Homage to Heritage

Over the past couple of years, we have shared stories in collaboration with The Windrush Generation Legacy Association (WGLA), a charitable organisation headed up by our very own Deborah Klass. The WGLA puts on exhibitions, seminars, and events at its home at the Whitgift Centre in Croydon, London, to celebrate the contributions of over three Caribbean generations to British society. To mark Windrush Day 2021, we shared a Q&A between  Deborah and her mother, Joan Andall – a retired NHS nurse – detailing her experience of emigrating to the UK from Grenada in this piece. This year we also shared the story of married couple Daphney and John Bertrand and their arrival in the UK from Grenada, told by their son Julian here.

Earlier this month, we did some pro-bono copywriting for WGLA for an exhibition by the artist Zoe Sinclair, Homage to Heritage, to accompany her striking portraits of Black icons. As we come to the end of Black History Month, we’d like to share three of the portraits of icons from recent British history – including Baroness Amos, Claudia Jones and Sir Trevor McDonald – along with the biographies we produced for the exhibition. With thanks to the WGLA for giving us the permission to do so.

Zoe Sinclair was born and bred in South London, in her own words ‘a melting pot of diversity and culture’. Of mixed heritage – her father Jamaican and her mother Polish – Zoe was brought up with both cultures; enjoying the differences each parent’s cultures had to offer and the influences on her lived experiences. She cites the lack of relatable portrait artwork as part of her enthusiasm and motivation for creating these portraits. About Homage to Heritage, she says:

“I think it’s very important to have positive role models around to inspire, motivate and exemplify values and behaviour worthy of imitation. I created these limited edition prints featuring iconic heroes and heroines to celebrate them, the marks they’ve made on the world, and to inspire others to be bold in the pursuit of their dreams.

“The stunning African fabrics provide beautiful colour and pattern and pay homage to the heritage of these inspirational people. Each iconic muse has a circle crowning their head representing wholeness, totality, original perfection, the self, the infinite, eternity, God.”

Homage to Heritage is open until 16th December. You can also discover more about Zoe Sinclair’s work here.


Baroness Amos

Baroness Amos of Brondesbury (born 13 March 1954) was appointed a Labour life peer in 1997, making her the first black woman to serve as a Minister in the British cabinet and in the House of Lords. She has consistently sustained interest in, and a commitment to, development issues, equality and human rights.

The Baroness was an adviser to the Mandela Government on leadership and change management issues. Furthermore, she was Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission between 1989 and 1994. She has also held high office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2001 and 2003 and held the office of Secretary of State for International Development in 2003. After a further period in the Lords as a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office, she became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council between 2003 and 2007.

Baroness Amos served as UK High Commissioner to Australia before joining the UN in 2010 as Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Her work in the voluntary and charity sector and in other non-governmental organisations has gone hand in hand with her policy and political work. She has served as a Trustee for Voluntary Service Overseas, the Windsor Leadership Trust, Project Hope, and the Institute for Public Policy Research. She has also served as Deputy Chair of the Runnymede Trust.

Baroness Amos was awarded an Honorary Professorship at Thames Valley University in 1995 in recognition of her work on equality and social justice. On 1 July 2010, she received an honorary doctorate (Hon DUniv) from the University of Stirling in recognition of her “outstanding service to our society and her role as a model of leadership and success for women today.” She has also been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (Hon LLD) from the University of Warwick in 2000 and the University of Leicester in 2006.


Claudia Jones

Claudia Jones, born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch (21 February 1915 – 24 December 1964), was a feminist, political activist, visionary, and journalist. She founded Britain’s first major black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette, in 1958. Jones also played a central role in founding the Notting Hill Carnival.

As a young girl, she migrated from Trinidad and Tobago with her family to the US where she took the name Claudia Jones as a form of “self-protective disinformation”. Growing up she became a Communist political activist which later on led to her being deported from the US in 1955 following the political persecution of Communists in the US. From there she came to live in the UK where she was an active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain for the rest of her life, specifically fighting racism within the organisation.

Jones was also involved in the British African-Caribbean community where she helped organise both access to basic facilities, as well as the early movement for equal rights. She campaigned against racism in housing, education and employment. In the early 1960s, Jones helped organise movements against the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill which would make it harder for people of colour to migrate to Britain. She also campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela.

Claudia Jones died at only 49 years of age due to a heart attack and tuberculosis. However, her political legacy still echoes today. The National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council holds a prestigious Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture every October, during Black History Month, to honour Jones and celebrate her contribution to Black-British journalism. Yvette Thomas among others founded The Claudia Jones Organisation in London in 1982 to support and empower women and families of African-Caribbean heritage. These initiatives are a few among many as Claudia Jones is considered an icon in anti-racism movements in the UK and across the globe.


Sir Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald (born 16 August 1939) is a retired radio reporter, news presenter, and sports journalist. He was born and educated in Trinidad where his career in media began, working as a radio reporter, news presenter and sports journalist. He was sent to London in 1962 to report on talks at Marlborough House which culminated in setting a date for Trinidad’s Independence.

In 1969 he came to London to work as a Producer in the BBC Overseas Regional Service. He went on to produce Current Affairs programmes for the BBC World Service and worked on a number of shows like The World Today which are still part of the BBC World Service schedule. He continued working as a reporter for ITN as a General Reporter in 1973. McDonald later became the anchor of News at Ten, The Evening News, and Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

He has won more awards than any other news broadcaster in the UK, including Newscaster of the Year in 1993, 1997, and 1999. In 1999, he was knighted for his services to journalism. McDonald is also the biographer of two books on cricketing heroes, Clive Lloyd (1985) and Vivian Richards (1987), and has published his autobiography Fortunate Circumstances (1993).

Since retiring as a newsreader in 2008, McDonald has made and presented a number of critically acclaimed documentaries, including Death Row 2018 (2018), a sequel to his award-winning documentary Inside Death Row (2013), and Martin Luther King by Trevor McDonald (2018). McDonald was the first journalist to interview Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1990. It was a moment of profound impact on the journalist’s career and in 2018, to mark the centenary of Mandela’s birth, McDonald made the documentary Trevor McDonald: Return to South Africa, in which he considered the continued struggle for social equality in post-apartheid South Africa.


Pictures in order of appearance: Baroness Amos, Claudia Jones, Sir Trevor McDonald – by Zoe Sinclair ©              

Riot delivers communications campaign for Flying Scotsman centenary

Flying Scotsman Michael Morpurgo

Riot Communications has won a competitive tender from the National Railway Museum, part of the Science Museum Group to deliver a communications campaign for the centenary of one of its star objects, the Flying Scotsman. The objective: to celebrate the importance of the world-famous locomotive in British history whilst also introducing it to new family audiences.

February 2023 will mark 100 years since the celebrity locomotive embarked on its first voyage from the sheds at Doncaster Works. It is named after the daily 10:00am London to Edinburgh rail service and has since become synonymous with the golden-age of rail travel alongside the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

Riot announces its partnership with the National Railway Museum following two months of intensive preparation for the launch of the centenary campaign at a media event at London King’s Cross station on 14th October. It was Flying Scotsman’s first public appearance following a major mechanical overhaul, which has been completed in recent days.

To drive national interest in the centenary, with a particular focus on engaging family audiences, Riot worked closely with the National Railway Museum (across its events, publishing, brand licensing and retail teams) and a range of stakeholders – including the Science Museum Group, Network Rail, Thames & Hudson, and funders including model railways manufacturer Hornby – to create a launch event that delivered engagement on multiple levels. This included a BBC One – Breakfast broadcast package filmed live from Platform 8 of the station, where Flying Scotsman sat in light steam over the course of the weekend (14-16th October), and a photocall for international picture desks featuring bestselling author Michael Morpurgo – who has written a new children’s book for the centenary – doing a special reading to six-year-old pupils from a local Camden primary school next to the iconic locomotive (pictured). Getty Images’ photograph was featured in the Guardian’s ‘Best photographs of the day‘.

Alongside Michael Morpurgo, whose book tells the story of a little girl who dreams of being a train driver, spokespeople for the occasion included: the National Railway Museum’s Dr Sophie Vohra, a rail anniversary expert; Grand Central Trainee Train Driver Stacey Fox, who operates out of King’s Cross Station, and Molly and Polly Jackson, granddaughters of Wilston Samuel Jackson, Flying Scotsman’s first black train driver.

Ahead of the centenary itself in February 2023, families nationwide are invited to discover the magic of Flying Scotsman through Michael Morpurgo’s Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever and by exploring the calendar of centenary events which went live on Friday 14th October and include the chance to travel behind Flying Scotsman at several locations across the country between October 2022 and November 2023. Further details about the centenary tour can be found in this brilliant Guardian travel feature

Alistair Otto, Commercial Operations Director, Science Museum Group, said:

“Flying Scotsman is one of the jewels in the crown of our world-class collection, so we are delighted to have this unique opportunity to celebrate this significant milestone with the nation. The centenary calendar gives us some unique opportunities to engage with a wide range of audiences and reach those who may not ordinarily engage with this iconic locomotive. Working with Riot has been a fantastic experience for all our teams and we know with their expertise and support it will be another memorable year for Flying Scotsman.”

Katy MacMillan-Scott, Director, Riot Communications, said:

“We jumped at the opportunity to put ourselves forward for this tender, knowing Flying Scotsman’s place in British cultural history and immediately seeing how Riot could bring this icon of engineering and design to a brand-new generation of parents and children. After all, who doesn’t love a steam train? After a two-month deep dive into the world of rail, we were more excited than ever to launch Scotsman’s centenary campaign last week at King’s Cross. Watch this space ahead of the 100th anniversary in February 2023, when Flying Scotsman will travel to Edinburgh Waverley.”

Picture: Author Michael Morpurgo and visiting schoolchildren from Argyle Primary School in Camden cover their ears as Flying Scotsman’s whistle blows © Jody Kingzett / Science Museum Group

The Estate of Francis Bacon x Riot

The Estate of Francis Bacon has hired Riot Communications to deliver PR and event support around the publication of a seminal book on British artist Richard Smith (1931-2016). Richard Smith: Artworks 1954-2013 is the third in the Studies in Art series, published by the Estate to shed light on those of Bacon’s contemporaries whose names have been lost despite their important contributions to contemporary art.

A hugely influential British painter, active between the 1950s and 2000s, Richard Smith earned acclaim relatively early in his life. His first retrospective went on show at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1966, when he was just 34. Some of his many achievements include being the first British artist to have a solo show at the Venice Biennale in 1970, and putting on arguably the very first solo Pop Art exhibition at the Green Gallery in New York in 1961 with his first solo exhibition.

Smith’s brilliance stemmed from his ability to take imagery from pop culture and merge it with abstract techniques. He tested the boundaries of painting, using everything from advertising and popular music to the natural world as inspiration for his art. Published on 27th October 2022, Richard Smith: Artworks 1954-2013 is the most comprehensive publication on the artist and his works to date. It includes essays from influential names from the art world, all of whom knew Smith personally or have an intimate knowledge of his work, including the curator David Alan Mellor, Chris Stephens (previous Head of Displays at Tate Britain, now Director of the Holburne Museum) and the artist Alex Massouras. Its publication coincides with exhibitions of Smith’s work taking place at The Edge in Bath (28 Sep-7 Dec) and at Flowers Gallery in London (15 Nov – 7 Jan).

Caitlin Allen, Managing Director, Riot Communications, said: “The work of the Francis Bacon Estate is fascinating and far-ranging, and we are delighted to have them as a client. As soon as we’d read the first couple of pages of Richard Smith: Artworks 1954-2013, we realised what an important figure Smith was in the art world. We are very excited to be playing a part in bringing his ground-breaking work to the attention of new audiences.”

Ben Harrison, Deputy Administrator, The Estate of Francis Bacon, said: “I had seen Riot do a great job of promoting a book related to Francis Bacon, and first met them at its launch. We knew that we needed to invest in PR support for the latest in our Studies in Art series to revive interest in Richard Smith. Riot saw early layouts of the book and immediately understood why we were so excited to be publishing new material on Smith, along with the fullest illustration of his oeuvre to date. In addition to the PR campaign, Riot’s help with the exhibitions being organised in connection with the book is proving invaluable. Riot’s professionalism instils confidence, and they are simply nice people to work with.

Q&A with Riot’s new Campaign Executive, Hedvig Lindström

Last month, we welcomed Hedvig Lindström to Team Riot as Campaigns Executive. Hedvig previously worked in a digital marketing role, writing copy and expanding social media reach for a variety of clients, following her work in the Swedish Embassy’s Cultural Affairs team. She has a BA in Communication and Media Studies and an MA in Linguistics from Södertörn University in Stockholm. Hedvig brings a broad range of experience to Riot, with her marketing knowledge and her deep passion for culture, which we know will be an asset to the team. Want to get to know her a bit better? We’ve asked Hedvig to share some of her passions and what she is most looking forward to working at Riot.

What are you most excited about when it comes to joining Riot?

I’m excited to work on a variety of interesting projects that I feel genuinely invested in. I’m also looking forward to having the opportunity to use and explore my creativity more in my day-to-day work.

With no limitations in place, who would be your dream client?

That’s such a hard question – either an interesting contemporary London theatre like the Almeida or my favourite Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri. I loved working with the Swedish Embassy trying to help Swedish authors reach new audiences internationally as there are so many that don’t get read outside of Sweden. Jonas Hassen Khemiri has a very unique voice that explores identity and alienation with perfectly considered language that he uses to play with the framework of a novel in new and interesting ways. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve recommended his novel Everything I Don’t Remember, the translation into English is also excellent.

What was the first book that you fell in love with?

I would have to say the Nancy Drew books because I can remember just being completely caught up in them and reading for hours and hours as a child. As I got older, I remember reading everything on my parents’ bookshelves, and I think The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans was probably the first adult book I read as a young teenager, which was a very special feeling at that age. Unfortunately, I probably wouldn’t enjoy these titles as much as I to pick them up today.


What are some of your other passions?

Besides all things culture, I absolutely love knitting and food. One of my favourite things about London is that you can literally get any type of food you want on any day. There are also some really good knitting shops where I spend too much money and too little time. I’ve also always been interested in people and psychology. I wanted to be a therapist when I was younger but now I just indulge in easily digestible reads related to the subject.