Sightings of Fitz and Will the Cambridge Cats and their shenanigans are increasing, and they, along with creator and Caius alumna Laura Robson Brown were delighted to be part of this year’s Alumni Festival on Sunday. As we wrestle with a global pandemic it is no ordinary year and the festival, like so much of our lives, is being held online with all the customary technological hazards. Where actually is the camera? Have I just screen-shared my grocery order? Perhaps nobody is tuned in anyway…
To occupy five minutes of the slightly daunting 45-minute slot of entertainment promised to their apparently invisible attendees, Laura and her business partner Katherine Mann (Trinity, 1990) found themselves engaged in a self-conscious video scuttle around Cambridge on a mission to find two imaginary cats. “We imagined Ant and Dec banter laced with a camera-confidante as we set out, armed with a smartphone,” Laura reflects. “I fear that ambition remains unfulfilled, but we had fun trying. For now I will continue with the day job.”
And that day job over recent years has involved creating a publishing partnership, Little Cam Books, home to Fitz and Will the Cambridge Cats, whose adventures around the city have become a series of children’s picture books. Laura and her fellow alumna and friend Katherine became business partners in 2014, united by the shared recognition of the dearth of Cambridge-related mementos for children that were not in the realms of a bling key-ring or crested t-shirt. Katherine decided a children’s picture book was the way forward, something creative to unite town and gown and which appealed to local residents, tourists, students and alumni alike. Laura explains, “With my background in children’s publishing and writing [Katherine] asked if I would write the stories; she would then sell them. We were hugely fortunate to discover the illustration work of Jia Han, a student on the Anglia Ruskin MA in Children’s illustration at the time. Her ability to portray the beauty and architectural detail of Cambridge buildings, whilst styling it with contemporary charm has been fundamental to the success of the series.”
Following a couple of abandoned themes, excellent feedback from their mentors and now four books published, Fitz and Will are going strong with over 15,000 copies sold, mostly through local booksellers.
“The support in Cambridge has been phenomenal, from the primary schools we visit to the Cambridge Literary Festival and the partnership with Cambridge University Press who commissioned a bespoke story for their Christmas communication with clients. We are continuing to work together with CUP to create a children’s guide to Cambridge which offers an exciting new direction for the feline duo,” Laura explains.
The cats are not the only ones to enjoy living here. Cambridge also became Laura’s home once again ten years ago - a perfect base for her young family to grow, as Laura says fondly, “Cycling to school past the cows on a dewy Coe Fen, the College skyline behind, always brings happiness and gratitude; and to have been able to re-engage with this wonderful city through two Cambridge cats has been a privilege.”
Fitz and Will the Cambridge Cats was featured as part of this year’s virtual Alumni Festival, which takes place online until 26 September.