How celebrity stars from Dame Helen Mirren to Sir Quentin Blake came to back Yorkshire Brownies' bookmark project

Under the Brownies’ promise is a pledge to do well by others, in doing a good turn every day.

Pictured from the left are Olivia Frobisher, Mabel Tricklebank and Evie Harding with some of the bookmarks. Picture by Simon Hulme

Now, with a little backing from the likes of Sir Quentin Blake and Dame Helen Mirren, a group of girls in Yorkshire is helping to lead the way.

The 1st Burley Brownies, writing letters from their Scout Hut, are auctioning bookmarks designed by globally renowned artists, illustrators and authors.

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Among those backing the appeal are famous children’s author Jacqueline Wilson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, raising thousands for a school in Zimbabwe.

Celebrities and authors support the 1st Burley Brownies Bookmark Project. Image by Simon Hulme.

The initiative, which began five years ago in the Burley-in-Wharfedale Scout Hut, is changing the world for a group of children in Africa, and perceptions for those closer to home.

“It’s about looking out for other people and doing things to help,” said primary school teacher Sharon Hattersley who is Brownie leader.

“It’s a way of combining a love of books and a love of art with making a difference. And showing the girls they can have an impact on the world.

“Letting them know that is doesn’t matter how small you are, you can do big things if you set your mind to it.”

Claudia Lewis and Julia Sheriff from the 1st Burley Brownies group at Burley in Wharfedale with some of the bookmarks. Picture by Simon Hulme

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The 1st Burley Brownies, based near Ilkley with 24 girls aged between seven and 10 years old, has been linked with the Katiyo Primary School in Zimbabwe for the past 20 years.

What began with a book collection for children has since grown into a strong bond, with the Brownies having fundraised for classrooms, electricity, and facilities for the school.

Five years ago Miss Hattersley, watching a celebrity art auction, hit upon the idea for personal bookmarks and, with two Brownies and their mums, had started writing letters.

Waiting with fingers crossed for a reply, they had been stunned to find 60 responses, with an auction later raising £900. This year there are 350 bookmarks, featuring work from Cressida Cowell, MG Leonard; illustrators Jackie Morris and Chris Riddell; comedian Jo Brand; musician Brian May; actors Dame Helen Mirren, Anita Dobson and Debbie Chazen.

Miss Hattersley’s personal favourite is an illustration from Axel Scheffler, featuring a red rocket and the Smeds and the Smoods characters from a book he did with Julia Donaldson.

Some have animal designs, or a quote, and others simply a signature.

Celebrity backing

One arrived this week from author Sophie Kinsella, with a little note and a signed book for the Brownie that got in touch.

Miss Hattersley, dancing around the room when a bookmark arrived last year from Sir Quentin Blake, said she had been overjoyed when he sent one again this year for auction.

There was another surprise when one of the girls, writing to Blue Peter after hearing of the Brownie leader’s attempts, secured a further bookmark.

“She’s learned that sometimes just asking does get you there,” smiled Miss Hattersley. “It’s about seeing a problem and doing something about it. That’s important, knowing they can make a difference.”

The Bookmark Project auction, which opened on May 10 and runs until May 24, has already reached pledges of more than £7,000.

Several of the girls earned their charities badges in the autumn raising more than £3,000 through a sponsored swim and run, home baking delivery services, and crafts sales, bringing the total raised in the project to over £20,000.

This year’s ambition is to help fund a nursery classroom for children who normally have to have lessons outdoors or in a nearby church, and potentially school textbooks.

Bids can be made at www.jumblebee.co.uk. __________________________________________________________________________

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