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Mischievous and Cheeky Scallywags

Horrible Harriet is wicked, wild and wonderful and is parachuting to Sydney!

Drawing © Leigh Hobbs 2017

Australian author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs has been delighting children with his subversive humour for over two decades. Best known for his iconic books Old Tom, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Horrible Harriet, Leigh was named Australian Children’s Laureate 2016 – 2017.

In March, CDP Kids, the team behind the hit stage productions The 13, 26 and 52-Storey Treehouses, The Gruffallo and Mr Stink will bring Leigh’s works to life on stage at Riverside in Horrible Harriet.

Ahead of Horrible Harriet landing on our stage, we took some time out to chat to Leigh about his hilarious, wild and wicked characters, the inspiration for them and his thoughts on the importance of the art of writing and illustrating.

Meet the author of Horrible Harriet, Leigh Hobbs

Your characters, including Horrible Harriet, are notorious for being mischievous and cheeky scallywags. Do you see a bit of yourself in your characters?
I admit there’s something of me in all of my characters, though mercifully I don’t think I look like any of them. I mean, who wants to look like Mr Chicken! Fiona the Pig and I share the least traits. She is a bit of a goody two-shoes, while Old Tom and I are similar in a number of ways. Especially the ‘Leigh Hobbs when a seven-year old boy’. He was very Old Tom. Old Tom is the character who I understand the most.

Where did the inspiration for the wicked, wild and wonderful Horrible Harriet come from?
The inspiration for Horrible Harriet was my twenty-five year stint as a secondary school art teacher. Horrible Harriet is an amalgam of a number of girls who I taught, or tried to teach, while they seemed focussed in class not on my art lessons, but on driving Mr Hobbs crazy. I like creating strong female characters and Horrible Harriet is certainly that. She is sort of a heroine I think. I admire her gutsy-ness. It’s a pity though that like the monster girls in my art classes Harriet’s energy couldn’t be more productively focussed.

We absolutely loved seeing your hilarious character Old Tom spring to life from your books in the animated television series which played on ABC Kids. What is the most exciting about having your books adapted into different formats?
It’s exciting to have my characters adapted into other formats because I and others can see them in a new light. And more kids get the chance to see them. They are brought to life often in a way that hadn’t occurred to me. And how wonderful for them to have a life in books and out.

At school, drawing was the subject you excelled the most at. What do you think is the importance of people being able to experience and practice the arts from a young age?
I think it’s extremely important for kids to feel free to write or draw or to play a musical instrument at school. To just experience and enjoy those artistic pursuits without the pressure of assessment and ranking. I think there is far too much accent on assessment nowadays rather than letting children, in certain contexts and subjects create, draw, paint and write purely for the pleasure of it. Free from the fear of failure.

Leigh Hobbs in his studio. Photo by Sergio Fontana

Horrible Harriet truly is horrible. Your third book in the series, Horrible Harriet’s Inheritance, had us in absolute hysterics from the moment we opened the book, starting with a ‘word of warning’ written from you as Harriet’s personal assistant. This section also includes your headshot which Harriet has defaced. Do you find that Harriet frequently overtakes your daily life?
I’ve never actually thought of Horrible Harriet as ‘horrible’. She is in fact a freak. Different to everyone else and so the kids call her ‘Horrible Harriet’ and now she believes it. She isn’t a saint but really the things she does are merely attention seeking ploys. What she really wants is a friend. Fortunately Harriet hasn’t taken over my life, but I suspect that she would if she could. She is very bossy.

Horrible Harriet

A tale of identity, friendship and Mr Chicken!

Look out! Here comes Horrible Harriet. She’s wicked, wild and wonderful!

Horrible Harriet lives in the roof of her school and keeps teachers chained in the cellar to do her homework. Harriet and the other children don’t see eye to eye – but all Harriet really wants is a friend.

When Athol Egghead lands in his hot air balloon, Harriet finally meets someone who understands her. Then Mr Chicken arrives to disrupt the whole show! Fortunately Horrible Harriet knows how to handle him…or does she?

Join Harriet’s search for identity and friendship, with songs, laughs, mischievous fun – and not least Mr Chicken himself!

Suitable for ages 4+ and their adults

*Auslan Interpreted Performance on Friday 24 March at 12pm

Dates & Times:
Thursday 23 March at 11:30am & 1:30pm
Friday 24 March at 10am & 12pm*
Saturday 25 March at 11am


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