Ask the Expert: Hannah Knowles

We’re back with Ask the Expert, where we chat with various people across the world of arts, culture and entertainment and share their expertise. 

Today we’re speaking with Hannah Knowles, the Publishing Director, Arts and Culture at Faber. With over 17 years of experience in the industry, Hannah is responsible for overseeing Faber’s music and screen publishing as well as managing the arts and culture lists and exploring new arts areas for Faber to publish in. Before joining Faber, Hannah worked at Canongate, Octopus, Hodder, and Ebury.

Describe your job in one sentence.

Overseeing the brilliant Arts & Culture lists at Faber & Faber.

You’ve worked at some of the biggest publishing houses and imprints over the course of your career, how did you end up where you are today?

Ha! Long story. I moved around a lot when I was younger, largely because I needed more money to pay the rent, and if there was no room to progress at the company I was at, it just meant moving on. This role at Faber was an incredible stroke of fortune – I took on a maternity cover and ended up staying in a great role.

What are your tips for anyone trying to break into publishing, in particular, commissioning?

If you’re breaking in and just starting out, take any job in any department. At that stage, all experience is going to be incredibly useful, so even if you know you ultimately want to be a commissioning editor, taking a job in another department will help you understand the job and the industry better. I worked in sales for 6 months – part of my role was filling out returns forms for a particular retailer and it was a big eye-opener. It showed me what sales are up against and was incredibly useful for when I began to acquire books. Also roles at literary agents or scouting firms are all experience that you can use in publishing houses if you choose to move later down the line, so just keep an open mind.

You have been refreshingly open and outspoken about mental health in the publishing industry. Do you think that there has been any positive change around this conversation since you first spoke up?

Hmm. Well. I haven’t seen anything that has made me believe there is a better fundamental understanding of how mental illness impacts people in the industry – or chronic physical conditions, either. I referred in an article to our having an exceptionalist attitude in the industry, and unfortunately that means that it doesn’t matter how many articles I or anyone else writes about the subject. There is (broadly speaking) a belief from management across the industry that what they are doing is adequate, and if you think that is the case and don’t engage with people who are saying their experiences don’t match that belief, then nothing is going to change.

What if any other changes have you noticed in the industry since the start of your career, for example, with regards to career opportunities for individuals from non-typical backgrounds or with particular perspectives, as well in terms of the range of authors published?

There are incremental changes, in terms of diversity of staff and authors being published, but the problem – as has been raised by many others – is that there isn’t adequate support in place to ensure that people from different backgrounds don’t feel alienated, which makes retention a problem.

Biggest pinch-me moment of your career?

That’s always going to be working with incredible authors! There is nothing like that buzz you get when you read a proposal that has something special about it. Nothing other than then being able to buy it and work with the author to publish it, of course!

Who from the world of arts and entertainment would you love to sign for Faber?

There are a couple in the works that I don’t want to jinx, and some I’ve already signed that I’m extremely excited by. But dream commission? Now Prince is no longer with us, it would have to be Stevie Nicks.

What’s on your radar? Could you share what you’re listening to, reading and watching at the moment? 

I’ve pre-ordered Yoko Ogawa’s Mina’s Matchbox. She is probably my favourite writer at the moment. She isn’t afraid to show humans as the very morally complex, contradictory and strange creatures we are. Podcasts are my wind-down go-to: My Therapist Ghosted Me always makes me laugh.


Q&A with Riot’s new Associate Director, Julia Hallawell

Julia joined the Riot team earlier this month, and brings with her over 25 years of experience across film, theatre and arts publicity. Having worked on a range of campaigns from the West End production of To Kill A Mockingbird to the UK release of Shakespeare in Love, we’re so excited to have Julia as part of the team.

Want to get to know her a bit better? We’ve asked her to share a bit about some of her passions and the things she is most looking forward to about working at Riot.

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

I am thrilled to be joining Riot’s hugely talented and passionate team, and am very excited about the possibilities for growth, discovering and forging new partnerships.

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

Anyone telling life-enriching stories on stage or screen, created by people who believe in Tolstoy’s concept of art to change life for the better.

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

All seven C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books when I was about 9 years old, and I am still in love with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

What are some of your other passions?

My husband, my daughters and my two dogs – walks in the countryside, special time with my closest friends, singing jazz and dreaming of life by the sea.


Picture: Julia Hallawell © Marc Sethi

Q&A with Riot’s new Associate Director, Orla Houston-Jibo

Orla has been a part of the Riot team since early February, and has already made her mark through playing a key role in the delivery of the inaugural Nero Book Awards ceremony this month. Orla brings with her a wealth of experience in the arts, publishing and heritage sectors, having worked with the likes of Thames & Hudson, Bloomsbury Publishing and the Victoria & Albert Museum. We’re thrilled to have her join us at Riot.

Want to get to know her a bit better? We’ve asked her to share a bit about some of her passions and the things she is most looking forward to about working at Riot.

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

Being part of a team again, especially one where everyone shares a passion for culture and entertainment in the broadest sense. Having spent several years in-house in publishing, it’s wonderful to work with colleagues who are all avid readers and who take as much pleasure as I do in discussing what books we are currently enjoying.

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

It’s so hard to pick just one! Earlier in my career I worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum and it is still my favourite museum in the world. I would absolutely love to work with them on their exhibitions programme and on the launch of the forthcoming V&A East site. Another dream client would be the National Trust. I’ve long been a member and I think it would be really interesting to work with them to explore growing their audiences beyond those of their core membership.

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

As a young child it was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I just loved the idea of a secret, parallel fairy world and I definitely remember looking for my own magic tree and fairies in the woods. A few years later it was Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Judy Blume was such a beloved author for me in my early adolescence.

What are some of your other passions?

These days I mostly spend my time running around after my little boy in playgrounds, but I take any chance I get to go to the theatre or the cinema. Outside of cultural pursuits, I love getting out of London for long walks and hikes and hope to be able to do this more this spring and summer.


Picture: Orla Houston-Jibo © Marc Sethi

Riot Communications grows team with two new senior appointments, boosting its credentials across publishing, museums and heritage, theatre and film

Riot Communications, the leading arts, culture and entertainment PR agency, has made two new key hires in the form of Orla Houston-Jibo and Julia Hallawell, who have both joined the business as Associate Directors.

The new hires will support the growth of the company following a series of new client wins which include the Science Museum Group and Octopus Publishing, on whose behalf Riot is handling publicity for James Middleton’s upcoming book.

Orla Houston-Jibo joins the agency after two years as a communications, marketing and cultural programming consultant for clients in the arts, hospitality, lifestyle and heritage sectors, including Bloomsbury Publishing, Chiswick House & Gardens, and Lore Group (One Hundred Shoreditch and Sea Containers hotels). Prior to that, she was Associate Director and Head of Lifestyle Division at Scott & Co where her clients included SKETCH London, Sir Hotels and Petworth Places. Houston-Jibo also brings with her in-house publishing experience, having worked as PR Director at Phaidon and Head of Publicity & Partnerships at Thames & Hudson, and bolsters Riot’s museums and heritage expertise thanks to her time at the Victoria & Albert Museum as a Project Manager and Assistant Curator in the Contemporary Programmes department.

Julia Hallawell brings to Riot over 25 years of experience across film, theatre and arts publicity. She joins from Kate Morley PR where she devised and delivered campaigns for West End productions including To Kill A Mockingbird starring Matthew Modine and Dr Semmelweis with Mark Rylance, plus retained clients including Kiln Theatre. Prior to that she created and led a new Influencer Engagement offering for Jersey Road PR. Earlier in her career, Hallawell worked at Shakespeare’s Globe where she led the theatre’s PR campaigns including for the opening of the indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Her experience in film includes distribution publicity for the UK releases of American Beauty, Shakespeare in Love and East is East and representing international titles at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals.

In addition to these two new hires, Jules Baretto, who started as an intern at Riot in September 2023, has been offered a permanent role at the agency as an Account Executive. To date, he has worked across a wide range of accounts from Aardman to the Nero Book Awards.

Caitlin Allen, MD at Riot Communications, said: “We are so excited to welcome these two brilliant talents to Riot. Our foundations are in books and our ambition will always be to work with the best of the best in that space, an ambition which will be supported by Orla’s experience on both sides of the in-house/agency relationship within the publishing industry. Meanwhile our client list across TV, film, theatre and heritage continues to grow – and I’m delighted to have Julia and Orla joining as we expand our work further across the arts and entertainment world. In Jules we found the most passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated intern, so are very pleased that he has accepted a permanent position too.”


Picture: Orla Houston-Jibo and Julia Hallawell © Marc Sethi

Riot Communications secures Blueprint status for another two years

Riot Communications, the leading PR agency specialising in arts, culture and entertainment, has retained full Blueprint status in the latest round of reapplications.

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 entry level to boardroom, from staff culture to recruitment and retention. They must reapply every two years, to ensure continued best practice and commitment.

Riot first secured full Blueprint status in January 2022, only the sixth PR agency in the UK to do so, as well as being the smallest and the only one specialising in arts, culture and entertainment.

The announcement today comes following a rigorous reapplication process in December 2023, which detailed how Riot had fulfilled the Blueprint commitments over the previous two years. Following assessment from an independent panel of judges, the agency has been re-awarded the full mark for its continued commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, and for providing solid examples of meeting and going beyond the Blueprint commitments. Furthermore, the agency impressed the judges with the level of detail and transparency in supporting documents that proved DEI remains at the heart of the agency.

Elizabeth Bananuka, Founder, BME PR Pros; Founder/CEO Blueprinted, said: “In the midst of so many negative reports about DEI initiatives, it is incredibly warming to reward Riot Communications full Blueprint status. The agency’s reapplication form accompanied by an extensive number of supporting materials highlighted leaders Caitlin Allen and Katy MacMillan-Scott’s strong commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion, and to maintaining the unique, inclusive culture the agency is famed for. Despite being one of the smallest agencies to secure full Blueprint status, the tiny agency has continued to make big DEI moves even in the midst of significant business changes. When Riot Communications first applied in 2022 they set the benchmark for small agencies. In 2024 they set the benchmark for a leadership truly committed to DEI. The Blueprint judges and I congratulate Riot Communications for retaining full Blueprint status and for their unwavering and admirable commitment to The Blueprint.”

Caitlin Allen, MD, Riot Communications, said: “In the two years since we first became Blueprinted, we have gained so much from the ongoing learning opportunities, the tailored action plans, and the community of like-minded agencies that Elizabeth has created. Being worthy of retaining this high benchmark has stretched us as an agency and challenged us as a leadership team, in the best possible way. It holds us accountable, daily, to be the very best we can be. We are incredibly grateful to Elizabeth, the wider Blueprint team, and our fellow Blueprinted agencies, who have shown us such generosity and support along the way. It is an exceptional group to be a part of.”

Q&A with Riot’s new Intern, Jules Barretto

Jules joined Riot in September and has embedded himself into the team with his infectious enthusiasm and passion for the work that we do. A recent Film & English graduate, Jules is the first to take up Riot’s new six-month internship programme. We’ve been impressed by his brilliant social media management and people skills, and we can’t wait to see his PR career take off.

Want to get to know him a bit better? We’ve asked him to share a bit about some of his passions and the things he is most looking forward to about working at Riot.

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

I’m really excited to be working with like-minded people who share the same passion for arts, culture and entertainment. It’s amazing to be surrounded by such a skilled and talented team, learning as much as I can from them and being able to use what they’ve taught me to support a wide range of clients in the arts.

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

My dream client would be Studio Ghibli. Watching Ghibli films as a kid was what drew me into film; I even wrote my dissertation on anime and Ghibli movies. I would love to work on Miyazaki’s next film in any capacity. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the live theatre productions of My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, but I would love to help others discover these amazing worlds and characters.

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

The first book that I really fell in love with was Stephen King’s The Shining. I was thrilled reading and watching horror films that I knew I shouldn’t have been watching as a kid. I used to read Goosebumps and Darren Shan books, but I never really felt scared until I read The Shining. I became addicted to reading books that evoked that sort of visceral feeling, not necessarily just fear, but also wonder and amazement etc. I still enjoy reading King and horror books today.

What are some of your other passions?

I love lifting weights and kickboxing. I grew up watching so many action and martial arts films, but I never worked up the courage to take lessons. It was only when I got into university that I decided to join the kickboxing society and became obsessed with the sport and working out. I’m constantly trying to test the full limits of my body and push myself to go further. I haven’t been able to practise as frequently lately, so I hope I can still touch my toes.

Q&A with Riot’s new Campaigns Executive, Ruby Fitzgerald

Ruby joined us in October and has already taken settled in and done some amazing work with influencers for the Royal Institution and supporting the Nero Book Awards team to roll out social media content. Ruby’s background in comms is within the charity and education sector, but her passion has always been arts and culture. Alongside her previous role, Ruby provided freelance publicity and social media support to her local literary festival in Kent. She brings with her a brilliant set of skills alongside a deep passion for arts, culture and entertainment, and we’re so pleased to have her on the team. 

Want to get to know her a bit better? We’ve asked her to share a bit about some of her passions and the things she is most looking forward to about working at Riot.

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

I’m really excited to be working in the arts and culture space, which has been my goal for a few years now. Riot has such a wide range of great clients so I feel really lucky to be involved. The work itself is creative and I never get bored!

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

My dream client would be the National Theatre. Since moving to London, I’ve got really into going to the theatre and the NT offers £10 tickets if you’re aged 25 and under, which I’ve been making good use of. My favourite show this year has been The Effect, it was completely engrossing and I felt emotionally drained at the end of the show – in a good way! 

My all-time favourite author is Haruki Murakami so he would be another dream client. He’s already got a huge readership but I’d love to introduce his work to even more people. 

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

Speaking of Murakami, Kafka on the Shore was probably the first book I fell in love with as an adult. I remember being so absorbed in its surreal world that I skipped a night out on my post-A-Levels girls’ holiday to stay in and read. When my friends got back at 4am, I was still awake and on the final chapter!

As a child, I read a lot of different books but I do remember writing fan mail to Francesca Child who wrote the Horrid Henry series. I’ve always loved naughty characters like Horrid Henry and Dennis the Menace.

What are some of your other passions?

I’ve really been into yoga for the past few years. I have dyspraxia and struggle with sport but yoga has improved my coordination and strength so much. I thought I hated all exercise because I couldn’t catch a ball and was always the last one picked for the team in PE, but it turns out I just hadn’t found my niche yet!


Q&A with Riot’s new Campaigns Manager, Sofia Saghir

Sofia joined the team this autumn, and has brought with her a myriad of skills and a wealth of experience from her previous roles at publishing house HarperCollins and PR agency Midas. Having been nominated for two PPC awards in addition to working on a range of exciting projects, we’re so excited to have Sofia as part of the Riot team. 

Want to get to know her a bit better? We’ve asked her to share a bit about some of her passions and the things she is most looking forward to about working at Riot.

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

I am really excited to be working across a variety of different clients in the arts and culture space and expanding my PR knowledge. Everyone in this team is incredibly creative and passionate and I can’t wait to soak up all of their knowledge and expertise.

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

As a huge fan of Bollywood, I’d love to work with some of the biggest production companies in India to help promote their films to UK audiences. There is a growing market for foreign cinema in Western countries and I’d love to help introduce new viewers to the films and actors I’ve grown up on. I am particularly a massive fan of the legend himself, Shah Rukh Khan, so working alongside his company would be an absolute dream come true and a massive honour.

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

 I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the first book was that I loved, but one of the earliest memories of reading I have is a book called Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman. I picked this book up at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was young, knowing absolutely nothing about it but I was completely blown away. It is a story told entirely in verse about the friendship between two young boys and I thought it was so beautiful. I still have my very tattered copy from that book fair which is now signed and personalised by Malorie so it’s a prized possession!

What are some of your other passions?

Alongside reading, I am also a huge musical theatre fan. There is nothing I love more than spending a Saturday evening in the theatre watching a musical. My absolute favourites are SixLegally BlondeIn The Heights and, of course, Hamilton. Outside of the cultural space, I’ve recently been learning to swim for the first time. I’ve become passionate about the power of swimming as well as the importance of learning something new as an adult. Throwing myself into swimming classes has really changed my mental health for the better.

Riot announces a raft of promotions and new hires after successful first year under new leadership

Riot Communications, the award-winning PR agency specialising in arts, culture and entertainment, has announced a raft of promotions and new hires within its campaigns team a year after coming under the leadership of new MD Caitlin Allen.

This autumn, Riot welcomed three new members of staff in Sofia Saghir (Campaigns Manager), Ruby Fitzgerald (Campaigns Executive) and Jules Baretto (Intern). A former book reviewer turned culture publicist, Saghir joins Riot following roles at publishing house HarperCollins, where she looked after authors including Mark Lawrence and Sally Page, and PR agency Midas, where she worked on campaigns for the London Book Fair and Fitzgerald has moved from a communications role in the charity and education sector to work in her area of passion, arts and culture. She brings with her a strong background in social media and digital marketing alongside experience developing media campaigns around education inequality. Baretto becomes the first to take up Riot’s new six-month internship programme, after recently graduating in Film and English from the University of Southampton.

Meanwhile, two members of the existing team have had promotions. Emily Souders, who celebrated five years at Riot in August 2023, has been promoted to Campaigns Director. Souders – whose clients range from family-focused brand Moomin Characters and the Royal Institution, the independent charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science, to publisher Pan Macmillan – is known across the industry for the strength of her client relationships and creativity. Following the change of leadership at Riot, she – alongside fellow Campaigns Director James Douglas – has stepped up to take the lead on several key accounts. Niamh Houston, who joined Riot in August 2022, has been promoted to Senior Campaigns Executive. Putting her experience as a print journalist to brilliant use, she continues to find innovative ways to deliver media coverage and influencer engagement for clients including the London Review of Books and the Science Museum Group.

These promotions and new hires follow a strong year for the agency, which continues to grow its offering across the entertainment space. In addition to delivering a series of bestsellers for authors including Jeremy Deller (Art is Magic), Susie Dent (Roots of Happiness) and Ian Rankin (The Rise), 2023 saw the agency deliver a series of firsts. Highlights include: the co-founding and launching of the Nero Book Awards on behalf of Caffè Nero; the launch of the Science Museum Group’s Flying Scotsman VR experience; the launch of a collaboration between Oscar-winning animation studio Aardman and Save the Children, which raised awareness of the experience of refugee children, and publicity campaigns for a number of exciting independent films such as I am Urban starring Richard Armitage and Anna Friel and The Undertaker starring Paul McGann and Tara Fitzgerald.

Caitlin Allen, Riot MD, comments: “It is so exciting to be making these new hires and promotions one year into our journey as Riot 2.0. It’s been a huge year in terms of work, from launching the Nero Book Awards – which have been so well received by the industry and the media – to getting to collaborate with some of the most brilliant writers, artists and illustrators out there. We’re so grateful to all the clients, contacts and partners who have worked with us in the past twelve months or so, and looking forward to another big year in 2024. Watch this space!”



Image 1 (left to right) – Ruby Fitzgerald, Sofia Saghir and Jules Barretto

Image 2 (left to right) – Niamh Houston and Emily Souders

Ask the Expert: Jeroen van Dijk

Jeroen van Dijk

Ask the Expert is Riot’s monthly interview slot where we chat with people we admire working in the world of arts, culture and entertainment.

Today we’re speaking with Jeroen van Dijk. Jeroen joined the Royal College of Art as Marketing Manager in 2022 and supports with external and on-campus events both in London and across the globe. He is an architectural history and heritage professional whose research centres on LGBTQ+ perspectives on the built environment. He has researched queer heritage in London and Amsterdam, focusing on queer memorials and nightlife.

Describe your job in one sentence.

As Marketing Manager at the Royal College of Art I support incoming students on their journey before joining us – from sharing news about the College and our work during their initial stages of researching MA study, helping out with their application, organising Open Days and international events, and keeping them up to date prior to them coming through the doors in September.

You’ve always managed to merge your passions with your work. What was it about the role at RCA that drew you in specifically?

I’ve always worked in the creative sector following my BA in Art History and MA in Arts Management – this job at the RCA allowed me to engage with the art and design of the future. I work with our students every day and it’s truly exciting to learn so much about their groundbreaking work and research – playing a part in their journey to change the world or develop their creative practice is incredibly rewarding.

What are your top three tips for people looking to find a way to merge their passion for the arts and a sustainable career?

The creative industries are driven by people united through their passion for the arts. 1) Find your niche – what is it you are most interested and passionate about? The sector is incredibly varied yet also offers endless opportunities to move from one job role into the other. Are you most passionate about research, education, museums and exhibitions, contemporary art, literature, commercial art galleries? 2) Build your network – engage with the sector, visit shows, exhibitions, talk to the experts. Learn more about what’s going in within your niche and find out how to get involved. 3) Use your transferable skills. Identify where your skills are and apply them to your niche – do you like sharing stories through social media, curate a programme of events, teach audiences about objects and collections or identify partnerships and funding opportunities? Identify how you could fit in an organisation and how best to use your skills.

How do you see the relationship between marketing and other comms (PR, advertising etc)?

I see communications and marketing as a field that only works together if all strands (content, PR, marketing, advertising) are connected. At the end of the day we are sharing stories to audiences, and the communications outputs amplify the reasons we are sharing them, whether we are selling a programme, event, raising our organisation’s profile or announcing a news story.

If someone only had one day in London, what is the cultural place you would tell them to visit and why?

One of my favourite places in London is the Zabludowicz Collection in Kentish Town. It programmes a few free exhibitions a year in a beautiful former Methodist Chapel. They offer a varied programme of self-initiated group and solo exhibitions, commissions and residencies, drawing on works from the collection or new commissions, often engaging with digital media, performance and AR/VR technologies. The Rachel Maclean solo exhibition in 2018 was probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in London.

What has been the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment of your career so far?

Earlier this year I got to travel to New York to meet with prospective students and visit other art and design universities, including the Rhode Island School of Design. It was amazing to talk to prospective students abroad and learn more about the reasons why they decide to come study in the UK, as well as being able to see behind the scenes at other world-leading institutions.

Which project are you most excited to work on in the next six months?

This year will be my second year in Higher Education and I’m very much looking forward to the new cohort joining us in September – it’s incredibly exciting to meet new students, learn about their drivers on pursuing a postgraduate degree and learn more about their work and creative practice. I manage the College’s Student Ambassadors and can’t wait to start building a new community of student representatives.

What’s on your radar? Could you share what you’re listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately and have been absolutely enthralled by Douglas Stuart’s novels. His Shuggie Bain and Young Mungo are beautiful accounts of growing up gay and working class, and despite differences in environment and time (Glasgow in the 80s and 90s as opposed to the Dutch countryside in the naughties and 2010s) it offers so much I can relate to directly. By chance he’s also an RCA alumnus, as he graduated from the MA Fashion programme in 2000.