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.

Riot Communications joins Aardman & Whizz-Kids on epic art adventure

Morph scultures by the Southbank © Andy Newbold Photography

Each year, Riot delivers a pro-bono PR campaign alongside our regular client work. It might be for a charity that helps inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities (such as The Girls Network) or one that celebrates the contributions of Caribbean individuals to British society (such as the WGLA). Either way, it allows us the opportunity to work with a variety of organisations that we feel passionate about.

In 2023, Team Riot had the opportunity to work with Whizz Kidz, the leading UK charity for young wheelchair users, on a really special brand collaboration with our longstanding client, Aardman. As soon as we heard about the campaign we knew it was one we wanted to support.

Whizz Kidz’s vision is to create a society in which every young wheelchair user is mobile, enabled and included. Inspired by the childhood favourite, Morph’s Epic Art Adventure is an art trail featuring 50 Morph sculptures designed by a range of artists and celebrities including Tom Fletcher, Ade Adepitan and Martin Dougan. It’s London’s first ever step-free art trail and – as well as providing a step-free, family-friendly jaunt around the city’s famous landmarks – has been designed to prompt conversations about diversity and inclusion for wheelchair users.

Having handled Aardman’s corporate communications since 2019, we had the advantage of knowing the brand inside out, so we were ready to hit the ground running. In the run-up to launch last month, we worked closely with the Whizz Kidz in-house PR team to secure national and London-specific coverage and to provide hands-on support at a special launch event for the artists – see here for a little snippet from the event, featuring Sarah Pugh, Chief Executive at Whizz Kidz.

We were delighted to have contributed to the campaign by securing coverage on BBC One – Breakfast, BBC Radio London – Carrie and David Grant and ITV London. Additionally, we ensured that the trail was featured within listings slots including Secret London, The Week Junior and Kidscreen, amongst others.

This project perfectly aligned with our mission to champion the value of arts, culture and entertainment. Like Whizz Kidz, we fully believe in the power of art to bring about positive change. If you’re in London over the summer, we highly recommend you get involved! Morph’s Epic Art Adventure runs in London until 20th August. To read more about the trail and to plan your visit, head to:

Images © Andy Newbold Photography.

The Morphs in the image were created by artists Lynne Hollingsworth, Amanda Quellin, Jason Wilsher-Mills and Olaf Falafel.

Ask the Expert: Shannon St. Luce

Shannon St. Luce ask the expert

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 Shannon St Luce. Shannon has been an Event Coordinator at the BBC Proms for the past two years, whilst freelancing for the rest of the year in producer, Orchestra Manager and Arts Administration roles. We asked her how she got to where she is, her top tips for freelancers, and what the BBC Proms means today.

Describe your job in one sentence.

Co-ordinating, planning and running concerts, and liaising between all kinds of teams to make it happen.

You’ve had a range of roles within the music industry. How did you end up where you are today?

Growing up, I’d always had a strong interest in music but decided early on that I wasn’t good enough to perform, and at the time I didn’t realise that there are so many alternative roles to get into. At university I studied animation and was set on a career in that field but found it difficult to find work upon graduating. Instead, I got a job with Hertfordshire Music Service and I’m so fortunate that it was a co-ordinator role where I could really develop my skillset in the industry that I love; all my roles since draw upon things I learned in that first job. Whilst I was there I managed to get a shadowing opportunity with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; this gave me the courage to go for jobs with arts organisations where I could work with professional musicians, which is what I really wanted to do. Since then, I’m fortunate to have worked in so many great places, building up my experience and network over time.

What are your top three tips for people when it comes to event coordination?

  1. Organise and prioritise your work in a way that makes sense to you; you’re usually juggling multiple things, so refine your process so that you have a solid workflow.
  2. Try to envisage the event you’re planning before it happens, and think through what is needed to reach your final outcome. You might not think of everything (and even when my planning is seemingly flawless, a hiccup somehow arises on the day!), but knowing what you’re aiming for helps you to work out the potential kinks.
  3. Trust your process and don’t panic; in planning and in delivery things can get busy and chaotic, and I find it helps to always be the calmest person in the room.

As a freelancer, you’re often moving from working with one organisation to another. How do you establish yourself in new spaces over a short period of time?

I tend to go in with an open mind, with the initial aim being to absorb as much as I can about the job and the team. I’ve built up confidence in my own strengths over time, so that when I go into freelance/short-term roles I know what I bring to the table. For some freelance jobs I’m only there for a few days and it’s just a case of leaning on knowledge and past experience.

This is your second year returning to the BBC Proms. What are some highlights of working there for you?

Some of my earliest orchestral memories are of the Proms, so I still can’t believe that I work there! The biggest highlight for me is the added broadcasting element on top of working on a concert. My favourite part of the job is concert managing a Prom, where you take the lead in running the concert on the day alongside television and live radio broadcasts; equal parts exhilarating and terrifying!

What do you think the significance of the BBC Proms is in the UK’s current arts and culture landscape?

The Proms are so important in terms of showcasing the breadth and quality of classical and orchestral music, serving faithful followers and making it accessible to new audiences. Across the 8 week season there’s 71 concerts in London alone, and many more across the UK, all to either attend in person or catch up with on radio and TV – for me, the significance is that there’s something in there for everyone!

As a freelancer, do you have any advice for building and maintaining networks of contacts?

I think the two things that have helped me the most are doing the best job that I can, and chatting to people whenever possible. It’s hard to advise on this one because I’ve personally found that things happened organically and opportunistically, but I think if you do what you do well and try to expose yourself to different kinds of situations then gradually you will build up your network.

Biggest pinch-me moment of your career?

Definitely meeting the composer Danny Elfman last summer, whose music I’ve been listening to literally my whole life. It was only 30 seconds in the backstage corridor of the Royal Albert Hall, but I’ve got a signed programme and a photo to prove (mostly to my starstruck self) that it happened!

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

I like my own consumption to be quite chilled and familiar to counteract the noise of day-to-day life, so it’s all easy and simple stuff. Recently I’ve really enjoyed watching Only Murders in the Building and Abbott Elementary on Disney Plus, and I religiously watch Taskmaster when it’s on. Listening-wise, I mostly have my Motown and Soul playlist on repeat, but I sift through quite a few other genres alongside that – at the moment I’m rediscovering Green Day’s earlier stuff, particularly Dookie which is the album I loved as a teen. I don’t read much but I do love a podcast; currently working through episodes of Toni and Ryan for laughs, and One of Us is a Filmmaker which taps right into my ‘90s/’00s nostalgic film memories.

Riot Communications to handle PR for newly created Nero Book Awards

nero book awards logo

Riot Communications has been hired to promote the newly created Nero Book Awards, launched today (Tuesday 23rd May 2023) by the premium coffee house, Caffè Nero.

A set of multi-category awards celebrating the craft of great writing and the joy of reading, the Nero Book Awards will point readers of all ages and interests in the direction of the best books of the year by authors living in the UK and Ireland.

Established as a not-for-profit organisation, the awards will be run and underwritten by the independent, family-owned coffee house group with support from partners The Booksellers Association, Brunel University London and Right To Dream. They will recognise outstanding books across four categories (Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction) to provide readers of all tastes with a recognisable mark of quality and readability.

The Nero Book Awards will be judged by representatives from across the world of books, who will select shortlists of four in each category, choosing the books they would most want to recommend to others.

Gareth Hopley, Head of Communications, Caffè Nero, comments:

“Caffè Nero was founded in 1997 on the principle of being a place to bring people together in a warm and welcoming environment. Our stores are filled with books, and we have a rich history of supporting the arts. These awards are the natural continuation of that, and we’re delighted to be working with entertainment specialists Riot Communications to promote them to book lovers all over the country.”

Riot Communications specialises in arts, culture and entertainment and has worked on a number of other national book awards, from the Costa Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize to the Royal Society Science Book Prize and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Its clients across the entertainment world include 4 x Oscar winning animation studio Aardman, publishing giant Penguin Random House, family brands including Moomin Characters, and cultural institutions including the Royal Institution and the Science Museum Group.

Riot has played a key role in the creation of the Nero Book Awards, bringing its knowledge of the publishing industry to ensure that the prizes will support publishers, authors and booksellers as well as helping readers to find their new favourite reads. Riot Director Katy MacMillan-Scott will sit on the Management Team of the Awards alongside Awards Director Amanda Johnson, formerly publicity and project director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and, most recently, Director of the Costa Book Awards, Alan Staton from the Booksellers Association, who will oversee the administration of the Awards, and Gareth Hopley, Head of Communications, Caffè Nero.

Katy MacMillan-Scott, Director, Riot Communications, said: “Book prizes play such a vital role in helping authors find new audiences for their work and introducing readers to titles they’re going to love. In recent years, several major book awards have come to a close, leaving a vacancy for a set of prizes that celebrate the books that we love to read, share and recommend. We’re thrilled to have played a part in the inception of these new awards, which can exist thanks to the vision of the team at Caffè Nero, and to be working with the Nero Book Awards team in this incredibly exciting inaugural year.”

The Nero Book Awards will open for entries on 19th June 2023. Category shortlists will be announced in late 2023 before four category winners and an overall winner, The Nero Book of the Year, are revealed in early 2024. Further details will be announced in due course.

The prize fund totals £50,000, with the four category winners receiving £5,000 each and the Book of the Year winner receiving an additional £30,000.

A website and social media channels have gone live today to coincide with the announcement. More details can be found via

Riot Communications works with Susie Dent on joyful campaign for Roots of Happiness

Riot x Susie Dent

Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s has hired Riot Communications to deliver a high-impact PR campaign for a new book by bestselling author, broadcaster and word expert Susie Dent. Roots of Happiness is a joyous collection of 100 positive words and their origins, paired with beautiful illustrations by Harriet Hobday. 

It takes just a short browse through the dictionary to see how negative English can be, but Dent has searched far and wide to unearth happy and uplifting words and phrases that – in some cases – have been long forgotten, while others have only just been discovered. It’s an ideal first introduction to the joys of language and a perfect match for those looking to expand their vocabulary with some uplifting words. 

Riot will deliver a creative PR campaign for the launch of the book and lead on talent management while ensuring the book successfully finds its readers. They have previously been hired by PRH Children’s for the launch of Emma Thompson’s festive classic Jim’s Spectacular Christmas, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which was released in October 2022. 

Susie Dent is a writer and broadcaster on language. She recently celebrated 25 years as the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown, and comments regularly on TV and radio on words in the news. She has written for the Independent on Sunday, the Telegraph, and The Times; answers notes and queries about words and phrases in weekly columns on Radio Times and in The Week Junior; and is the author of several books, including her latest, Dent’s Modern Tribes

Jessica Jackson, Associate Director, Riot Communications, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with PRH Children’s once again on such a joyful and uplifting book, and can’t wait to bring it to audiences young and old. It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a curiosity in words and language.”

Rosamund Hutchison, Head of Publicity, Penguin Random House Children’s, added: “We were so impressed with Riot’s work on Jim’s Spectacular Christmas by Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler, which was subsequently shortlisted for a PPC Award, we immediately thought of them as the perfect fit for Susie Dent’s new book. The team at Puffin is really excited to be publishing Roots of Happiness this autumn, and we know that Riot will bring their trademark energy and creativity to the campaign.”

Roots of Happiness will be released on the 5th October 2023. 

Talking Points – Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists list

Talking points graphic

We’re trying something new at Riot. We’ll regularly pick a story from the world of culture and entertainment and look at how it has played out in the media – and beyond – over the course of a few weeks.

First up: James Douglas examines how the media covered the announcement of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ list.

A once-in-a-decade occurrence, this list from the quarterly magazine tips the 20 writers shaping the future of British writing. The magazine is owned by Granta Trust, a charity set up in 2019 ‘to promote new and emerging writing’ and it claims to be ‘celebrated for its ‘Best of Young’ issues, which introduce the most important voices of each generation – in Britain, America, Brazil and Spain – defining the contours of the literary landscape.’

Infrequent as it is, Granta has a track record of spotting emerging stars who have gone on to great success, including the likes of Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of a Day), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) and Zadie Smith (White Teeth). Outside of publishing, The BRITs Rising Star award offers a useful comparison. 

On 13th April, the magazine revealed its ‘fifth generation’, a selection which got the publishing world talking. (Granta, 13th April 2023)

The Irish question

On the day of the announcement, The Times was baffled by the omission of Irish author Sally Rooney, whose impact on writing in Britain is undeniable. Robbie Millen mourned the ‘death of the celebrity novelist’ and the ‘moment when novelists were sexy’ and questioned why Rooney – ‘a mere two-hour drive from the UK border, and the creator of a thousand young British imitators’ did not qualify. The UK & Irish book markets are considered one in the eyes of British publishing and so this difference when it comes to the Granta list stands out.  (The Times, 13th April)

Pale and female 

A few days later, the weekend papers had their say. The list is less ethnically diverse than in 1983, a fact observed by Johanna Thomas-Corr in The Sunday Times, suggesting this perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise, ‘given that most of the people who commission, edit and promote fiction are white women.’ (The Sunday Times, 16th April)

Rise of the indies

The same day, The Observer noted that several of those featured on the list have been published by small independent presses, suggesting an industry with room for houses big and small in 2023. (The Observer, 16th April)

The writers’ take

Others were interested in what the nominated writers themselves had to say. A Telegraph piece (16th April) saw Derek Owusu, Sophie Mackintosh and Eliza Clark reflect on what the idea of ‘Britishness’ means to them as writers in 2023. 

The view from social media

Book prizes, lists and other literary accolades always provoke a lot of discussion on social media. It’s an industry that is sometimes criticised for lionising youth, something noted by the writer Amanda Craig, who pointed out how this can impact female writers’ prospects, in particular. The writer Jonathan Gibbs and others meanwhile pointed out that the list is still useful for those seeking exciting new writing.

The list-makers’ defence

For all its detractors, there were those who acknowledged the difficulties of putting together such a list without provoking criticism. The journalist and editor Alex Clark (the Guardian), herself a former judge, addressed the question of age, saying in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Open Book (16th April) that the criteria ‘will always exclude as well as include…it’s a snapshot’. On the same programme, Granta publisher and editor Sigrid Rausing explained that the panel ‘didn’t think about any aspect of identity’ in compiling the list. (BBC Radio 4 Open Book, 16th April)

The verdict

As the dust has settled, discussion in the media ranges from glowing profiles of those on the list to disappointment over the omission of certain names. We get the more varied views of writers and readers when we turn to social media – revealing a desire for updated criteria and for greater diversity while acknowledging the achievements of those who have been recognised. 

Ask the Expert: Serena Brett

We’re delighted to reveal the first guest in our new series, Ask the Expert: a monthly interview slot where we chat to people we admire working in the world of arts, culture and entertainment. From building brands to curating exhibitions and producing podcasts to launching bold new projects, we’ll be going behind the scenes to chat with the people who make the magic happen. 

First up: Serena Brett. In her role as producer at events company Fane Productions, Serena has been instrumental in building speaking careers for some of our best-loved authors, actors and comedians. We caught up with her earlier this month to find out what the things that make her tick are, the key to a knockout event, and what it’s like to work with writer, broadcaster and all-round national treasure, Elizabeth Day.

Describe your job in one sentence.

I produce one-off live events and multi-date tours across the UK, alongside my positions as Head of Branding and Head of Audience Development.

You haven’t always worked in events. How did you end up here?

I thought I wanted to be on the stage, but after a stint at National Youth Theatre, I decided behind-the-scenes was for me! I worked at Chichester Festival Theatre and gained internships at Finborough Theatre and the National Theatre, before applying for an assistant position in the talent department at Curtis Brown. I spent several years there, learning an incredible amount about working in a fast-paced creative environment, before joining Fane in 2017 as their office coordinator. There were just four of us then and now there are 25!

You get your inspiration from lots of different sources – what are your top three tips for people when it comes to event planning?

Know your audience: where do they live? What kind of venue are they likely to feel most comfortable in? How much are they going to pay for tickets? What extra things can you do to make this event feel really special for them?

Pick the right interviewer: I like to take the time to match the interviewer to the author and their subject matter, considering whether they fit the tone and content of the event, as well as whether they appeal to the audience. They are, after all, often making up half of the people on stage! The interviewer also needs to be a good listener, not just someone who rattles through their pre-written questions without engaging the author in conversation. The best events are when the questions and answers flow so naturally that the audience feel as though they are eavesdropping on a private conversation.

Eye-catching marketing: this ties into knowing your audience, but brilliant artwork design and engaging show copy is crucial to translating website browsers into ticket-buyers.

What do all the best performers have in common, if anything?

The best performers are great storytellers, whether they are talking about their fiction writing, recounting tales from their own lives, or conveying a political or social idea. Engaging with the audience is also crucial – breaking down the fourth wall, acknowledging their presence and making them feel involved in the conversation can make the room feel electric.

You’ve built Elizabeth Day’s live event career during your time at Fane. When was your earliest meeting with Elizabeth? Did you have an inkling she’d become the national treasure she has?

I first asked for a meeting with Elizabeth and her agent at the end of the summer in 2018 (the first episode of How To Fail with Phoebe Waller-Bridge was released in July 2018 and I can remember exactly where I was when I listened to it!) I could see that Elizabeth had tapped into something really special with the podcast and that the format, her warm personality, and her (now trademark) honesty would translate perfectly to a live event.

Often when we are trying out an idea at Fane, we start with a test event – our first show was in East London in 2019, where 400 people queued round the block to squeeze into the Rio Cinema to see Elizabeth talk to Ncuti Gatwa. Fast-forward to 2023, and we have built live into all aspects of Elizabeth’s career. In September 2021, we sold out the Barbican to launch Elizabeth’s latest novel Magpie; in Autumn 2022, we produced four live-recordings of How To Fail with Caitlin Moran, How To Fail veteran Mo Gawdat, Craig David, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and in March this year, we sold out the Royal Festival Hall to celebrate the publication of Friendaholic, Elizabeth’s newest non-fiction book. Together we have sold out The London Palladium, the Bridge Theatre and the National Theatre in London, as well as venues across the UK and Ireland.

We’ve also worked together on establishing her corporate speaking career, booking engagements at companies such as Google, Meta and Netflix.

Elizabeth often says that I had faith in her before she had faith in herself; I could absolutely see her potential from our very first meeting and I am only glad that she can now see that too!

Biggest pinch-me moment of your career?

Oh, there have been so many, and almost all of them are the fleeting, trivial things that happen behind the scenes. Stanley Tucci making me a martini just before he walked out on stage, Margaret Atwood scrolling through pictures on my phone, being hugged by Malala, hearing a crowd of 2,500 people lift the roof off the London Palladium chanting There’s Only One Arsene Wenger, making a cup of tea for Dame Julie Andrews, eating Deliveroo with Jessie Ware, receiving a hand-written thank-you card from Kathleen Turner, selling out of books for Candice Carty-Williams, Nick Grimshaw asking to be in my BeReal, watching 1,000 women lovingly heckle The Receipts Podcast, Bernie Sanders coming into the office to record a podcast, being in the Acknowledgements of Elizabeth’s latest book, Mel C telling me she liked my pink trousers!

But honestly, there is truly nothing like the buzz I get when I hear the sound of the audience clapping and cheering when an author walks out on stage.

What’s on your radar? 

Non-fiction: anything by Patrick Radden Keefe and Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day (obvs)

Fiction: Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, Lote by Shola von Reinhold, and Small Worlds by Caleb Azuma Nelson

Watching: Succession season 4 (aren’t we all?!)


Professor Suzanne Simard awarded Kew International Medal

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announced yesterday that the recipient of this year’s Kew International Medal is Professor Suzanne Simard, Canadian Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia. Professor Simard has received the award in recognition of her work exploring and sharing the complexity and wonder of trees and forests.

Established in 1992, the prestigious Kew International Medal is a biennial award given to an individual whose accomplishments align with globally recognised scientific institution RBG Kew’s mission to understand and protect plants and fungi, for the wellbeing of people and the future of all life on Earth. Nominations are received from across the organisation and a selection panel decides the winner. Previous award winners have included Sir David Attenborough (1996); Sir Partha Dasgupta, world-leading economist and author of The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review (2021) and most recently, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD (2022).

Simard was selected for this year’s Medal for her longstanding dedication to researching trees, forests and their complex ecosystems and for her substantial contribution to the increased understanding of ecological resilience. In particular, her work on how trees interact through below-ground fungal networks has led to the recognition that forests have hub trees, or Mother Trees: large, highly connected trees that play an important role in the flow of information and resources in a forest. Simard’s current research investigates how these complex relationships contribute to forest resilience, adaptability and recovery and has far-reaching implications for how to manage and heal forests from human impacts, including climate change.

Also recognised is her work as a science communicator: a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas to a wide array of audiences. Her TED talks on how she believes trees talk to each other have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide and her memoir, Finding the Mother Tree (published by Penguin Random House in 2021) has gone on to influence many, including filmmakers. It inspired the Tree of Souls in James Cameron’s Avatar and a new film by Bond Group Entertainment, starring Amy Adams. On announcing the project in 2021, Adams praised the book as ‘a call to action to protect, understand and connect with the natural world.’

In nominating Suzanne for the Kew International medal, Penny Brice, Kew Diploma Student, RBG Kew’s School of Horticulture said: “Through her research Professor Simard revealed that plants, in particular trees, could work together as a community not as individuals in a forest. The discovery of extensive mycorrhizal networks in the soil has highlighted how species interact and how important it is to understand these complex relationships. Professor Simard, against a backdrop of institutional patriarchy and resistance to contemporary science, followed her instincts and pursued her research in order to challenge the detrimental forestry management in British Columbia and to champion the importance of these rich and diverse environments globally.”

On learning of the award Professor Simard said: “I am delighted to receive the Kew International Medal this year. Forests are made of relationships that create community and their connectedness keeps them healthy and resilient. Working to solve mysteries of what made forests tick, and how they are linked made me the scientist I am today. The invaluable global scientific work that RBG Kew does is helping to conserve and protect plants as well as support livelihoods and communities for a sustainable future.”

The Kew International Medal was presented to Professor Simard in a ceremony at London’s Royal Society on 30 March 2023, where she delivered a keynote lecture entitled ‘The importance of keeping community in forests’. In her lecture, she called for protection and restoration of primary forests and landscapes, as well as the need to listen and learn from local communities to protect habitats.

Dame Amelia Fawcett, Chair of the Board of Trustees of RBG, Kew, who presented Professor Simard with the Medal said: “We’re delighted to acknowledge Professor Simard’s invaluable work and devotion to championing biodiversity within forest management. Suzanne’s work complements RBG Kew’s vision; to build a world where plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved – because our lives depend on them. Through its world-class research and diverse living collections, Kew scientists are discovering long-term solutions to combat biodiversity loss and climate change. It is vital that we cultivate the next generation of scientists – mycologists, botanists and arboriculturists – and give them the tools they need to ensure the future care of our planet. Following COP15, RBG Kew is perfectly placed to continue to shape debate and policy, utilising our global partnerships and unique collections to ensure the biodiversity crisis remains a critical focus on the road to 2030”.

RBG Kew has an active mycorrhizal fungi research group exploring the diversity, distribution and functional traits of mycorrhizal fungi in forests, grasslands and heathlands to help unearth the crucial role of fungi in plant establishment, nutrition and resilience. RBG Kew also has the world’s largest fungarium, with 1.25 million samples of fungi from all seven continents, spanning the entire fungal tree of life and representing well over half of known global diversity.


Picture: Prof Suzanne Simard explores Kew Gardens Temperate House © RBG Kew by Ines Stuart-Davidson

Riot Director Katy MacMillan-Scott on how publishing can play helping museums, galleries and cultural institutions to celebrate milestone anniversaries

This article first appeared in The Bookseller.

As an industry, we all know the power of the anniversary when it comes to publishing brands and book prizes: the perfect opportunity to do a retrospective with well-known names for existing fans, whilst also engaging new audiences using fresh new voices and content. However, it was our most recent anniversary campaign that highlighted to us the role publishing could play outside of the world of books, helping non-publishing brands (museums, galleries and cultural institutions) to celebrate their milestone birthdays.

Last summer, Riot was hired by the National Railway Museum (part of the Science Museum Group) to deliver a communications campaign for the centenary of one of its star objects, Flying Scotsman. The centenary programme offered an embarrassment of riches – heritage railway tours across the UK and exhibitions at the National Railway Museum – but it was our view that nothing could convey the pure thrill of riding the celebrity engine to the masses as compellingly as two new publications. The first was Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday, a new children’s book written and illustrated by national treasures and train enthusiasts Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman. The result of a licensing deal between the Science Museum Group and Thames & Hudson, this was the first time the Group had co-published a children’s book. The second was a new poem commissioned by the National Railway Museum to mark the anniversary itself on 24th February 2023.

For the centenary programme launch at London King’s Cross in October, we built up the publication of the children’s book, creating a media moment that paired Michael Morpurgo with the National Railway Museum’s Dr Sophie Vohra, a rail anniversary expert, and Grand Central Trainee Train Driver Stacey Fox, who operates out of King’s Cross Station. In an industry where female representation is limited, the combination of female representatives from the rail industry and Morpurgo’s inspiring story of Iris – a little girl who dreams of being a train driver – was fantastic. Ensuing coverage included a BBC One – Breakfast broadcast package filmed live from Platform 8, next to Scotsman, and a photocall for international picture desks featuring Morpurgo giving a special reading to six-year-old pupils from a local Camden primary school, which lead to a spot in the Guardian’s ‘Best photographs of the day’.

For the anniversary itself in February 2023, the release of UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s new poem – The Making of Flying Scotsman – gave us the news hook and spokesperson we needed to land national coverage. In a broadcast exclusive for BBC Radio 4 – Today, Armitage shared that his intention was to celebrate the ‘analogue world’ and a time in history when people had ‘an actual relationship with physical objects’, praising Scotsman as ‘an emblem of when we could have pride about the railways’. A counter to much of the negative news coverage about rail, Armitage’s poem celebrated the sweat, dirt and engine power that went into the locomotive’s construction in a way that made it feel vital and accessible.

This campaign made us question why we hadn’t seen more collaborations like this elsewhere. There was no doubt that it was the endorsement and commentary from some of the UK’s most trusted storytellers that made the media elements of this campaign the success story they were. Not only was the hardback edition of Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday an instant hit, selling out of its first print run within two months, with reprint due this month, but it also created a reliable hook last autumn when many other elements – such as potential delays to the engine’s overhaul, train strikes and possibility of the Queen’s death – were uncertain. The same applied to the release of Simon Armitage’s poem on the centenary itself.

At a time when many museums and cultural institutions struggle to balance their past with the need to remain culturally relevant, collaborations with publishers, writers and illustrators offer an opportunity to revitalise their brand narrative and to win new fans. The pressure to find new revenue streams is more urgent that ever: a recent report from The Arts Newspaper shows that museums and galleries are struggling to regain pre-Covid visitor figures, particularly in London. Museum partnerships are bread and butter for the likes of Thames & Hudson (V&A, British Museum) and Welbeck (Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew), but the opportunity is surely there for any enterprising publisher who can spot an opportunity to align their author or illustrator with the right brand. Who wouldn’t want to put their talent in front of new, often highly engaged audiences whilst at the same time tapping into partners’ commercial spaces and networks. It’s the perfect exchange of gifts. After all, you don’t only celebrate your own birthday.


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

New Podcast About ‘The Moomin Phenomenon’ Hosted By Jennifer Saunders And Lily Collins Launches Today

Lily Collins

The five-part series explores how and why the creations of Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson have been embraced globally, from Scandinavia to Japan.

Moomin Characters will launch ‘The Moomin Phenomenon,’ a five-part audio documentary series narrated by actress and producer Lily Collins, well known for her role in Emily in Paris, and the multi-hyphenate English actress, singer, comedian, and screenwriter Jennifer Saunders, widely recognized for her role as Edina Monsoon in the TV-series Absolutely Fabulous. The Moomin Phenomenon tells the story of how the Moomins went from being characters in a series of Finnish children’s books to a worldwide phenomenon with fans all over the globe, its own philosophy, hundreds of licensed products, and an annual turnover of over 650 million euros.

The Moomins first appeared in The Moomins and the Great Flood, a story written and illustrated by the Finnish artist Tove Jansson and published in 1945. They were catapulted onto the global stage in 1954, when the London Evening News commissioned Jansson to write a Moomin comic strip which ran for an incredible 20 years and, at its peak, was syndicated in 40 different countries.

‘The Moomin Phenomenon’ explores why fans feel such a deep connection to the characters that Tove Jansson created and the unique philosophy of Moominvalley, where the values of love, equality and courage are ever-present. It asks how and why so many artists – from writers and musicians to designers and jewellers – have been inspired by these stories, and how the brand
balances its licensing programme with the importance of preserving the integrity of Tove Jansson’s body of work. Finally, its looks at the life and legacy of Jansson, an incredible woman who lived
according to her own rules.

Featured in the podcast, amongst others, are:

  • Actor Samuel West, who is a lifelong fan and whose daughter is named after a character in the Moomin stories
  • Designer Rika Kawato, who has made Moomin fabrics for the Japanese market for 10 years
  • Publishers Nat Jansz and Mark Ellingham, who were behind the Moomin x Oxfam collaboration which raised millions of pounds
  • Philosopher Sanna Tirkkonen, literature professor Björn Sundmark, and Tove’s biographer Boel Westin
  • Composer Lauri Porra, who has recently created a new audio identity for Moomin Characters (…and is also bass guitarist in the power metal band, Stratovarius!)
  • Jeweller Harriet Vine, who is the co-founder of Tatty Devine, an east-London based jewellery brand with a Moomin range
  • And a fan named Malin Tjernström, who gets her third Moomin tattoo whilst being interviewed for the podcast!

The podcast is hosted by comedian and actor Jennifer Saunders, who is “evangelical” about the Moomins, having voiced the character of Mymble in the recent TV adaptation, Moominvalley. Saunders discovered the Moomins as an adult when her youngest daughter became “fanatical” about the stories.

Jennifer Saunders, narrator of the podcast, said: “My personal admiration for Tove Jansson is huge, but through this podcast I’ve become aware that I’m not alone – she is truly worshipped all over the world, and rightly so. The uninitiated sometimes see the Moomin stories as being only for children – and they are wonderful children’s books, of course – but having come to them as an adult, I fell in love with the philosophy and the charm. There’s something for everybody and every mood. The stories are dark sometimes, and that’s brilliant. I love how all emotions and the internal workings of our minds are there on the page. And they’re funny too!”

Lily Collins, narrator of the podcast, said: “I am thrilled to share the Moomins with new adults and children who will become inspired by these loveable trolls just as I have been. I first discovered the series and its magical illustrations as a child growing up in the English countryside. There is so much to learn through Tove’s writing about equality, respect for nature, and how to break out of your comfort zone in search of an adventure. I try to bring all of these themes into my daily life as an adult and still today return to the Moomin stories again and again. My husband and I have even started our own Tove Jansson collection of artwork and personal letters that we deeply treasure and
will pass down for generations to come.”

Sophia Jansson, niece of Tove Jansson, said: “Tove was an incredible artist and an exceptional person. She wasn’t afraid of walking her own path and was true to her ideals, and these things fed into her creations – they’re part of what makes the Moomin stories so special. I’m very happy that her work continues to resonate so deeply with people all around the world today.”

Antonio de la Cruz, the producer of ‘The Moomin Phenomenon’, said: “Producing this podcast has been such a joyful experience. Those of us who have always had Moomin in our lives can sometimes take its profound impact for granted, so it’s been really wonderful to have the opportunity to explore that in-depth. From speaking to a paediatric doctor who leads a project to integrate Moomin values ​​into the entire care chain of a children’s hospital, to artists who deeply feel the influence and spirit of Tove in their own work, it has been illuminating, fun and inspiring throughout.”

‘The Moomin Phenomenon’ was produced by Third Ear Creative, a Scandinavian podcast group, on behalf of Moomin Characters. Antonio de la Cruz was the producer and Melody Lovelin was the researcher. Tove Leffler acted as executive producer and the sound engineer was Gustav Sondén.

It is available to download now on all podcast platforms.

Image of Lily Collins ©Moomin Characters 2023