He started off in children’s theatre, created a hugely successful Youtube series, become an LGBT+ activist and has now just launched his 6th LGBT+ children’s book which he intends to have placed in every primary school in the UK.
Seems a big ask for a young gay Londoner, but Olly Pike is so motivated about equality education and hugely invested in his work that the goal to be achieved by September 2020 looks completely attainable.
In a frank interview with Gay Nation, Olly explored his reasoning for heading along this path and how today he is now seen as an educational expert and spending just as much time writing and illustrating his books as he is meeting with politicians and speaking at parliament.
“Growing up was always a bit awkward for me because, well, it’s awkward for any LGBT+ person because you know you’re different but you just don’t know why and its a bit of a lonely place to be,” Olly explained to Gay Nation.
“Also, my family was quite religious which made things a little more difficult, my mum and dad are super great now, at the time it was just not easy.
“My mum was a teacher and she always taught childcare so she was forever bringing educational stuff into the house and when she was training as a teacher, it was the 90’s so they were being big into equality and people of different races and always had these different books about diversity and different dolls and different skin colours.
“I was always aware of equality education. But then my passion was always storytelling and entertaining and I’ve always just thought its a different form of education in a way.”
The road to LGBT+ education for Olly though came about almost by accident when preparing a showreel for an audition.
“My background is in children’s theatre and television and I’ve always loved creating content for children, telling stories and creating things.
“One day I had to make a showreel for an audition and I ended up making a pretend kids show on youtube. I didn’t get the job that I applied for but people liked my video that I made and that was back in 2012.
“I ended up making more and more videos.”
It was those videos he made with his blue balloon co-star Pop that catapulted Olly to Youtube stardom, and most likely where you first came across him back earlier this decade.
Using Pop as a prop in the videos, Olly was able to explain things to his child viewers at a level that suited his co-star (About age 5) but also could tackle more serious lgbt+ issues.
“It was nice just having something else to bounce off and having a conversation and also helps because pop doesn’t know too much about things so I was explaining things to him and then I’m explaining things to my audience who might be of a similar sort of age.
“I didn’t really start taking it seriously until 2014 when I made a particular video about different types of families and that was my first video Id ever made about anything diverse and it got picked up by the broader LGBT news sites and went a little bit viral.
“That led me along the path to being an LGBT+ activist which I never thought I would be and then because I’ve always loved drawing I turned to some of my animations
“Wouldnt it be a good idea if these videos I had made were available as a book. I didn’t even intend to be an author that kind of just happened and now I’m an author and got six books.”
Olly forged ahead with writing and illustrating the children’s books with the first being ‘Prince Henry’ which was a gay fairytale romance for young readers, where ‘class’ is the discriminating factor rather than sexuality.
The story delivered a positive message of both love and equality.
In 2015 schools across the country started using the books and videos, surprising Olly who thought they wouldn’t be approved for schools, setting off a chain reaction that has led him to book number six, ‘Kenny lives with Erica and Martina’, which he wrote, illustrated, published and launched all within eight months.
“I started the process in January, I wrote it in February and March and then I drew all the pictures from April and launched it last week.
“One of my other books was published by a publishing house here in the UK but I decided to make Pop’n’Olly a registered publishing company and so I now do all of it.”
“This next book is based on a book that came out here in the ’80s called ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’ and that was originally a dutch book about a girl that lived with her two dads and it got brought over here to the UK in 1983.
“It was a very innocent black n white children’s book but it got vilified as homosexual propaganda, got condemned and it actually led to really anti LGBT+ laws here called section 28.
“That original book never got to live the life it should’ve. My book is inspired by the story but more inspired by what happened to the story.”
Doing it for the kids
You can tell by speaking to Olly that he is passionate about educating our youth and in turn creating a better society for everyone, but he feels there aren’t enough people out there taking up the cause.
“If I’m honest, I don’t know if people care enough about kids and what kids learn.
“Well a certain group of people in the UK do because they have actually been protesting against LGBT+ education which has actually been really positive for me because it’s meant lots more people have been aware of the situation and I’ve been able to educate them about what my books include and involve.
“I don’t know why people kind of disregard kids because they’re at such a formative age and this is the age when we need to teach them everything so they can be good people.”
Even as an LGBT+ activist, Olly still feels the environment in the UK limits a gender diverse person’s ability to be truly themselves, which is what his books are trying to change.
“I’m still not completely comfortable holding another guys hand.
“You do it and you just constantly check yourself. Even just on my own I constantly check on how much of a gay vibe I’m giving off and I do it as a safety precaution because we recently had two lesbian girls beaten up on a bus really badly.
“Even in one of the most accepting and diverse cities in the world, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder just in case.”
Buy a book for a school
As he launched book number six, Olly is also pushing ahead with his campaign to have a copy of his book on a shelf in every one of the 20,000 primary schools in the UK. No mean feat considering he needs to raise about $350,000 AUD to achieve it.
“I would like to be able to donate them to a school, one copy for every school and I want to achieve it by September 2020 because that’s when relationship and sex education becomes mandatory in all UK Primary schools.”
So far Olly has sold close to 8,000 books but he needs people to help him get his most recent book into schools to achieve his goal.
It’s very easy to help, for only $18 AUD you can have one book printed and sent to a school in the UK, and you can also buy them for your school here in Australia and New Zealand.
Just visit popnolly.com/kennylives for all the details on supporting Olly’s campaign and also becoming a monthly subscriber.
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MY MISSION: To get a copy of #KennyLivesWithEricaAndMartina (My latest LGBT+ inclusive picture book) in EVERY UK Primary School – Last night was so overwhelming – I can’t cope with all the love and support that was shown not just to me, but to my work. Thank you! – If you’d like to get a copy (or donate one) visit popnolly.com/kennylives #lgbt #lgbteducation #loveislove #queerbooks #popnolly #kennylives @popnollyuk photo: @tomdingleyphoto