The life of Raymond Briggs from Sussex who died aged 88

TRIBUTES have flooded for author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, who has died aged 88.

In a statement from his publisher, Penguin Random House, his family said he died Tuesday morning of pneumonia.

The award-winning author, who has lived in Sussex since 1961, is best known for his graphic novel The Snowman.

In the story, a boy creates a snowman who comes to life as the pair fly over the South Downs, Palace Pier and the Royal Pavilion.

The 1978 book was adapted into an animated film four years later and an annual celebratory program on Channel 4.

The Argus: Raymond Briggs with his classic character The SnowmanRaymond Briggs with his classic character The Snowman

In the film’s original introduction, the author walked through a field and described his inspiration for the story.

He said: “I remember that winter because it brought the heaviest snow I’ve ever seen. Snow had fallen all night and in the morning I woke up to a room full of light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dreamlike stillness.

“It was a magical day and that day I shot The Snowman.”

“His books have touched millions”

Aled Jones, who sang a cover of Walking In The Air featured on The Snowman, said he owed Raymond a “gratitude debt”.

The Welsh singer said on his Classic FM radio show: “His books have touched millions of people around the world and what a debt of gratitude I owe to his greatest creation of all.”

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said the author will “always hold a special place” in the channel’s history, as four decades have passed since the animated version of his novel was first broadcast.

She said: “Briggs was a storyteller, uniquely able to combine wonder and sadness, innocence and wisdom, something that made his voice uniquely British.”

A sequel, The Snowman And The Snowdog, was released in 2012, featuring 40 large figurines of the snow dogs, which were scattered across Brighton and Hove in an art project four years later.

Despite the original film’s Christmas setting, Raymond told The Argus back in 2010 that he hated the holidays.

“I don’t like the season and I make it my mission to bitch about it,” he said.

Fighters for nuclear disarmament

Raymond was also a nuclear disarmament activist, with his novel When The Wind Blows following retired couple Jim and Hilda Bloggs as they faced a Soviet Union nuclear attack on Britain.

A scene in the 1982 story shows a road sign giving directions to the village of Clayton, Brighton, and Westmeston, the village where he lived.

His novel, inspired by a Panorama documentary about nuclear war contingency planning, was praised in the House of Commons for its originality and timeliness.

Raymond later wrote a pamphlet for the campaign group Professions For Peace about what would happen to towns and cities in the event of nuclear war, entitled Sussex after the bomb.

It detailed how the control headquarters for East Sussex was to be housed in a nuclear bunker beneath County Hall in Lewes.

He wrote: “Everyone in the building itself would be blown through the windows in a nuclear attack on Newhaven.”

Along with other authors and publishers, he also delivered a petition to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher calling for disarmament.

The Argus: A Suggested Reading List presented by authors and publishers who gathered outside No 10 Downing Street to support the book drive for nuclear disarmament given to Margaret Thatcher to mark the start of National Peace Book Week in 1985A recommended reading list presented by authors and publishers who had gathered outside No 10 Downing Street to support the nuclear disarmament book drive given to Margaret Thatcher to mark the start of National Peace Book Week 1985

When The Wind Blows was later made into an animated film as well, with rock star David Bowie performing the theme song. Bowie would also appear in an alternate introduction to the film version of The Snowman.

Disarmament group Trident Plowshares said: “His beautifully illustrated story of a nuclear attack brought home to many the reality of nuclear war. Time for younger generations to read and then act.”

“Wise, empathetic and encouraging tutor”

In addition to his work as an author, Raymond taught illustration at the Brighton School of Art, now part of the University of Brighton, from 1961 to 1986. One of his students was Chris Riddell, who later became a prolific illustrator and political cartoonist for the Observer.

Speaking to charity BookTrust in 2017, Chris said: “Raymond was inspirational. As a tutor he was wise, perceptive and encouraging, but his great gift was to inspire.

“Through his life and work, he showed a generation of students that we can make a career in illustration and be true to ourselves.

“I will always be grateful and proud to have been taught by him.”

The Argus: Brighton-based author Chris Riddell said he wasBrighton-based author Chris Riddell said he was “always grateful” to have been tutored by Raymond Briggs

A University of Brighton spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of legendary writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs.

“Born as Brighton natives and taught illustration at the School of Art in the 1960s, we have a long-standing connection.

“May his incredible works continue to bring inspiration, magic and joy.”

“He will live on in his books”

He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from BookTrust in 2017 and was a judge in a 2019 drawing competition for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice in Sussex, of which he was a patron.

In the competition, more than 100 youngsters drew or painted a picture of a snowman inspired by Raymond’s famous character.

A spokesman for Chestnut Tree House said they were “sad” at the news of his death and would miss him dearly.

He said: “Raymond has been a friend and patron for many years and we will always be grateful for his kindness and support.”

A BookTrust spokeswoman echoed this, saying, “He will live on in his stunning, iconic books.” The life of Raymond Briggs from Sussex who died aged 88

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