Hello! My name is Rachel Riley and I am the author and illustrator of Exploring Cambridge. I live just outside Cambridge with my husband and seven year old daughter. We love going on family adventures (days out), exploring new places (being nosy) and having picnics (eating yummy food).
I grew up in Portishead which is a small town near Bristol on the muddy River Severn. Nobody had even heard of Portishead until a famous band sprung up there. Can you guess the name of the band? Yes, that’s right, they called themselves Portishead! My Dad was a coxswain on a surveying boat and my Mum kept herself busy looking after me, my brother and sister and our black and white tabby cat, Muffy. The best thing that ever happened to me, my brother and sister, was having a ride on our Dad’s boat at Bristol Water Carnival. We’ve always remembered it. We felt very special that day!
At school I was as keen as a bean and especially loved art and design. Here is a collage I did that made it into the school calendar.
I eventually studied 3D Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and graduated with First Class Honours. I made some weird and wonderful creations like this coat-stand inspired by a cow. What do you think?
In University holidays I worked at Kodak developing photographs – it was before the days of digital photography, when people had to go to the bother of taking their films into a chemist. I saw a lot of blurred photographs and pictures of people’s thumbs because that’s what happens when you can’t see your photos before you print them. Whilst at Kodak I was asked to paint a large mural in the staff canteen which was full of brightly coloured illustrations of Bristol. I was very proud of it, but sadly no photographs remain, only this drawing. Ironic, eh?
It was around this time on a trip to Cambridge to visit my sister (who lived in Cherry Hinton), that I met my future husband. I first clapped eyes on him at the pick n’ mix at the Grafton Centre cinema. That’s how I ended up moving here. I now work locally as an interior designer, designing lovely spaces for the people of Cambridge to work, study, live and stay in.
The idea for Exploring Cambridge pinged into my mind when reading my daughter a book about yellow taxis in New York and the places people go in them. I began to think of the different vehicles people use to tour Cambridge and how fascinating and extraordinary our city is. I began to draw some sketches and tried drawing some characters. I booked myself onto a course in children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art which equipped and inspired me to transform my ideas into a story. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, I won’t lie to you. It isn’t. It’s taken nearly four years to mould my words and pictures into something I’m happy to let loose on the outside world. But it’s all completely, totally and utterly worth it.
I hope you enjoy journeying along with Harry to discover more about our unique, quirky, crazy and incredible city!