Riot Communications secures The Blueprint status

Specialist culture and entertainment agency Riot Communications has become the latest agency to secure The Blueprint diversity mark.

The Blueprint diversity mark aims to promote racial diversity in PR and communications. Awarded agencies sign up to a series of commitments aimed at encouraging diversity from training to boardroom to staff culture to recruitment and retention.

Riot became the sixth agency to achieve the highest recognition for their diversity and inclusion work, gaining full Blueprint status after completing the 40-question application form. Riot’s submission was marked by an independent panel of judges: Henry Rowling (founder, Flying Cars innovation agency); Sasha Daly (advocacy and influencing consultant); and Nyree Connell (healthcare policy manager and Blueprint strategy advisor).

Founded in 2008, Riot Communications exists to create a better world through the promotion of culture and entertainment. The agency, with a 30% Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority (BME) workforce, has a longstanding reputation for creating inclusive work and promoting D&I in the cultural sector.

The agency’s Blueprint application revealed a deep and broad commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and a high level of diversity literacy. In the last year, the agency overhauled their recruitment policies and procedures to directly speak to a diverse audience; updated their diversity strategy; updated staff contracts and handbooks to strengthen the D&I focus and went through the Investors in People certification securing a ‘Gold’ standard with diversity cited as a key strength. Furthermore, staff at Riot Communications attended extensive training courses aimed at promoting inclusive work and an inclusive workforce, and senior management have played a crucial role in promoting diversity and inclusion across the industries they work including hosting a cross-sector roundtable for senior leaders on improving access to culture.

Led by co-founder Preena Gadher, Riot Communications is the first BME-owned agency to become Blueprinted and the only agency to be successful in the latest application round.

Elizabeth Bananuka, Founder, BME PR Pros; Founder/CEO Blueprinted, said: “Riot Communications’ Blueprint application was a sheer joy to read. One of the smallest agencies to ever apply for The Blueprint, their size belies the incredible work the team do to promote diversity, equality, and inclusion in their workplace, in PR, in culture and entertainment. Aside from the number of policies and procedures the agency has put in place and the creative solutions they have found to make a big impact with a tiny workforce and limited budgets, what impressed the judges more than anything was the level of diversity literacy. They set a gold standard. A group of people that completely understand the invisible systemic barriers and inequalities that can impact the careers of talented BME PR and comms pros, and they are committed to dismantling each one. It’s an honour to award Riot Communications The Blueprint diversity mark.”

Preena Gadher, Managing Director said: “I am beyond thrilled that Riot has been awarded Blueprint status. The process has been stringent (rightly) and the excellent framework that Elizabeth and her team have created for the accreditation has been an invaluable tool. I had a sense Riot was already thinking along the right lines when it came to D&I, knowing first-hand what it is like to not belong, but the process has really challenged us to be more robust and pushed us to be more innovative in our practises. Blueprint accreditation for us, means the continuation of an on-going journey to be ever better.”

The Blueprint diversity mark has four application rounds a year and applications are judged by an independent panel who have taken part in a Blueprint diversity workshop. The deadline for the next round of agency applications is midday on Thursday 3 March 2022. Applications can be requested via the website.

The diversity mark will open to in-house teams in 2022.

Costa Book Awards 2021 category winners announced

The Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop Costa Coffee today announces the Costa Book Awards 2021 winners in the First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book categories.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and uniquely recognises some of the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year. 2021 marks the 50th year of the Awards. Originally established in 1971, Costa Coffee has been running the UK’s most prestigious book prize since 2006.

The five winning authors – one of whose books will be named the 2021 Costa Book of the Year on Tuesday 1st February – are: 

  • Short story writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson, who wins the Costa First Novel Award for Open Water, a book that has been praised by fellow writers as ‘a love song to Black art and thought’ (Yaa Gyasi) and ‘a lyrical modern love story’ (David Nicholls), and which the judges said was ‘… like nothing else we’ve ever read’. 
  • Claire Fuller, a bestselling author whose writing career only started when she turned 40, who wins this year’s Costa Novel Award for her fourth book, Unsettled Ground: a novel of resilience and hope, of love and survival, that explores rural poverty in its portrait of twins living on the fringes of society. 
  • Writer and former newspaper arts editor John Preston whose books The Dig and A Very British Scandal have successfully been adapted for the screen – who takes the Costa Biography Award for his seventh book, Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell, also being adapted for television by Working Title. 
  • Poet and University Lecturer Hannah Lowe who wins the Costa Poetry Award with her third collection, The Kids: a book of sonnets drawing on a decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form during the 2000s, as well as her own experiences as a teenager and a mother, the judges said ‘made us want to punch the air with joy.’
  • Actor, playwright, screenwriter, director and charity founder Manjeet Mann who wins the Costa Children’s Book Award for her second book, The Crossing, a verse novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds inspired by hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis.

The authors, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 934 entries and their books are now eligible for the ultimate prize – the 2021 Costa Book of the Year.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: ‘Here are five fantastic books for readers to explore, recommend and share, ideally whilst enjoying a great cup of Costa coffee! We’re celebrating a milestone 50th anniversary year for the Costa Book Awards, and the range and breadth of this year’s category winners illustrates the Awards’ longstanding appeal, as the home of enjoyable reads to suit all tastes. Congratulations to all this year’s category Award-winning authors.’ 

The winner of the Costa Book of the Year will be selected by a panel of judges chaired by Reeta Chakrabarti, journalist and broadcaster, BBC News, and comprising category judges Jessie Burton, Rishi Dastidar, Xiaolu Guo, Smriti Halls and Andrew Wilson, and joined by writer and broadcaster, Damian Barr, tennis coach Judy Murray, broadcaster and Editor in Chief of Frank Magazine, Melanie Sykes and will be announced at an awards ceremony hosted by Penny Smith on Tuesday 1st February 2022. The winning author will receive £30,000.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 13 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book. The 2020 Costa Book of the Year was The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, now in its tenth year, is voted for by the public and will also be announced at February’s ceremony. Voting is open until 14th January, until which time the identity of the three shortlisted authors remains anonymous.