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Sharing the world’s best stories—together

The director for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is looking back on an eventful spring.

The pandemic continues to be a damper, not only on our activities but also on the cultural sector around the world. Looking back, however, this spring has still been an eventful one.

We developed a new, accessible website. Following months of preparations, in March we also launched a new logo and graphic identity that beautifully reflect the dignity of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. We had a great collaboration with the branding agency Happy F&B, who won Resumé magazine’s Design of the Month prize for their work on our new visual identity. “Fabulous. Delicate and accessible, but full of integrity,” the judges said—hurrah! Our new look also caught the attention of the international design media, and we are thrilled that we can spread information about the award and high-quality children’s and young adult literature in this way.

The public announcement of our 2021 laureate, Jean-Claude Mourlevat, was broadcast live, and it was an extra pleasure to do so from TioTretton, the children’s library at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm. The venues for our events are always carefully selected to connect to the meaning of the award. The arts and culture writer Stefan Ingvarsson shepherded us with warmth and grace through the moment of suspense that marks the announcement each year. As director, this was my second award announcement and I can attest that excitement truly runs high, both here at the office and amongst the jury—and no doubt for those of you in the audience, as well. Will jury chair Boel Westin manage to contact the laureate or not? It’s always a nail-biter!

Collaboration forms an essential part of our work with the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Collaboration, cooperation, invitation, interaction, alliance, coordination, partnership, joining forces and working together: these all form an essential part of our work with the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. We see partnering and cooperating closely with important actors as one of our core activities as we work to develop the award to reach different target groups. This spring has seen us maintain existing partnerships and begin to explore new ones as well.

We initiated a collaboration with Tensta Konsthall, a contemporary art institute in Stockholm. Together, we organized the writing contest “Young Writers, Young Readers,” inviting young people to submit their reflections on the pandemic. To our delight, we received no fewer than 253 entries! The competition jury, including “our own” Mårten Sandén, had its hands full. Six winners were named, and 17 texts received a special prize: a book by one of our laureates to read this summer. Owing to pandemic restrictions, we could not honor our young winners in a public award ceremony, as planned, but we are happy about all the interviews on radio and TV and the attention in social media. We hope we have encouraged some budding writers to keep writing!

We also began a new partnership with two schools: Cirkus Cirkör Upper Secondary School and Designgymnasiet in Sickla. The schools received a number of books by our laureates and found that The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, especially caught their imagination. The book inspired a stage show that students performed at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in early June. The goal was, of course, to spread information about the award, but even more, it was to investigate how a book can be transformed into another art form. The students rose to the challenge, embodying the book as contemporary circus, using costume interpretations that moved and flowed. We want to see more!

In April, jury member Lena Kåreland met with arts and culture writer Johanna Lundin at the beautiful new Tranströmer Library in Stockholm for a deep dive into the writings of Jean-Claude Mourlevat. At this year’s digital edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, jury chair Boel Westin spoke with Mourlevat himself. Such a rich body of work offers much to discover, and more conversations await!

Such a rich body of work offers much to discover, and more conversations await!

At the annual national conference of Riksteatern (Sweden’s National Touring Theatre), I had the chance to hear an exciting conversation about how a dramaturge approaches a text: in this case, Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s book La Terrienne. Wouldn’t a collaboration be amazing? Nationwide tours featuring readings or interpretations of our laureates…?

We’ve gotten used to digital meetings across all kinds of borders, opening the door to perhaps unexpected, but very effective gatherings. This spring, I met a Turkish audience at a digital conference organized by Ege Çağdaş Eğitim Vakfı (EÇEV) in Izmir, Turkey. My presentation and the conversation dealt with our award and the possibilities—sometimes the impossibilities—of literature. Last week, I attended the White June book Festival in Archangelsk, Russia, and gave a presentation on the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in a global context. We also introduced the award to Columbian readers in a big interview for Tendencia Editorial UR (issue 29).

For the first time this year, our award ceremony went digital, giving viewers around the world the opportunity to meet and celebrate both this year’s laureate and our 2020 laureate, Baek Heena. The digital format was a success, and next year, we look forward both to reaching beyond our national borders and to welcoming in-person guests in Stockholm.

Finally, a new yearly cycle has already begun. Soon we will have collected all the award nominations that have been coming from all over the world, and in August, our jury will convene again to begin their task of naming the 2022 laureate. They now have a new constellation of members, including two new voices whom you can read more about here, on our website.

I am very much looking forward to more collaborating, cooperating, inviting, interacting, allying, coordinating, partnering, joining forces and working together this fall!

Wishing you a wonderful summer full of books and reading!

Suzi Ersahin
Director for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award