Interview with Emily Coxhead from The Happy Newspaper

Interview with Emily Coxhead from The Happy Newspaper

September 28, 2020

Emily Coxhead is a designer and illustrator who is passionate about making the world a happier place!

At just 22 years old, after realising the negative effect that the news was having on her mental health, Emily decided she wanted to create a platform to celebrate all that is good in the world - from major historical movements, to inspiring and wonderful individuals. Five years on, Emily continues her mission to ‘sprinkle a tiny bit of happiness all over the planet’ as The Happy News is read by over 20,000 subscribers in 33 different countries each quarter.

We were so excited to catch up with Emily and find out a little more about her, her work and The Happy Newspaper!

Interview: Matilda Barratt in conversation with Emily Coxhead.

Hi Emily! Thanks so much for chatting with us. Let’s start with a bit about you - what is your background? Have you always been creative?

I have always been creative, for as long as I can remember! I would always be drawing, painting, crafting and generally just always wanting to create. When we came to choosing options at high school, I knew I wanted to take two creative courses, graphic design and fine art which I did and got A* in both of them. I then went on to take A-Levels at college, studying Graphic Design, Digital Photography and English Language and finally graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2014 where I studied Graphic Design.

Could you tell us a bit about The Happy Newspaper? How and why did it first come about? 

I had just graduated from university and was struggling with my own mental health - the two things having a negative impact were the news and social media, and when I started looking for the good I realised how much of a positive effect it was having. I basically thought there should be an accessible platform that shares all the good stuff happening in the world. I had no money, quite a bit of time in between doing my other bits and so I set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds to make it happen. I only set the target at £500 which sounds ridiculous and loads of people said I couldn’t do anything with that, but I’d figured out the basics and I could. I ended up getting nearly triple that which helped but that only funded the first issue. I really didn’t realise the impact it was going to have and how many people were going to want more issues. We’re now working on issue 20!

([Left]: Photo cred: Emily Coxhead. [Right]: Photo cred: Girl Behind the Lens.)

What was it like setting up a one-woman business at the age of 22? What would be your advice for someone considering doing the same thing?

Exciting and challenging in equal measure! I still have meltdowns every now and then, but I think any business owner does. There isn’t a handbook which talks you through absolutely everything, a lot of it comes down to courage, being passionate about what you do or what you’ve created and a whole heap of really hard work. When you’re passionate enough about something, it has that same effect on people around you. My advice would be to keep going! Keep dreaming and know that if you want something enough you can make it happen.

What would you define as ‘good news’, and why do you think it’s important to provide a platform for it?

Good news can be anything that makes you feel good or inspired to do good! From stories of animals no longer being endangered to huge historical, positive movements in the world or celebrating your Nan – all of these can be defined as good news in my opinion. I think it’s so important that we hear about more of the good stuff, especially right now when all we’re used to hearing is what’s terrible with the world. I think we don’t often realise the impact the news has on us until we see or read only positive news. 

You have such a wonderful and distinct style. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process? How do you ensure that you keep your work original and aren't too swayed or influenced by other styles and individuals’ work?

It can be really difficult or confusing ‘finding your own style’ and I think if you overthink it too much it can send your mind into a bit of a whirlwind. It’s very important to be aware of other people’s work and what already exists in the world and of course be influenced by others - but try to take little snippets of influence from lots of different people and places rather than focusing on one or two people because otherwise you’ll end up being too heavily influenced and can risk copying someone else’s work. 

(Photo cred: Emily Coxhead)

Where do you find inspiration?

I am constantly influenced by everything and everyone around me from shop signs to the people I meet to the music I listen to, there isn’t one place or thing I get inspiration from. I think it’s important to be open to many different ways of being inspired by the world around you.

What do you do when you’re not drawing and creating?

Walking, cooking or sleeping mostly! I love being in the countryside and getting some much-needed fresh air (which can be easy to forget about when you’re constantly working from home!). 

These past few months have been filled with unprecedented challenges. Is it especially important to find some good, some hope and light during times of darkness?

Yes! Through difficult and scary times, The Happy Newspaper is something that people look to to provide a sense of comfort and positivity amongst the chaos. Of course, I/we never try to cover over the negatives or pretend that everything’s great when it’s clearly not, but I do think it’s so important to look for and share the good news, when things are tough especially. Now more than ever we all need to come together. Our strength and kindness will get us through, I’ve no doubt. 

How have these past few months of lockdown been for you, both on a personal level and in relation to your work?

For most of the lockdown my working day didn’t actually change very much. I realised that I live quite an isolated little life in my tiny office, which I did enjoy most of the time, but I’ve been making more of a point of giving myself time to process everything that’s going on and taking time to walk to my favourite places, eat food I love and try and create some happy memories through these weird, uncertain times. It has been hard at times as I am going through all of this like everybody else. I was supposed to be getting married in spring but that has been pushed back until next year and we were also delayed moving into our house that we’ve been renovating for over a year, so I’ve definitely been struggling at times. Being able to share some of the good stuff with others has been amazing and hearing how The Happy News and my book have made people feel more positive over the last few months has really helped.

(Photo cred: Widdop.)

What plans and hopes do you have for the future of Happy News?

We have just launched ‘The Happy News For Schools’ initiative where we’re giving 10,000 happy newspapers to 10,000 schools over the next few months and as of December we’re committing to giving a free newspaper to a school for every two newspapers we send to subscribers. So far that means we can send a pack of 10 copies to over 600 schools in the UK! The aim is to hopefully expand our subscribers so we can give more newspapers to more schools in the UK and then potentially branch out worldwide too. Any UK based teachers can sign their school up on the ‘Education’ tab of our website and anybody else who wants to subscribe can do so through our ‘Shop’ at www.thehappynewspaper.com.

Thank you Emily!

If you were inspired by this interview with Emily and would like to find out more about her and her work, click here.

To subscribe to The Happy Newspaper, click here!

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