Posy Simmonds is the first Briton and the fourth woman to win the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, one of Europe’s highest prizes for graphic novels.
English cartoonist and writer Posy Simmonds has won the Grand Prix at France’s Angoulême International Comics festival, a first for a British artist at one of the most prestigious awards in comics and graphic novels.
Simmonds, 78, is known for her work at British newspaper The Guardian where she wrote and drew both the ‘Gemma Bovery’ and ‘Tamara Drewe’ serials, later published as graphic novels.
Simmonds career began as an illustrator for British newspapers in 1968. She has illustrated and run weekly comic strips for many of the most notable names in the UK news industry, including The Sun, The Times, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Magazine, and The Guardian.
She was named Cartoonist of the Year at the 1981 British Press Awards and has been nominated for an Academy Award for her animated short film Famous Fred. She was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2002 for her services to the newspaper.
Although she was born in England, Simmonds has connections with France. She studied at the Sorbonne aged 17 and her graphic novel ‘Gemma Bovery’ is a satire of Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’, except about an English expat in France.
“When I arrived in Paris at 17, I couldn’t speak French. I could write it but couldn’t speak it. I addressed a gendarme as ‘tu’ and used ‘vous’ for dogs,” Simmonds told The Guardian.
“But I picked it up quite quickly and of course I loved being in France. It was in the early 1960s, when things were still a bit sad in Britain, where the food wasn’t great, and suddenly being immersed in a place where you’d got real coffee and the food was terribly good, I had a wonderful time. So I think my connection to France dates from that. I had a total immersion, going to galleries and libraries and walking everywhere.”
‘Gemma Bovery’ has since been adapted into a film. Her follow-up graphic novel ‘Tamara Drewe’ is based in Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ and was also adapted into a film, both starring Gemma Arterton.
Simmonds’ most recent graphic novel, 2018’s ‘Cassandra Darke’ is based on Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Her devoted fanbase in France makes her an obvious choice for winner of the Angoulême International Comics Festival lifetime achievement award. With 30 titles to her name, and having previously served as the festival’s president in 2017, she is still the first Briton to ever take home the honour.
Simmonds is also just the fourth woman to win the Grand Prix in the 50 year history of the award. The first woman to win was Florence Cestac in 2000, followed by Rumiko Takahashi in 2019 and Julie Doucet in 2022.
“It’s such a surprise,” she told France24. “It’s unexpected, really. I was really surprised to be among the last three names and even more surprised to hear that I’d won.”
The Angoulême International Comics Festival has taken place in its southwestern namesake city in France since 1974. The second largest comics festival after Italy’s Lucca Comics & Games convention, it receives around 200,000 visitors each year.