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Gruffalo artist Axel Scheffler on Brexit: 'I'm shocked'

Interview: Stefan Dege / eg
June 24, 2016

"Gruffalo" made him famous worldwide. Illustrator Axel Scheffler shares his reaction to the outcome of the Brexit referendum with DW.

Axel Scheffler, Copyright: Jörg Carstensen dpa/lnw
Image: picture alliance / dpa

DW: Did you enjoy your breakfast this morning after the referendum?

Axel Scheffler: No, I didn't enjoy it - I'm shocked. I didn't expect this to happen.

What shocks you in particular?

That the people made this decision and that politicians didn't manage to convince them of what's in their best interest. I can't believe it. I thought the Brits would keep their common sense. This is really a shock. In my circle of friends, we're all shocked.

You've been living in London for several years. How will the Brexit change your life and your work?

We'll have to wait and see. I can't predict the consequences. Everything needs to be renegotiated - whether EU citizens may stay in the country and all those matters. That puts me in a state of great uncertainty.

On the other hand, London will remain London. Germans and French people live in the US, so that could be the same for us here in the end. But I never actually wanted to live outside the EU. My work is centered here in Great Britain. I'm selling an incredible number of books here, so I'm contributing to the British economy. My career might have been different in Germany. I feel that I belong here and in the EU at the same time. Up to now, living and working here without any problems hasn't been an issue.

How can artists contribute to building bridges over the trenches that are now being dug?

No idea. I can continue to pursue my work. The books I have done with Julia Donaldson are all about solidarity and cooperation. We'll have to keep fighting for this. But I don't have many more options than to act through my work. So I'll keep doing my picture books and hope they can contribute to making us better people.

Axel Scheffler is a German-born illustrator and author of picture books. With his children's book "The Gruffalo" he became one of the most successful picture book illustrators worldwide.

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