Behind The Scenes: Brighton Festival 2024 Illustrator Steven Lenton

Meet the multi-award winning illustrator, known for children’s books including The Hundred And One Dalmatians adapted by Peter Bently and The Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam series by Tracey Corderoy. He’s also our Brighton Festival 2024 cover artist, and illustrator of Guest Director Frank Cottrell-Boyce's magical mystery for 7-11 year olds, The Wonder Brothers. Join Frank and Steven on 19 May at Brighton Girls to hear about the book and see live drawing from Steven!

We caught up with Steven ahead of his Festival appearance...

Hi, Steven, great to have you at Brighton Festival. 

This year is all about magic, hope, and wonder. Tell us about the inspiration behind the 2024 programme cover?

I’ve worked with Frank Cottrell-Boyce for years on his children’s books, I know him so well and had a good sense of where he was coming from with this year’s theme. I thought the fun, holiday feel of Brighton beach would be a good start and I always love walking past the carousel there with my dog Bob and boyfriend Ian – it always reminds me of childhood and laughter – so a natural fit with magic, hope and wonder!

[On the programme cover] I added daydreaming characters on the carousel, with their ‘dreamt, hopeful’ selves flying above. For example, the lady in the swimsuit is dreaming of being a magical mermaid, and the magician, who is a combination of Frank and myself, is dreaming of the lead character magician riding his hat-dwelling giant rabbit. I just wanted it to be super fun and stylish and hope that I have achieved this.

Why do you think Brighton is such an inspiring place for creativity?

I have lived in Brighton for nearly seven years now and am still discovering new areas to explore, people to meet and new forms of creativity at every turn. I think the thing I love about Brighton the most is its acceptance and the way it encourages everyone not only to be themselves but to be their best and most daring variant! 

Brighton also has amazing and unique shops, nightlife, theatre and installations, especially around festival time - I’m not surprised it is so popular with people of all ages and backgrounds.

How did you become an illustrator? What advice would you give to budding illustrators and artists?

I studied animation and life drawing at the University of Dundee and worked in the animation industry for years; I then branched out into children’s book illustration and writing around twelve years ago, collaborating with wonderful authors Frank, David Baddiel, Peter Bently, Tracey Corderoy, Rachel Morrisroe, Andy Day and more on lots of weird and wonderful picture books, fiction titles, festival events, school visits and industry awards.

I have been very lucky, but also worked really hard to try and stay relevant and in demand. My advice would be to keeeeeeeep drawing and focus on subjects that really inspire you and design things you LOVE, then and only then will you do your best work.

Tell us a bit more about The Wonder Brothers event – why should people come along?

Frank is the master of storytelling, especially at his wonderful live events, so expect a lot of that, plus some live drawing from myself, lots of giggles, inspirational anecdotes and best of all ACTUAL MAGIC!!!!


Book The Wonder Brothers now 

Love the Brighton Festival 2024 programme cover? Get your very own poster here, courtesy of King & McGaw.