Jacqueline Wilson, the celebrated British children's author, received the Special Award at the 2017 British Academy Children's Awards
James Jordan Photography
I’ve had brilliant writers... I owe so much to all the different teams that have worked so hard and taken the work seriously
If there is a prize for children’s books, then Dame Jacqueline Wilson has already won it. And somewhere between writing close to 100 books, her unerring commitment to promoting literacy in schools has garnered her an OBE followed by a damehood in 2008. It’s no understatement to say she has inspired successive generations to both read and write their own stories – and we haven’t even gotten to television yet.
Wilson’s The Story of Tracy Beaker, its spin-off The Dumping Ground, and current hit, Hetty Feather, have shaped British children’s television for more than 15 years. Adaptations of her books have been nominated for more than a dozen BAFTAs, securing four wins in total and a nomination for Wilson herself for her adaptation of twins story Double Act.
As Tracy Beaker hits the 15th anniversary of her debut on our TV screens, BAFTA has chosen to acknowledge Dame Jacqueline’s incredible contribution to children’s entertainment across all media with one of its highest accolades, the Special Award.
I like to feel that any child who feels a bit left out can see my characters on television and feel like they’re not alone
Wilson’s writing often addresses serious, even controversial subject matters, tackling the likes of mental illness, adoption and divorce and presenting it in a way that young people can understand, without feeling their being patronised.
“The most interesting kids are often the odd ones out,” she says. “Tracy was a very different sort of character. Very fierce, very feisty ... Very few of my characters have a happy, easy time or would be voted the most popular kid. I like to feel that any child who feels a bit left out can see my characters on television and feel like they’re not alone.”
And for anyone concerned that, at 71, Dame Jacqueline is even considering slowing down her prodigous pace, her reply is fast and firm. “I couldn’t bear not to write!” she says. "I just can’t imagine not being involved with my characters."
Words by Rich Matthews | Portrait by James Jordan