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. 

Riot recruits Apprentice Administration Assistant

At Riot, our aim is to become a truly inclusive agency where the people we employ and the work we deliver draws on and reflects the full range of backgrounds and perspectives to be found in society. That is why we have been working with training provider and charity, City Gateway, to create an apprenticeship role for a young person living in the East End of London, where the Riot team is based. 

With the help of City Gateway, Riot has recruited an Apprentice Administration Assistant to start in January 2022. Alongside their role they will also be completing a Level 3 Business Administration Qualification. 

City Gateway is one of the charities being supported by the Evening Standard and The Independent’s Christmas appeal, Skill Up Set Up, that helps unemployed young people into work through sustainable jobs or apprenticeships, backed by London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Deborah Klass, Finance and Operations Manager at Riot Communications, said, “We very much look forward to welcoming our young apprentice in the New Year. The Skill Up Set Up campaign is hugely important in giving young people the opportunities and skills they need and we’re delighted to be a part of it. 

At Riot, we’re passionate about facilitating an agency culture where all aspire to, and achieve, their full potential on a level playing field, and to create an environment where everyone feels they belong.”

The story of how fungi have shaped our planet and lives wins biologist Merlin Sheldrake the 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Tonight, Monday 29th November 2021, Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures (Bodley Head) by biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake becomes the 34th winner of the annual Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment.

Chosen from a shortlist of six titles celebrating the depth, accessibility and joy of popular science writing, Entangled Life pulls back the curtain on the multifarious and surreal world of fungi − organisms with no brain yet they can solve complex problems and manipulate animal behaviour with remarkable precision. 

The existence of fungi predates human history by millions of years, and without them, plants would not have evolved onto land, an essential milestone without which humans would not exist. Fungi have given us bread, alcohol and vital medicines. Primitive communities worshipped mushrooms as others do gods, and their ability to digest plastic and crude oil could make them a potent weapon in the fight against climate change. Despite these critical contributions to life on earth, 90% of species remain undocumented. 

Sheldrake reveals the ubiquity of mycelium, or networks of fungal threads, creating symbiotic relationships with plants and linking them together in the so-called ‘Wood Wide Web’. He explores psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in magic mushrooms, resulting in the psychedelic qualities that have sparked curiosity in humans for thousands of years. Lichens, meanwhile, are the only living organism observed to survive in full space conditions.

Through these remarkable stories, Sheldrake sheds light on a neglected and surreal world, showing how fungi could be the key to understanding our planet, and perhaps even saving it.

Merlin Sheldrake received a Ph.D. in Tropical Ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was based at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. 

The panel of five judges praised Sheldrake for his scientific rigour, illuminating an important but little understood topic and the entertaining nature of his excellent writing. 

Chair of the 2021 judging panel, Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, comments: “Entangled Life is a fantastic account of the world of fungi, which to the uninitiated might seem unpromising as a topic, but which Merlin Sheldrake brings alive in the most vivid of ways.  We learn all kinds of interesting things about fungi, from how they helped plants colonise land (which means without them we wouldn’t be here) to how they form huge networks allowing trees to communicate (in the form of the ‘Wood Wide Web’), to stories of fungus-gathering enthusiasts, how fungi might help save the planet by digesting plastic, and even how they can manipulate our minds.  This is science writing at its very best, which yet again emphasises how the scientific method is so important in our effort to understand the world around us. Entangled Life is an important, scientifically rigorous and most of all entertaining read.”

Brian Cox OBE, FRS, The Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science, added: “At a time when science is front and centre of everyone’s lives, making it accessible and understandable through great writing is more important than ever. The best science writing invites people to explore the world around them and view it in a new way, and Entangled Life is a perfect example. Exploring Nature always delivers insights that are surprising and often resonate way beyond the initial research or subject matter, and Merlin’s wonderfully written book is a perfect example. From antibiotics to parasitic ‘zombie infections’, Entangled Life brings the reader face to face with the beauty and terror of Nature.” 

During a ceremony at the Royal Society, which was also streamed via the Royal Society’s YouTube Channel, Sheldrake received a cheque for £25,000 and the five shortlisted authors were each awarded £2,500.

Professor Luke O’Neill FRS was joined on the 2021 panel by television presenter Ortis Deley; mathematician and Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellow Dr Anastasia Kisil; author and creative writing lecturer Christy Lefteri; and journalist, writer, and film maker Clive Myrie.

For 33 years, the Prize has promoted the accessibility and joy of popular science writing. It has celebrated some truly game-changing reads: books that offer fresh insights on the things that affect the lives we lead and the decisions we make, from neurodiverse perspectives on everyday living (Explaining Humans by Dr Camilla Pang, 2020) to gender bias (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, 2019) and the harms humans are wreaking on the planet (Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince, 2015, and Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, 2008).

Drag Kings put on a spectacle to celebrate first ever archive donation drive from the community at Bishopsgate Institute

Drag Kings archive donations

On Friday 19th November 2021, Bishopsgate Institute – home to the UK’s largest queer archive – hosted a sold-out event to highlight and celebrate the contribution of drag kings to LGBTQ+ culture.

Dragging the Archive – run in partnership with Louche Magazine – included panels discussing the history of male impersonation dating back to Mary Frith in the 1580s, make-up tutorials and queer zine and badge making, as well as performances from London-based drag kings CYRO, Hardik Mistry and Orlando, and readings from host and Louche founder Georgeous Michael. The event also provided a safe space for queer people to examine and uplift their history and come together to celebrate butch and trans masc culture in the LGBTQ+ community.

Bishopsgate Institute has identified a lack of donated materials documenting the rich and diverse history of drag kings, which is at real risk of being lost. As part of the event, drag kings were encouraged to bring archive donations to help preserve the current history of the UK drag king scene. Drag king icon Frankie Sinatra donated their first ever hat and Pecs, the drag king troupe, donated collectable items from their shows, including a script, write-ups, flyers and tickets, and a pin badge that was exclusive to their Patreon followers.

Bishopsgate Institute is continuing to encourage and accept donations from drag kings to ensure this unique and valuable history is preserved for future generations. Donations of materials can be accepted at any time. Contact their Library team to arrange a donation, or book a slot to view their Special Collections and Archives

Stef Dickers, Special Collections & Archives Manager at Bishopsgate Institute, commented:

“Bishopsgate Institute has the most accessible and welcoming special collections and archives documenting LGBTQ+ History in the U.K. We value and celebrate any person or organisation who wishes to share their story with us. Drag King history is underrepresented in LGBTQ+ Archives, and we hope that by partnering with Louche magazine we can encourage more people to donate their memorabilia and personal items so we can record this valuable history for generations to come.”

Georgeous Michael, Founder of Louche Magazine, said: “It felt so powerful taking up space in the Bishopsgate Institute’s historic library and archive, with a vibrant queer event. The evening represented a really special opportunity to bring people together, to foster conversation and connection, and encourage critical thinking around the histories and archiving in relation to drag kings, an often-underrepresented group. I created Louche magazine because I wanted a platform to celebrate, document and archive the vibrancy of the drag scene today, from the grassroots, and this event felt like the perfect way to do this”.

King Frankie Sinatra said of their donation:

“It was an honour to be at the start of an archive that will mean the whole world never being able to forget that drag Kings are here in 2021 just as much as drag Queens.

I personally donated my character King Frankie Sinatra’s first trilby hat. I’m sure it will be of enormous interest in years to come.”

Pecs Drag Kings also commented:

“Drag Kings still have to push for the same level of validation and recognition that some other areas of the LGBTQ+ and drag community receive and archiving our history’s is a key step in that. If we don’t archive ourselves, our rich and important narratives can be lost. Pecs have been around for nearly a decade, we represent part of that history and so it felt important to ensure we donated to the archive. Thank you to the whole team for creating this event.”

Costa Book Awards 2021 shortlists announced

The Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop, Costa Coffee, today announces the shortlists for the 2021 Costa Book Awards.

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 published in the last year across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. 

2021 marks the 50th year of the Awards. Originally established in 1971, Costa Coffee took over the UK’s most prestigious book prize from Whitbread Plc in 2006.

This year’s Costa Book Awards attracted 934 entries, an increase of over 30% on 2020 and the highest number of entries received in one year to date. Judges on this year’s panels (three per category) included the authors, novelists and writers Jessie Burton, Andrew Wilson and Smriti Halls; novelist, memoirist and filmmaker, Xiaolu Guo; journalists including Sarah Shaffi; poets Rishi Dastidar and Ian Duhig; podcaster Manveen Rana, and booksellers from Waterstones, Blackwell’s, The Book Hive and The Little Ripon Bookshop.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Tuesday 4th January 2022. The overall winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 1st February 2022.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “We are delighted to celebrate these 20 brilliant books as we mark a milestone 50th anniversary year for both Costa Coffee and the Costa Book Awards. My thanks to the judges for putting together such outstanding lists – there’s so much here for readers to explore, enjoy, recommend and share – and my congratulations to all of this year’s shortlisted authors.”

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at February’s ceremony. The three shortlisted stories for the Costa Short Story Award, now in its tenth year, will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website,, on Wednesday 1st December 2021.

To be eligible for the 2021 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between Saturday 1st November 2020 and Sunday 31st October 2021 and their authors resident in the UK or Ireland for the previous three years.

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.


2021 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)

Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Phoenix)

The Stranding by Kate Sawyer (Coronet)

2021 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

The High House by Jessie Greengrass (Swift Press)

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking)

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking)

2021 Costa Biography Award shortlist

Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar (Sceptre)

The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War and Everest by Ed Caesar (Viking)

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)

Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi (Allen Lane)

2021 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

All the Names Given by Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)

Eat or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick (Carcanet Press)

The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe Books)

2021 Costa Children’s Award shortlist

Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall (Guppy Books)

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery (Walker Books)

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter (Scholastic UK)

Riot Director Adele Minchin on heritage brands – five tips for creating new audiences and staying relevant

For an established brand, staying relevant to the ever-shifting needs and expectations of the consumer is a major priority and has been a big focus of the work we have done with Moomin Characters over the past five years here in the UK. Moomin Characters exists to safeguard author and artist Tove Jansson’s body of work for generations to come. Today, Moomin is an international brand with global appeal and over 800 licensees creating products and events ranging from publishing to theme parks, apps to animations. In celebration of our continued partnership with Moomin Characters, we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned along the way about working with a heritage brand.

Identify your brand assets

What is it about your brand that makes it so special and has helped it endure thus far? In the case of Moomins it is the great storytelling, the unique and beautiful artwork and strong brand values. The success of the Moomin brand is due to the respect with which the source materials, Tove’s texts and artwork, have always been treated. Once you know what the strengths are, do all you can to bring all your brand activity back to these assets. In this way your heritage brand will remain true and consistent to its origins.

Maximise the potential that big moments present

Heritage brands often have a moment in the calendar / existing activity / partnerships in place. Scrutinise them and see if you can leverage them for further reach. We used a sell out exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London that recreated the magic of the Moomins in a brand new immersive experience:  Adventures in Moominland, to see how we could connect our various target audiences to what was already happening. Part of this activity included working with fashion brand Chinti and Parker to launch their new Moomin line with fashion influencers at the exhibition.

Have a clear overview of all your brand activity

Every year is a busy year for Moomin. In 2021 alone, we launched The Woman Who Fell in Love With an Island, an exhibition about Tove Jansson’s island home in the Finnish archipelago, at the Walthamstow Wetlands in collaboration with the William Morris Gallery. The release of the multi award-winning biopic, Tove took place in summer ‘21 and there were new product launches including the Cath Kidston X Moomin range. As brand managers, make sure you have a clear oversight of all the activity taking place and ensure there’s something different / unique for everyone in the mix (licensees, media, stakeholders) with no clashes. Creating distinct offerings for the consumer and different target audiences is key.

Choose the right partners and spokespeople

Aligning yourself with the right partners and spokespeople is a key way to increase your brand reach and find new audiences. Moomin Characters continues to work closely with its UK charity partner, Oxfam, on various initiatives including, The Invisible Child campaign. The two organisations’ shared values ensure a powerful partnership that has gone on to raise over £1million to help women and girls around the world fight inequality and escape poverty for good. Whoever you work with must be aligned with your brand values so the credibility of your brand is never compromised.

Engage authentically with contemporary issues 

Avoid token gestures and go to the brand’s values to ensure you are investing in initiatives that run deep through the brand. Tove Jansson spent her summers in the Finnish archipelago, the latter part of her life at Klovharun island in the Baltic Sea. The influence of the sea can be seen in her work from the start of her creative endeavours. Launching the #OurSea campaign that raised over 1 million euros to clean up and protect the Baltic sea was therefore of enormous relevance. Equally, Moomin Characters’ involvement in Pride speaks to a core brand value – tolerance. In her private life, Tove Jansson fell in love with both women and men, even though homosexuality was illegal in Finland until 1971. National reading for pleasure initiative, Read Hour, sponsored by Moomin Characters in support of their mission to spread the love of reading and writing as a roadmap to happiness is another example. Deep, authentic knowledge and engagement is key. 



“Birdgirl” hires Riot for personal PR brief

We are excited to announce that one of the most exciting young voices in the conservation space, Dr. Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl, has hired us to lead her personal PR. 

Mya-Rose is a 19-year-old British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, race activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster. She has written the Birdgirl Blog since January 2014 (aged 11). Mya-Rose is President of Black2Nature – an organisation she set up when she was just 14 years old – which campaigns for equal access to nature for all but concentrates on Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) communities who have historically been excluded from the countryside. 

In February 2020 Mya-Rose became the youngest person to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science D.Sc. h.c from Bristol University, for her pioneering campaigning work, and in the same year was invited to  share a stage with Greta Thunberg in Bristol, speaking to 40,000 youth strikers. 

Preena Gadher, Riot co-Founder and MD said: “I am beyond thrilled that we are working with Mya-Rose, an exciting voice in the world of conservation. I’ve only ever wanted Riot to work with clients doing good in the world, and the positive social impact Mya-Rose has already made at just 19 is more than what most people achieve in a lifetime. I’m delighted she has hired us to join her on the next chapter of her journey.” 

Look out for Mya-Rose’s memoir Birdgirl (Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Penguin Random House) publishing next year and her book, We Have A Dream, (Magic Cat), out now.

Preena Gadher on why getting away from the desk should be a business priority

The leaves are changing colour and for many creative industries, autumn is one of the busiest times of the year, as it is for us. But as we knuckle down, we also prioritise getting away from our desks as a team to explore what else is happening in the world. It’s so easy to get buried in day-to-day emails, hamstrung by meetings and deadlines, and executing client work in isolation to what is actually happening outside. It’s one of the reasons we love working in Bethnal Green. Our office is surrounded by flats and the squeals from the children as they play in the communal playground outside our windows reminds us that culture is for real people and helps keep our feet on the ground. 

Preserving, and even nurturing this connection to real life, is why we created our monthly ‘Outside Ins’. Every colleague has a chance to choose a location, event or venue connected to culture which we make time to visit and discuss during the working day. It’s a highlight of Riot life, but more than that, it’s a way for us all to exercise our creative muscles, which in turn helps us deliver outstanding client work. 

After 18 months of virtual ‘Outside Ins’, today, ahead of the opening of the Frieze Art Fair, we met in person and visited Frieze Sculpture in the English Gardens of Regent’s Park. Responding to themes of architecture, geopolitical power structures and environmental concern, we spent the morning discussing the pieces and thinking more generally about the impact of art in public places. 

We returned to the office full of ideas and energy, and personally I felt nourished. As a culture and entertainment specialist PR agency, prioritising time for wild ideas and big picture thinking is essential to the creative process. But in a profession known for stressful working days too, granting permission to nourish ourselves through the very thing we exist to promote is more than a work perk – it’s critical to our overall success as a business. 

So what are you waiting for? Go and see what’s happening outside.

Shortlist for 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize revealed

  • Six titles providing fresh insights on major global issues and illuminating little-known, remarkable subjects are shortlisted for the prestigious prize for popular science writing.
  • Two books tackle bias in science, joining a runaway bestseller on the surreal world of mushrooms and an account of the life of a modern-day astronomer. A detective story into extraordinary ‘mystery’ illnesses and an eye-opening look at the lost art of breathing complete the list.
  • Two debut authors feature on the list in journalist James Nestor and science and culture journalist, Jessica Nordell. 
  • “This year’s shortlist reflects more than ever the huge strength and diversity of topics evident in science writing. Every book is very accessible to all, and each in its own way is quite remarkable.” – Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, 2021 Chair of Judges.

The Royal Society today reveals the shortlist for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2021, sponsored by Insight Investment. This year’s shortlisted books, chosen from a record number of 267 submissions, demonstrate the breadth, depth, accessibility, and joy of the best popular science writing from all over the world.

Two debut authors make the 2021 shortlist in journalist James Nestor and science and culture journalist, Jessica Nordell. They are joined by astronomer Emily Levesque and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan. Psychologist Dr Stuart Ritchie and biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake complete the six-strong list, from which a winner will be chosen in November.  

The full 2021 shortlist is (in order of author surname):

  • The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque (Oneworld)
  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (Penguin Life)
  • The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds by Jessica Nordell (Granta Books)
  • The Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories of Mystery Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan (Picador)
  • Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science by Stuart Ritchie (Bodley Head)
  • Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Bodley Head)

Chair of the 2021 judging panel, Professor Luke O’Neill Osbourn FRS, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, comments:

“This year’s shortlist reflects more than ever the huge strength and diversity of topics evident in science writing. Every book is very accessible to all, and each in its own way is quite remarkable. The topics range from an account of what it’s like to be a woman in the field of astronomy (which also conveys the enduring fascination we have with the stars), why breathing optimally is so important for our health and well-being, the scientific basis of why we are so biased when it comes to our views, the related topic of fraud and bias in science, mystery illnesses and, finally, the fascinating world of fungi. 

“Each is important and compelling, conveying the wonder of science but also highlighting issues that we should all be concerned about. Important, accessible science writing is certainly alive and well with this enthralling list of titles.”

Two books take a closer look at the worlds beneath our feet and beyond Earth’s atmosphere. In The Last Stargazers, Emily Levesque reveals the hidden world of stargazing, celebrating the ingenuity and curiosity of the profession, instilling cosmic awe in the reader. In Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, our perspective shifts from the galactic to the fungal, taking the reader on a guided tour of the hidden world that supports and sustains nearly all living systems. 

A further two books deal with the human body, its remarkable systems but also its endless mysteries. Breath by James Nestor explores one of biology’s most basic functions, upending what we think we know about breathing and demonstrating how over thousands of years we have learned to do it wrong, with devastating consequences. In Sleeping Beauties, Suzanne O’Sullivan investigates a series of disparate diagnostic mysteries: psychosomatic illnesses, or medical disorders apparently caused as much by factors of the mind as by the body. 

The final two titles set their sights on the limitations and fallibility of scientific practice, highlighting how these can impact our societies and imagining how we might improve them. Science Fictions by Stuart Ritchie reveals how bias, mistakes and even outright forgery can influence everything from austerity economics to anti-vaccination movements, proposing vital remedies. In The End of Bias, Jessica Nordell delves into the cognitive science and social psychology underpinning efforts to create change, and meets some of the pioneers developing new practices, from mindfulness-adopting police to lawyers and educators striving to embed quality from the playroom to the boardroom. 

A third of the books on the shortlist come from independent publishers, while Penguin Random House has three nominated titles.

For 33 years, the Prize has promoted the accessibility and joy of popular science writing. It has celebrated some truly game-changing reads: books that offer fresh insights on the things that affect the lives we lead and the decisions we make, from neurodiverse perspectives on everyday living (Explaining Humans by Dr Camilla Pang, 2020) to gender bias (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, 2019) and the harms humans are wreaking on the planet (Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince, 2015, and Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, 2008). In 2021, the judges renew their search for the most compelling science writing of the last year, at a time when the power of effective science communication is valued more highly than ever before.

Alongside Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, the 2021 judging panel comprises: television presenter, Ortis Deley; mathematician and Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellow, Dr Anastasia Kisil; author and creative writing lecturer, Christy Lefteri, and journalist, writer and film maker, Clive Myrie.

The winner of the 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment, will be revealed at a ceremony in London on 29th November. They will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.