Children and researchers create eco-comic


Penguins wearing reflective hats and cars that run on tomato ketchup are among the highlights of a new graphic novel published by the University of Leeds' Centre in Low Carbon Technologies.

More than 370 schoolchildren from Yorkshire, 40 Engineering PhD researchers at the University and 20 artists contributed to the 96-page cartoon book, titled Dreams of a low carbon future.

The project was led by Professor Paul Williams, Director of the Doctoral Training Centre in Low Carbon Technologies, and supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering as part of its Ingenious scheme, which aims to foster creative public engagement with engineering.

James McKay, who works in the Centre in Low Carbon Technologies and managed the project, said: “The aim of the project was to work with young people in schools and other groups and to think about how current environmental issues and the challenges they pose might affect the future of the Earth and its inhabitants.”

Phaedra and the floating city


McKay is also a comic artist, with art published in magazines including 2000AD, and contributed his own work to the project. Six professional artists took part.

Dreams of a low carbon future mixes the young people’s original ideas and art with work by professionals. In parts of the book, characters invented by the children are taken up by the professionals in their strips and in other sections the children’s own drawings are featured. The result is a highly polished and engaging comic narrative expressing the ideas of young people about the world of the future.

“Scientists in universities like ours are constantly trying to understand the future, working out what that might be, and how we can change it, but this is an attempt to visualise that future through the eyes of younger people. It is made up of stories that stand alone, but they also fit together to build a bigger story,” McKay said.

As well as producing a gripping book, the project has resulted in a comprehensive set of activities to encourage young people to think about the environment, sustainability and alternative ways of living on the planet.

Five thousand copies have been printed, and will be distributed for free at the London Cartoon Museum, specialist cartoon shops in Leeds and London, and at the 2014 Leeds Festival of Science.

The King James School in Knaresborough, Mirfield Grammar School, Wakefield City Academy, The Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School in Towcester, and schools in Skipton, Barnsley and east Leeds took part in the project. Girl Guides in the north of Leeds also contributed and activities were held at Leeds City Museum.

Photograph: James McKay (centre front) with Professor Williams (suit and tie) and the Leeds PhD students who worked on the project.

Further information

Contact: Chris Bunting, Senior Press Officer, University of Leeds; phone: +44 113 343 2049 or email