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People: Julie-Anne Graham on her special relationships

Fantasy dinner party

By Kerry McKittrick

The 38-year-old is a children’s author and illustrator. Originally from Belfast, she now lives in London and will be appearing at the Belfast Book Festival in June.

My best friends

Fleur Jackson is one of my oldest friends - we met at Methodist College when we attended all of the same classes. She still lives in Belfast and owns a restaurant on Botanic Avenue, as well as starting a food delivery service. I see Fleur every time I come back to Belfast and we keep in touch by phone all the time.

I met my other friend, Michelle Gallen, through a creative writers' group at the Crescent Arts Centre. She's living over in London now and we've collaborated on a few projects. It's lovely having a friend living over here and we have a lot in common.

My parents, Hilary and Wilson

My mum used to have a women's clothes shop on Botanic Avenue which she named after me. She's very cool and is always wearing the most up-to-date clothes. I originally studied fashion at Central St Martin's and had a label for a while called Curious Tales.

It was my mum who inspired me to follow that path as she taught me how to sew. I'm very inpsired by textiles and use a lot of them in my illustration work.

My dad is an accountant and sings in his spare time, so we're a creative family. I also have a younger brother Rob, who is currently living in Amsterdam. My younger sister Christina is still in Belfast. We're a close family and I come home a lot so we get the chance to hang out.

My parents have been incredibly supportive and they just want me to do something that makes me happy.

Person I go to for advice

It would probably be my friend Michelle. She's very smart and always looks at things from a broad viewpoint.

Fleur is great to go to as well - she always gives me a point of view that I hadn't thought of.

My mentor, Martin

I spent two years doing a Masters in children's book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art under Martin Salisbury. I'd read his books on illustration for children before I did the course. I thought he was amazing with a huge amount of knowledge and passion. It was an absolute privilege to be taught by him.

My celebrity crush

It has to be the actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Michelle and I are going to see him in Hamlet in London soon.

I loved him in Sherlock - there's something charismatic about him.

Fantasy dinner party

First of all, I would have Quentin Blake - he did the illustrations for all of Roald Dahl's books and I met him when he came to lecture in Cambridge, and he was wonderful.

For fashion, I would ask Vivienne Westwood for stories about the wonderful world of fashion.

Then, Eckhart Tolle who is a spiritual teacher and has a great sense of humour too.

Finally, I'd invite Tony Robbins, an inspirational speaker and a very charismatic man. I love how he changes people's lives.

  • For tickets and information about the Belfast Book Festival visit the website Julie-Anne will be at Easons, Belfast, on Friday, June 12 at 4pm. Admission is free

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