Building Inclusivity in Publishing

by Roisin Duffy

The Coin Street Conference Centre in London’s Southbank was buzzing with publishing professionals and those trying to gain access into the industry, including students on Tuesday, November 27 2018. The London Book Fair partnered with the Publishing Association to host their ‘Building Inclusivity in Publishing’ conference and invited a total of sixteen speakers to discuss the issue of accessibility and diversity in publishing and to share their ideas on how to make the industry more inclusive. 

The day started with a welcome from Director of the London Book Fair, Jacks Thomas, who introduced the speakers. Author, Kerry Hudson, spoke about ‘The Class Ceiling’ in publishing and about the difficulties people from working class backgrounds face while trying to find jobs as publishers and writers.

The Publishers Association Deputy CEO, Emma House, chaired a discussion on the issue of regional diversity and how, currently, the industry is very London-centric. Dr Alice Curry of Lantana Publishing spoke about how they are a platform for BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) authors and illustrators to be published in the UK and how they conduct business remotely with people from all over the world. Emma Wright of Emma Press (Birmingham), Chris Gribble of the National Centre for Writing (Norwich), and Sarah Cleave of Comma Press (Manchester), discussed the importance of spreading publishing work throughout the country to make it a more inclusive industry instead of leaving hopeful publishers with no other option than to relocate to London. 

Saskia Bewley, gave and insight into her role of Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Hachette. Her aim is to make Hachette a more inclusive workplace for all minorities and those who may feel undervalued or unable to fit in in the workplace. I believe all workplaces should have a role like Saskia’s to ensure equality for everyone at work. 

Priscilla Baffour from ITN (Independent Television News) gave a very impressive talk on diversity and inclusion in the media industry. She is head of ITN’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and her previous roles saw her travelling around the country to encourage and help young people to gain access to jobs in media who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise. 

Another panel discussion featured Louise Johns-Shepherd from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Heather Lacey, an Inclusive Minds ambassador, speaking about representation in children’s books. A shocking statistic from the Reflecting Realities survey was uncovered – that in 2017, less than 1% of children’s books published in the UK featured a BAME protagonist or a protagonist with a disability. David Stevens, co-founder of Knights Of children’s publisher, told the audience how they offer paid work shadowing for all of their positions to allow people wanting to work in the industry to gain that all important work experience, but in a more accessible way. 

Pages of Hackney bookshop manager, Jo Heygate, spoke about how important it is for a community to be able to see themselves represented in books available in their local bookstores.

To finish up the evening, Mariayah Kaderbhai and Kam Kondola Flynn from BAFTA (British Academy and Television Arts) told the audience about their initiative to support female directors in a male-dominated industry.

From a student’s perspective, the conference was a valuable insight into the industry. It gave me information about work experience opportunities, and encouraged me to always ensure my future workplaces are inclusive. It also has made me more aware about representation in books, which is knowledge I will take with me into my career.

About the author of this article

Roisin Duffy is an MA Publshing Media student

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 29 Nov 2018 around 6pm

Last edited: 29 11 2018