Olly Pike is a British children’s author & illustrator and YouTuber.
He created Pop’n’Olly, an LGBT+ equality educational resource for children, parents, carers and teachers, which aims to familiarise children with different types of people, particularly those who are LGBT+, through books, stories and videos.
Their mission is to combat LGBT+ prejudice before it can begin to develop.
Olly. Hi. Let’s get the big stuff out the way: you have the face of an actual cherub on earth. Please drop your skincare routine immediately.
Lol – I have a very heterosexual skincare routine: soap, water, and whatever moisturiser I can find (usually my boyfriends). Which makes me think that our skin is probably just down to our DNA, so let’s not spend too much time stressing about it, it is what it is, love what you have.
Oh but wear sunscreen though! – protect yo’self.
Tell us about how you got started in your career and how Pop’n’Olly came about…
Well, my background is in theatre and entertainment. I’ve actually performed in some West End shows, UK Tours and way too many pantomimes. I guess cos I always looked kinda young I ended up doing a lot of children’s theatre and even some children’s television and I just fell in love with it.
Children’s entertainment seems to be so much more fantastical, and I love the way it can be a super powerful tool in helping children to understand the world and our place in it. Take fairy tales, for example, they are often the first-time children are introduced to the concept of good versus evil and how good always triumphs eventually.
So, my love of being part of children’s entertainment led me to create my own channel on YouTube, ‘Pop’n’Olly’, in 2012. To begin with, it was pretty ropey, but I was slowly learning all things I needed to about producing children’s content.
In the beginning, it was just light-hearted comedy sketches with my balloon sidekick ‘Pop’ (who’s still a big part of the brand), but in 2014 I did something a little different and that’s when things started to take off.
I decided to make a video for kids about different types of families, including those headed by same-sex parents. I wanted to do this because it was the type of content that I needed when I was younger, and because I’d experienced my own share of homophobia and thought maybe a video like this could help to educate others.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the video started to get noticed, I thought it would just be same-sex parents that would watch it but, actually, charities and schools were getting in touch saying how much they loved the post, and it was the perfect resources to teach about diversity!
I was super excited I’d made something that, not only was useful, but represented a big part of my identity – and schools were using it too! This really inspired me, if I could make one resource for primary-aged children, I could make more… so I did.
Cut to the present day and we have countless more LGBT+ videos with millions of views, 8 LGBT+ inclusive fiction and non-fiction books (of which we’ve sold over 20,000), tonnes of classroom resources to help teachers and we’ve even donated freely over 8,000 of our books to UK Primary schools.
Pop’n’Olly is now one of the UK’s leading providers of LGBT+ educational resources for primary schools.
Why are LGBTQ+ educational resources for children so important?
So many reasons. Children aren’t born prejudiced – we know this, there have been so many scientific studies to back this up. We need to teach ALL children as soon as we can about LGBT+ people and how they are just as much a valid part of our society as anyone else.
We need to do this because ultimately, it’s about saving lives. We know LGBT+ bullying is one of the most common forms in UK schools and we know that young LGBT+ people are far more likely to self-harm and attempt suicide.
Tell us more about the daily work Pop’n’Olly does. What is your proudest achievement?
I’m so proud of so many things: Donating so many LGBT+ books freely to UK primary schools, winning an Attitude Pride Award, and working out how to run a successful business…
But actually, what makes me most proud is the reaction from teachers and children, the inspiring messages and letters I get saying that our books and videos have helped someone to come out, helped them to feel good or simply to understand themselves a bit better.
Once a young trans boy came up to me and thanked me for writing ‘Jamie’ (our transgender Cinderella story) because they had never seen themselves in a book before – moments like this make me super proud.
You were – we’re guessing, simply because they didn’t exist like they do now – raised without an abundance of LGBT-inclusive materials available? It didn’t make you any less queer. How do you think it would have made a difference for you growing up, if you did have access to those books?
Books and videos like the ones I’m creating now would have been illegal to show in schools when I was a kid. I grew up in the UK under Margret Thatcher’s infamous Section 28, which forbid ‘the promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family set-up’.
But if I had had books and videos like mine, life would definitely have been a lot easier to navigate. I would have understood myself better, felt way less shame and maybe not have developed much of the anxiety that I still carry today.
It would have helped my friends and family much understand me, and perhaps I would have grown up in a society that was kinder to LGBT+ people. Because the one I grew up in wasn’t particularly and it made me feel wrong and broken, unable to be fixed.
LGBT+ Education for children – This is how @PopnOlly does it… 🌈
— Olly Pike (@ollypike) July 20, 2021
There have been incidents, both in the US and the U.K., of anti-LGBT figures trying to censor queer learning materials for young people, accusing them of being” not age-appropriate”, and even “grooming” children. Give us your thoughts on that.
I mean I don’t even want to entertain this. It’s disgusting that people are suggesting this.
I’ve been targeted online with this kind of thing. All I have to say is ‘What planet are you on!?’ – this is about helping children to understand more about diversity, it’s about creating kinder, more accepting future generations and, as I already mentioned, it’s about saving lives.
If you’re gonna teach about ‘Mummy and Daddy’ we need to be teaching about ‘Mummy and Mummy’, etc, too, because that is the beautiful world we now live in.
There’s a lot of online conversation about LGBTQ+ people at the minute, particularly when it comes to trans rights and inclusion. As an advocate for inclusivity, where do you stand with it all?
I will always stand with my transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings.
Yes, there are a lot of online conversations and actually, I’ve had to step away from them because they are not always helpful. It’s far better to spend my time actually meeting and talking with trans people as well as focusing on creating trans-inclusive content, rather than arguing with transphobes or ‘gender critics’ on Twitter.
I think the root problem of so many issues that the collective LGBT+ community faces are down to stereotypical gender role expectations.
Which queer voices (or allies) online do you respect? Who is currently being an important voice for LGBTQ+ people online?
There are a lot of incredible, powerful voices out there. I often look to and admire Munroe Bergdorf, Alok Vaid-Menon, Travis Alabanza, Peter Tatchell and Jameela Jamil.
What does Pride mean to you?
To me Pride is about remembering our history, fighting for our future and celebrating our now.
You’ve got the length of a tweet (280 characters) to get a message to all LGBTQ+ people online. What are you saying?
“Hello, you beautiful rainbow rebel. You were never broken, the world was. Your queerness is your superpower – power up.”
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