Watts


How to train Your Dragon

Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell

Clarice Bean

Lauren Child

Lauren Child

Around the World in 80 Days

Jules Verne



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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.