6 JULY 2020
There is a widespread determination that a better society should emerge from the horrors of the first half of 2020. How is that determination expressed in the publishing industry? How can publishing reflect and embody the diversity of our society?
That was the topic for a lively session on Zoom on 1 July 2020, hosted jointly by the Stationers’ Company and Byte the Book, a membership organisation for authors and publishers. 90 people connected from around the world to join the event, which was jointly chaired by Justine Solomons, founder and CEO of Byte the Book, and Court Assistant and publishing Sector Champion, Oliver Gadsby. In the introductions, Oliver had the opportunity to introduce the Company to many for whom it was new, stressing the role it has played in the industry over six centuries, and ruefully mentioning that that Hall, previously shut for the plague in 1630, now had its doors closed again for the current pandemic.
The panel represented a wonderful range of experiences, opinions – and locations, with Bibi Bakare-Yusef connecting from Nigeria, and Katrina Gutierrez from the Philippines.
Covid-19 was much in the minds of the speakers, as they talked of how they and their businesses had coped over recent months.
But the dominant theme was the issues thrown up by the Black Lives Matter movement: all of the speakers were determined that the impetus for fair representation for black and minority ethnic communities should lead to lasting change in the publishing industry. David Shelley talked of the programmes used at Hachette, including their collaboration with Creative Access, to bring better representation into his large company. For Katrina Gutierrez, Lantana’s work to represent minorities in children’s books was central, whilst Bibi Bakare-Yusef talked of the vibrant list published by Cassava from its Nigerian base. Gift Ajimokun challenged the panel and the audience to think beyond token representation, and Isabelle Dupuy joined her in calling for profound change.
As ever, the Q&A was lively, with Stationers and Byte the Book members racing to get their questions in as the clock ticked towards the hour.
You can watch a video of the event by clicking the image below.