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Russell Brand’s Pied Piper

A long time ago, when I had hope in my eyes, I was talking to a topless model at a trendy bar in Shoreditch. Just as we were debating the pros and cons of quantitate easing, her phone buzzed and she addressed it with complete immediacy, like it was a call from the president. "I have to go." She said. "Why?" I whined. "Russell Brand has just text me, I have to go." She showed me the text that read: COME ROUND DARLING, I HAVE SOMETHING WONDERFUL TO SHOW YOU - RUSSELL BRAND.

That story is 100% true, (apart from the quantitive easing part) and it's probably my closest brush with fame.

"Russell had a very clear vision for the book"
"Russell had a very clear vision for the book"

Including the time I had my photo taken with Pat Sharp. Now Russell and I have crossed paths again, albeit tenuously, as I happened to chance across his new book, a re-imagining of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

The book is insightful, with subtle references to modern day politics. At times it flirts with puerility, but always in a jovial sense and never forgets its audience. It's lyrical, spiritual, educational (for adults too) and the illustrations are fantastically woven into the narrative. Below is a quick Q&A with the book's illustrator, Chris Riddell

Hi Craig

"It's Chris."  

Sorry Chris, tell me how you got involved with this 

"I met Jamie Byng the publisher at Canongate at a party and he mentioned that he had an interesting project in mind. He sent me Russell's text and then I met Russell to talk about the project and we got on well together."

"My approach was vigorous and fresh"
"My approach was vigorous and fresh"

How long did it take to complete? 

"The book had to be done at an extraordinary pace in order to publish this year. I found the schedule quite exhilarating. From start to finish the artwork took a month!"  

How much free range or pardon the pun 'artistic license' were you given with the illustrations? 

"Russell had a very clear vision for the book which I found very helpful. He was never didactic or controlling but made some very perceptive comments which were spot on, especially about the Rats and the look of the Pied Piper character."  

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the business of illustrating books? 

"My advice to someone looking to get into illustrating books is to draw and write everyday and not to wait to be commissioned. Work on your own projects and post them online."  

What was the most challenging part of the process? 

"The tight deadline was the most challenging part of the process but it was also very creative, ensuring my approach was vigorous and fresh. I don't think I've ever done a book like this!"


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