This year’s Northern Festival of Illustration is inviting people to follow a trail of colourfully-designed monkeys decorated by members of the local community that are being hosted by local businesses across Hartlepool for the event.

Each Monkey Host venue has leaflets and a sticker all with a QR code – one lucky person who has scanned the code and answered a few simple questions is in with a chance of winning a selection of artist’s supplies.

The two winning entries for The Northern Illustration Prize 2021 have also gone on show as part of the award-winning festival, that is organised by The Northern School of Art.

Illustrations by London-based Laura Watkins, the winner of the Established Illustrator category with her work ‘That Place’, and Warsaw-based Emerging Illustrator category winner Julia Sarapata de Carvalho’s piece ‘Resilience’, can be seen as part of the 2021 festival’s exhibitions in Hartlepool until 28th November.

The winning entries were selected from hundreds received from across four continents for the Northern Illustration Prize which is delivered in a partnership between The Northern School of Art and the Association of Illustrators (AOI), the professional body for illustration in the UK. The theme for the 2021 competition was ‘Renaissance’.

Laura Watkins, who has been practising as an illustrator for ten years, says in the artist’s statement with her work, “From the starting point of ‘Renaissance’, I was drawn to the idea of learning and starting anew. For this piece, I focused on what you learn at the end of a relationship, the sadness of it not going as you hoped, but the positivity of the right thing to come in the future.

“In this image, a couple have come together at the end of something beautiful. They embrace and look out to the fading sun in a space they walked often and know well, ending something but ready to start again.”

Reacting to her win, she comments, “I’m so happy that I entered this competition and encourage every illustrator to do the same. I really didn’t expect to win in such a competitive field and with such strong shortlisted entries.

“It’s wonderful to have ‘That Place’ featured in the exhibition, it is a very personal piece of work, and I am very proud that it has won. I’d like to thank everyone involved, this is such a welcomed and inspiring boost during a period of time that has been difficult for all.”

The Northern Festival of Illustration director and Vice Principal of The Northern School of Art, Pat Chapman, says, “Laura’s work stood out in a very crowded field of high quality entries.  The image has emotional depth and really nails the brief, pulling us into the picture and making us look ahead.”

Emerging Illustrator prize winner Julia Sarapata de Carvalho, who has been working as a children’s book illustrator since 2019, says in her artist’s statement, “The illustration captures the old world, which has turned upside down since the Covid-19 pandemic, and a new one filled with hopes and brighter future.

“I decided to flip the image to enhance the sense that the old world is growing into a new, better one which might not be so obvious in our current situation. In fact, the world is still struggling with Covid-19 virus and its mutations, but I strongly believe that there is a better time for everyone. The flowers represent spring, rebirth, growing from old to new, climbing “up” in chase of hope. The boy is standing there, looking up, daydreaming and longing for tomorrow.”

Commenting on her win, Julia says, “When I heard about my win, I felt incredibly thankful and excited at the same time. I am so happy to hear that my message got to so many people and hope to keep creating meaningful illustrations in the future.”

Festival director Pat Chapman, adds, “Julia has given us a thoughtful and celebratory image that, through its spring like vision, gives us a sense of hope.”

The winning illustrations are now on display as part of The Northern Festival of Illustration alongside the eighteen shortlisted illustrators (nine in each category) from across the globe.  Entries were received from the UK to Europe via the Middle East and on to Malaysia and the Philippines.

The Northern Festival of Illustration takes place in Hartlepool until 28th November at Hartlepool Art Gallery, The BIS, and The Northern School of Art, with a show later in the festival at St Hilda’s church on the Headland. Entry is free.

Further information is available at

The Northern Festival of Illustration is funded thanks to Arts Council England and its ongoing support from the National Lottery Project Fund and the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority Festival Recovery Fund.

Both The Northern Festival of Illustration and Northern Illustration Prize are developed and delivered by The Northern School of Art, the only dedicated school of art in the north east