Alumna celebrates children’s book success

Molly's First Festival

A BCU Alumna and illustrator successfully crowdfunded her music festival children’s book, leading to a reading of the book being recorded by CBeebies at Glastonbury Festival. 

Katherine O’Shea graduated with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication, specialising in Illustration, in 2010 and now works full-time as a Freelance Illustrator.

Katherine set up a Kickstarter campaign in 2022 to publish her first picture book, ‘Molly’s First Festival’ inspired by her toddler’s first trip to Glastonbury festival. Despite having published two books since graduating in 2010, ‘The Lion of St Andrews’ and ‘The Sailing Bear of the East Neuk’, her latest publication was Katherine’s first self-published novel.

Speaking on her decision to crowdfund, Katherine said: “Using KickStarter was a deliberate choice – traditional publishers were unlikely to go for something so niche.

“The fundraiser was a great success, with the CEO of Kickstarter even making a donation to the cause! After raising over £4,000 and exceeding its targets, the book has gone on to see even more success.

“Molly’s First Festival celebrates the growing popularity of attending festivals as a family, setting expectations of festivals and providing reassurance for families looking to attend. With real-life families drawn into the book, there is a wide diversity represented, including people of all ages, races, and people with disabilities, as well as visibility of families from all walks of life.

“There's even an appearance from drag queens, and a mum breastfeeding in a catsuit. It's important to me that the book reflects the fully diverse range of people you meet at a festival.”

The idea for the book came from Katherine’s own experience of attending Glastonbury Festival as a parent for the first time, with her little girl, Molly.

She said: “My husband and I had never gone to an event like that with a toddler in tow and were both rather nervous, given the fact she had been born during the Covid lockdown and was unused to such a large event.

“Of course, music festivals are wonderful places for children and despite the ups, downs and general messes, we all had a magical time. I had a special moment on the hill looking down at the lights when the idea came to me in an instant - to create a children's book that encapsulated what we had just experienced in a fun and colourful story for parents to share with their children.

“I know there are thousands of people who will recognise this 'family experience' of a festival, and I want to write and illustrate this story for them.”

After the enormous success of the crowdfunding campaign, Katherine was approached by the BBC about a reading of her book on children’s TV channel, CBeebies. It was kept under wraps until the weekend of the Glastonbury festival, when the BBC revealed the reading as part of the Kidz Field at Glastonbury.

Katherine was also invited to read her book to an audience of festival families at the Woodsies Pop-Up Library at the festival.

After the success of the reading, called “Dodge’s First Festival,” the book was taken on a festival tour in the CBeebies Bedtime Story Tent.

At Camp Bestival in Dorset, the festival founder and DJRob Da Bank, read the book to the audience, which included Katherine and her family.

Katherine puts a lot of her success down to BCU and found that the course’s business-focused approach particularly helpful for her career.

She said: “BCU was one of the only places to offer a Visual Communication degree, and the all-round aspect of the course appealed to me - from graphic design to illustration to animation.

“I've used these skills many times over the years and found that a multi-skilled business-focused approach was a good example to set for a future creative career.”

With over a decade’s worth of industry experience so far, Katherine has great advice for current BCU students.

She said: “A creative career is a long hard road, and you need to define what success means to you and own it. I've maintained my creative practice during many challenging times in my life, and that counts for a lot.

“If you are going to pursue a creative career, find a way to do it that fulfils you and fill your life to the brim with supportive people.”

Find out more about Molly’s First Festival here.

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