By Jack Holmes
The Bristol-based Etherington brothers brought something a little different to this weekend’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival Family Fun Day. While many of the day’s presentations primarily focused on the children, they made sure the rest of the family left inspired, too!
With Robin Etherington writing and his brother Laurence ‘Lorenzo’ Etherington illustrating, this duo have had a hugely successful list of graphic novel releases, from their self-published Malcolm Magic in 2005 to their collected edition in 2010 and now their current comic book series The Phoenix. They’ve also created issues for major pop culture series including Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers and Star Wars, to name just a few.
The brothers took their audience through a host of storytelling devices, breaking down exactly why they’re important, and how children and their parents can emulate them, whether they are just starting out or have become an expert. From genre, to world building, the aspects of comic creation discussed could easily be applied to the world of film, literature, TV or radio, and are just as important to a working adult, as they are to a young child.
Lorenzo said, “When we started doing these shows we were pushed into doing a lot of things, and then we realised, 50% of our audience is adult. If we can make a show that affects a 40-year-old in the same way as a 6-year-old, that’s great.”
The Brothers focus on not only performing an entertaining show for an hour, but generally inspiring their audience, which is the real key to their success and enjoyability. Mixing comedy, a flamboyant stage show and genuinely good advice, they create a show that’s not just entertaining but also educational.
The Brothers performed two sessions at the Family Fun Day and, in between, spent hours talking to inspired fans, both young and old, about how to really succeed in an artistic industry. The most important thing is to know how to tell a good story: “We feel it’s important to work on what you love and eventually develop your own style.”
The Etherington brothers were attending as part of the team of writers behind The Phoenix British comic book, which targets young readers and tries to get them involved in the world of literature, through a variety of genres, stories and characters. Each issue features various stories from a number of writers and artists and have been praised for their work getting children started in the world of literature.
Robin summarised the best reason to try and catch one of the Etherington brothers shows, saying, “Every once in a while you just need to hear someone speak enthusiastically.”
All the children and their parents seemed to have great fun at the Etherington brothers’ workshop. Mum Claire, visiting with her sons Oscar and Arthur, said, “The children had a great time. They learnt about genre and about plot, as well as how to put together a story. It was learning disguised as fun.”