Read Hour launches in the UK with support of Moomin characters

Read Hour

The hugely successful Finnish literacy initiative, Read Hour, is coming to the UK for the first time in 2021, thanks to Finland’s most successful literary export, the Moomins. 

Celebrated on UN International Literacy Day, Read Hour was created by the Children and Youth Foundation with a mission to encourage people to spend just one hour of their day on 8th September reading, whether that be a book, magazine or comic book – everything is encouraged. 

Moomin Characters Ltd was inspired to help launch Read Hour internationally after seeing its success in Finland first-hand. In the three years since its launch, Read Hour has attracted huge amounts of support, growing year on year. Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, has been the patron since Read Hour began and thousands of Finns shared their Read Hour participation on social media every year. 

In the UK, organisations who have pledged to support Read Hour so far include Waterstones, Macmillan Children’s Books, Sort Of Books, Oxfam, World Book Day, BookTrust, Love Reading and many more.  

There will be special Read Hour events taking place at Waterstones stores in London and Glasgow on 8th September at 4pm. The Glasgow event at the Sauchiehall Street store will see Moomin storyteller Liz Fost entertain and delight audiences with interactive storytelling and crafts. In London’s Kingston store attendees will have the opportunity to meet and have a photo with Moomintroll and hear tales of Moominvalley from children’s author Philip Ardagh, the author of The World of Moominvalley. 

Roleff Kråkström, Managing Director of Moomin Characters, said: “We have made a long term commitment to helping spark a love of reading and writing in young people around the globe, and are delighted to be bringing Read Hour to the UK as part of that mission. We believe that being able to read and write opens up a world of possibilities for young people, allowing them to communicate their hopes and dreams, relate to others, engage with the big issues of our times, and create positive change.” 

Jennifer Saunders, Cressida Cowell, Laura Dockrill and Philip Ardagh are among the celebrities and authors who will be supporting Read Hour on social media. Anyone taking part is encouraged to share a photo of themselves or the book they are reading on social media using the hashtag #ReadHourUK. 

The official Read Hour will be held at 2pm-3pm, but anyone unable to take part then is encouraged to hold their own Read Hour at any time that suits them on 8th September. Reading alone and reading together with a family member, friend, classmates or colleagues are equally encouraged. 

A range of Read Hour resources are available here for bookshops, schools, and libraries who would like to take part in the initiative. Please contact for further information. 

Preena Gadher on how to create a GOLD standard company culture in 6 steps

Riot awarded gold accreditation by Investors in People

This month, we received the wonderful news that we had been awarded GOLD accreditation by Investors in People. Going from zero to gold is “unprecedented” according to our assessors; we’d
never entered the accreditation scheme previously and so went in blindly, simply reporting all the things that are part and parcel of Riot team culture. But it left me wondering why it was so rare. As an agency leader, investing in our staff welfare and our company culture is a top priority – we put as much effort into it as we do our fee-earning client work. After all, we work in PR, a people driven industry. Without our people, we have nothing.

According to research by McKinsey “organisations with higher performing cultures create a 3x return for shareholders”. But too often, creating and nurturing the organisation’s culture is seen as a side project – a nice to have, or worse still, something to do with Gary from finance bonding with Sonali the Creative Director in an excruciating team away day.

So what is company culture?

For us at Riot, it’s what we do, how we do it and why we do it. We have absolute clarity on why we exist as an organisation and what we are collectively trying to achieve, coupled with clear values and behaviours so people know what a good job looks like. And our culture has our people at its core.

Truth be told, the road to creating a winning culture at Riot has not been linear; we have done a lot of listening and reflecting along the way, about what works and what less so. But crucially, its
importance to our success has never an after-thought.

So here are my top 6 tips for creating a gold standard company culture:

1. Have purpose.

A 2019 Deloitte report concluded that “purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction”. Be clear on what problem it is your organisation is here to solve – your why – and then use that as your canvas upon which to paint the rest. Staff are more likely to feel engaged (think proud and enthusiastic) when they know they are working towards a higher purpose. The anecdote about the NASA janitor – who told JFK he was there to help put man on the moon – is a great way to remember this.

2. Identify your values.

Put another way: “how you do what you do”. What behaviours are important to you as a business and how does that differentiate you from your competitors? If you are an owner-manager, working with a coach and / or a change management consultant can help with this process as it did for me. Once identified, ensure everyone in your business knows what the values are and use them as your daily guiding light, especially when faced with difficult decisions. At Riot, our values are baked into absolutely everything we do: from determining which pitches we go for and defining who the right clients are for us, to giving daily feedback to colleagues.

3. Create trust.

Research by Harvard Business Review found that employees at companies where trust is high report 106% greater energy in the office, 74% lower stress levels, 76% greater engagement, and 50% more productivity than their peers at low-trust businesses. Be as open and transparent as you can be with your team. I never try to sugar-coat information. It’s disingenuous. Does that make for harder conversations at times? Yes, but ultimately, it helps build confidence in leadership. Trust is also a two-way street. Trust your colleagues to deliver. Give them space to experiment, question and learn for themselves.

4. Communicate.

This one can’t be stressed enough. Communicate your vision and your strategy so people are crystal clear on where the organisation is going and crucially how they can help play a part in the adventure – more on that shortly. Avoid information black holes and consider how key messages will impact at the various levels of your organisation. People feel valued when they are kept up to speed, which feeds back into a sense of trust.

5. Treat your staff like individuals and celebrate uniqueness.

At Riot, during the interview process, we always ask ourselves “what difference does this candidate bring that will make our agency even better?” We ask new starters “what do you need to help you thrive at work?” and we do our best to make it happen. A colleague’s personal career development is a key part of line management but so is individual accountability. Identifying and working with natural strengths and building bespoke development plans linked to the overall strategy of the business allows staff to grow at the same time as the agency. This linked structure allows people to feel the impact of their daily effort on the overall success of Riot, which in turns leads to a more motivated team. Development plans are reviewed and renewed frequently – no one waits for an annual appraisal to find out if they are doing a good job or not.

6. Be open to change.

The last 18 months has demonstrated that change is the only constant. Work with it rather than resisting it, even when it feels uncomfortable. I have had to work hard over the years to lean into change against my natural disposition. Change is essential to helping us grow as individuals and as an agency; disruption often unlocks potential. Though we are 12 years old, we still operate with a start-up mindset which is encouraged across the team. Counterintuitively, we have put in place more structure and process to make us more efficient, but which crucially can be flexed quickly when needed.

Aardman and Gurinder Chadha to collaborate on ‘a high concept, Bollywood-inspired animated movie’

Peter Lord and Gurinder Chadha

The multi-award-winning independent animation studio, Aardman (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Pirates, Arthur Christmas), and the critically acclaimed film director Gurinder Chadha OBE (Bend It Like Beckham; Bride and Prejudice; Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging; Viceroy’s House; Blinded by the Light) have announced that they are partnering on a feature film project.

Aimed at a global family audience, the exuberant, warm-hearted musical will tell the story of Bodhi, a young Indian elephant from the jungles of Kerala with an impossible dream – to be a Bollywood dancer! 

The film will be directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is co-writing the script with Paul Mayeda Berges, under the banner of their production company Bend It Networks. 

Gurinder Chadha said: “Aardman is a Great British national treasure. I am honoured and excited to bring my unique British Asian vision to their acclaimed animation studio. Their work has so much heart, humour and affection, and we share a love of authentic and joyful underdog stories about memorable characters – so it really is a perfect match.” 

Peter Lord, Creative Director at Aardman, said: “We are so excited to be collaborating with Gurinder, a truly great director whose beautiful, funny, and warm storytelling we have long admired. Her talent, when combined with the team here at Aardman, promises something new and extraordinary in the world of animation.” 

Aardman and Bend It Networks will work with Indian voice talent, musicians, and designers on the project, which is in advanced development.

Judging panel for 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize announced

“Science communication has always been very important, to entertain, inform and inspire. This has never been more relevant than this year.”

– Professor Luke O’Neill


The five-strong judging panel for this year’s Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment, is revealed today, Wednesday 21st July 2021.

The Prize – which celebrates the very best in popular science writing from around the world – will be chaired in 2021 by world-leading immunologist, presenter and writer, Professor Luke O’Neill FRS. He is joined on the panel by representatives from across the worlds of science and culture: 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). 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.

Chair of judges, Professor Luke O’Neill, FRS, commented:

“I’m delighted to be chairing the judging panel for the 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize. Science communication has always been very important, to entertain, inform and inspire. This has never been more relevant than this year, with scientists engaging with the public across all media on a daily basis because of Covid-19. A tremendously interesting number of books have been nominated this year, across a huge range of topics, making our job very enjoyable but also challenging. Science communication is clearly in very good hands.”

A shortlist of six titles, from a record number of more than 240 submissions published between 1 st July 2020 and 30 th September 2021, will be announced in September. The winner of the 2021 Prize will be revealed at a ceremony in November. The winner will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.

Angus Woolhouse, Global Head of Distribution at Insight Investment, sponsor of the Prize, said:

“It’s hard to think of a time when engaging science communication has been needed more. It takes skill and passion to write about science in a way that is appealing and accessible to a broad audience, and to challenge conventional thinking by providing original perspectives on subjects which may previously have been viewed as fact. Insight are privileged to support this prestigious prize. We congratulate The Royal Society and the talented authors entering the Prize this year. We hope as many people as possible get to enjoy the shortlisted books.”

A.K. Blakemore wins Desmond Elliott Prize 2021 with “stunning” debut The Manningtree Witches

The National Centre for Writing (NCW) has today announced A.K. Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches as the winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021. The historical fiction novel, praised by judges as “clever and unexpected”, is chosen as the best first novel across the UK and Ireland this year from a strong shortlist which also featured little scratch by Rebecca Watson and The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams.

In addition to the £10,000 prize money, Blakemore will receive a tailored year-round platform of support and mentorship from NCW, which runs the Desmond Elliott Prize as part of its Early Career Awards portfolio.

The Manningtree Witches plunges readers into the fever of the English witch trials of the 17th century. The fatherless and husbandless Rebecca West is barely tolerated by the affluent villagers in Manningtree, which has been depleted of men since the wars between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers began. Then newcomer Matthew Hopkins, a mysterious, pious figure dressed from head to toe in black, takes over The Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women on the margins of society. 

It was chosen as the best first novel of the year by a judging panel chaired by author and previous Desmond Elliott Prize winner, Lisa McInerney, who was joined by journalist and author Chitra Ramaswamy and book reviewer and broadcaster Simon Savidge. Lisa McInerney said:The Manningtree Witches is a stunning achievement. Blakemore takes limited historical detail and, with what seems like effortless grace and imagination, crafts a breathing, complex world full of wrenchingly human characters, and tells us their stories in language that bears endless rereading, so clever and unexpected and pleasurable it is.’

National Centre for Writing’s programme director Peggy Hughes commented: ‘In an extraordinary year to publish a debut novel, we nevertheless encountered a huge number of wonderful, ambitious, exciting new books. A.K. Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches stood out from the crowd however, and we’re hugely excited to be able to support her career, and to see where her writing will take her – and us – next.’

A.K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in the London Review of Books, Poetry and Poetry Review, among others.

The Early Career Awards portfolio also includes the University of East Anglia (UEA) New Forms Award for an innovative and daring new voice in fiction and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship which recognises an exceptional writer who has experienced limiting circumstances or is currently underrepresented in literary fiction. 

The UEA New Forms Award was judged by writer Yan Ge, with Professor Henry Sutton of UEA and Simon Jones, who produces NCW’s The Writing Life podcast. It is awarded to Charlotte Geater, who has a PhD from the University of Kent in Creative Writing: The Contemporary Novel, and whose pamphlet Poems for my FBI Agent was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020.

Of Geater’s entry, Yan Ge said: ‘Charlotte Geater is a writer of extraordinary talent and vigorous creative ambition. Her work looks into personal trauma, local history and the life and work of Byron through the prism of illness. In unfeigned and effortless prose, she enquires intensely and deeply into the pain and exhilaration of being human.’

The Laura Kinsella Fellowship was judged by Kerry Hudson and Eva Verde with NCW Communications Manager Stephanie McKenna. It is awarded to Harminder Kaur. After studying creative writing at UEA as part of her degree in Literature and Film, and an MA in Literature at Sussex, Harminder’s life was interrupted by the onset of schizophrenia while she was studying for a PhD in Cultural Theory at Hull. She is currently writing a work of literary fiction called Psychotic Episodes, which is made up of a series of linked stories about mental illness, race, and faith.

Of Kaur’s work, Kerry Hudson said: ‘We felt Harminder’s work showed enormous presence. She’s a writer of power and honesty and the piece both moved and provoked thoughts in equal measure. We can’t wait to see what Harminder will do with this opportunity, and we feel very grateful that we got to read her work.’

Geater and Kaur will both receive £4,000 to assist them at the beginnings of their careers as well as a bespoke programme of support provided by the NCW, backed by Arts Council England. 

NCW looks to celebrate the literary ecology and systems that help create writers and support a sustainable career, so all three winners have been invited to choose a selection of ten books, which NCW will gift to a library or school of their choice. NCW also asked readers to nominate their favourite independent bookshop, where the chosen reader received copies of the longlisted books and the winning bookshop received £500.

Running in parallel to the Early Career Awards is an online digital programme providing free resources for anyone, anywhere wanting to progress with their writing. Every two months NCW releases a bespoke support package with advice from established and new voices. Supported by the Arts Council England, this element of the Early Career Awards aims to widen the impact of literary prize culture.

Celebrating Windrush Day

22 June 2021 is the fourth national Windrush Day, and 73 years since the SS Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex in 1948, carrying the first Caribbean migrants to the UK. They were invited to help re-build Britain after the Second World War. 

As a daughter of the Windrush Generation – those who came from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 – Windrush Day for me is an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of my parents and others who emigrated from the Caribbean, specifically the contributions they have made, and continue to make, to British society.  The day is an opportunity to remember their struggles and achievements to make a better life for future generations like me, and to share this uniquely British history with others. 

Hailing from Grenada, my mother, Joan Andall (formerly Harry-Marcelle) arrived in the English port of Southampton, on 1 September 1960 as part of the Windrush Generation, aged 21. Here I share her experiences of immigrating to the UK. 

What were the circumstances of you coming to England?

Laughing, Joan says: I never wanted to come to England! I had turned down two previous offers, then my mother sent me to England to stop me from marrying my 9-month-old son’s dad, Michael Harry.

What was your journey like?

I travelled on the Ascania Cruise Ship in July 1960. I spent most of the journey in the sick bay, with sea sickness. I had never been on a ship like that before it had everything, like cruise ships today. I made friends with a couple from Grenville, Grenada. They looked after me throughout the journey and we became life-long friends. We had fun chatting and dancing in the cabin.

The ship stopped at several Caribbean islands. There were lots of Jamaicans on the ship, they were fun, confident characters.

Curaçao was the first place I disembarked, it was a beautiful island and I saw people I knew from Grenada.

What were your first impressions of England?

The weather was good at Southampton. I didn’t feel the cold until weeks later and then I began dressing with my baby doll underneath my dresses!

Social workers made sure we had the right addresses and our luggage was transferred to the London train. I kept asking, where is the train? It was right in front of us; I had never seen a train before!

At Waterloo Station, I was met by my sister and brother-in-law, on his motor bike and I rode pillion to 3 Harts Lane, New Cross Gate, my first home in London.

There were six rooms rented in the house, with shared bathroom and kitchen. I had a room, costing £4.00 a week, with extra for utilities and an extra shilling depending on how long we needed gas to cook. 

What was your first job in London?

Finding work was easy, people would walk in and out of jobs. I arrived on a Thursday, went to the Labour Exchange on Friday and started work Monday.

My first job was at Fields of the Old Kent Road; a cereal factory where I packed tiny boxes of raisins. Then I was accepted to train as a nurse at Ladywell Hospital. I happily looked after soldiers, geriatrics and other adults. The hospital was clean, organised and I had good colleagues from Europe and the Caribbean. The Matron used to tell the other nurses ‘‘… ask Marcelle to teach you how to put the pillow cases on.’’ 

Michael followed me to England in 1961 and we married. He started work in London as a bus conductor and we began planning our future. I became ill with an ectopic pregnancy and left nursing; on recovery I took a higher paid job in a coat factory in Aldgate East. My boss gave me a lot of flexibility, which I loved. 

How did you come to buy your first house?

Michael and I moved with the couple I had met on the ship. We bought our first house together and rented rooms out, until both couples were making enough to buy houses separately on the same road. Michael and I continued to rent rooms to others, as our family grew to five children; he moved to work for the Post Office, then finally opened his own business in a local office.

What did you think of UK schools?

My second child went to a good, private nursery. I taught my other children to read before primary school. The teachers were very welcoming and I took part in school trips, parent and cheese and wine evenings. The secondary schools brought some issues of discrimination, around low expectations and excessive discipline, but I soon confronted these.

Was life in Grenada very different?

Strangers would greet each other freely in Grenada; here people thought we were mad if we did that. Some English people moved away from us and were particular about mixing with us.

The supermarkets had different things, but no basics, like onion, garlic or chicken. We had to search for the few ethnic or West Indian shops. In Peckham we shopped at John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and the market, which had Bingo! 

What was your last job before you retired?

After a period doing other jobs, I went back to the job I had always wanted, nursing. I worked at St. Lawrence’s Hospital in Caterham and retired from there after thirteen years of service.

What have you and others in the Windrush Generation contributed to British society?

We contributed to the environment, improving our houses and creating work. We worked hard in the Civil Service, NHS, General Post Office, London Transport Service and many other industries and professions. When the indigenous people saw how much effort we put into our work, we began to earn respect and were no longer seen as being from ‘the wilds’. We helped in the war and went on to help rebuilding this country. 

What are the main changes you have noted in the UK since the 1960s?

There has been some integration and we have gained a lot of understanding from each other. 

Croydon was like a village, but it was busy and developing. We were able to get a foundation and educate ourselves; I went back to nursing, to lift myself up and help people. Things appear to have gone backward in some ways, like a shortage of decent jobs and increases in the cost of education.

Do you believe it was a good thing that the Windrush Generation came to the UK? 

Yes! It was wonderful that we came here. I became a woman in England. We had children and benefited from, as well as contributed to society here. Many of us have spent more of our lives, living and working in this country than where we were born.

What could younger people of today take from your experience?

Young people should have an organisation, where they discuss history and politics. I would like my generation to hand down our experiences, so younger people benefit. Knowledge is power, so they need to read. I thank God for the knowledge and wisdom he has given me. My strongest belief is ‘‘Forward ever, backward never.’’

Deborah Klass is Finance and Operations Manager at Riot. She is a trustee of The Windrush Generation Legacy Association, an organisation which aims to celebrate and share knowledge of the contributions of the Windrush Generation with young people, through exhibitions, seminars, and events. An exhibition of photos and stories can be visited at their new location, 1036-1037, the Whitgift Centre, Croydon, from 2 August 2021. Contact, 020 3772 4545.

Winners of 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals announced

  • Poet and novelist Jason Reynolds secures first Carnegie Medal win for Look Both Ways (Knights Of)
  • Author and illustrator Sydney Smith wins second Kate Greenaway Medal for Small in the City (Walker Books)
  • Manjeet Mann’s debut novel Run Rebel (Penguin Random House Children’s) and Sharon King-Chai’s Starbird (Two Hoots) take home the Shadowers’ Choice Awards from the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medal shortlists respectively

The winners of this year’s CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest and best-loved book awards for children and young people, were revealed today. Both winning books were announced at a virtual, daytime event, hosted by University Challenge Star and author Bobby Seagull and livestreamed from The British Library. 

The Medals celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and are unique in being judged by librarians. Both winning books explore urban landscapes through a child’s eyes, with Chair of Judges Ellen Krajewski describing them as ‘compelling stories told from a child’s viewpoint that deliver a powerful emotional punch.’ 

This is the first Carnegie Medal win for US poet and author Jason Reynolds – who is the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature – following a shortlisting in 2019 for Long Way Down. Look Both Ways (Knights Of) is a collection of 10 standalone but intertwined, interconnecting stories chronicling the 15 minutes of unsupervised independence of the walk home from school. The judges called it a “breathtakingly gripping”, “innocent tale which covers hard hitting issues including bullying, homophobia and bereavement” that “challenges the reader to see differently in an engaging and fresh way.” 

This is the second Kate Greenaway Medal win for Canadian author and illustrator Sydney Smith following the success of Town is by the Sea in 2018. Small in the City (Walker Books) depicts claustrophobic and overwhelming urban streets from a child’s viewpoint. The judges called it an “evocative and immersive book” that is “understated whilst also managing to build to a moving emotional end with the themes of being lost, alone, and overlooked, taking on a much wider resonance.”

Both winning books are published by independent publishers. Look Both Ways delivers the first win for Knights Of, in its first year to have a longlisted title; Small in the City is the 16th win for Walker Books (4 Carnegie Medals and 12 Kate Greenaway Medals), which had nine books featured in this year’s longlist. Independent publishers had a strong showing on this year’s longlist, with 29 of the 40 books coming from independent presses.

Ellen Krajewski, Chair of the 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, comments:

“This year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal winners are compelling stories told from a child’s viewpoint that deliver a powerful emotional punch. Look Both Ways is a breathtakingly gripping collection of intertwined stories brimming with humour, empathy, and humanity. Each story has its own heart with deft characterisation and narrative voices that feel child-like and completely real and recognisable making it identifiable for children and adults alike. It’s such an innocent tale which covers hard hitting issues including bullying, homophobia and bereavement. The title sums up the way it challenges the reader to see differently in an engaging and fresh way.

Small in the City is an evocative and immersive book which tells quite an ordinary story in such an extraordinary way that it surprises you. It conveys just how it feels to be small in an over-powering city. It’s understated whilst also managing to build to a moving emotional end with the themes of being lost, alone, and overlooked, taking on a much wider resonance. It’s a striking and atmospheric example of artistic storytelling skills which is almost cinematic in its depiction of a child’s view of an imposing urban landscape.

“Congratulations to our 2021 Medal winners, to independent publishers Knights Of and Walker Books, to our Shadowers’ Choice winners, it’s such a wonderfully diverse range of stories and always exciting to see how engaged children and young people are in voting for their favourites. A huge thank you to those voters and to all the children, librarians and teachers who participated this year without whom the Medals would not be possible.” 

Jason Reynolds said

“In Look Both Ways I wanted to explore who it is that children are when the watchful eye of adults aren’t around. So often, children’s literature takes place either at school or at home but there’s an in-between that is the journey home. And even though they all sit in the classroom together, when that bell rings they go separate ways and go through separate things, as we all go through separate journeys in life, that influence and impact who it is that we are when we show up the following day. But the miracle of life is the idea that if we were to trust this process, believe in the power of humanity and speak to one another, no matter who you are or where you are from, all over the world there is a good chance that if we speak to each other long enough, we will probably have someone in common and that’s important, because it’s really difficult to hate someone when the two of you love the same person. 

“That’s what this book is really about. It’s an examination of autonomy, it’s this idea that every child has a different journey and it’s all about the fact that despite those journeys we are all interconnected. One people. One race. Having similar experiences and yet different experience altogether.”

Sydney Smith said: 

“We are living in a moment in history that requires us to keep at a safe distance from one another. Around the world we are self-isolating, social distancing, quarantining, and taking measures to ensure that we will get through this. It is a difficult journey, but we are on this journey together though it requires many of us to be alone or separated from friends and loved ones. It is during this time that these stories we share are more important than ever. They reach past the necessary barriers we may have in place and offer a connection. Our stories have the power to reach out to all ages and keep us grounded and connected to one another; or to provide a magical escape, or a cathartic laugh. Like a friend keeping in touch, stories offer the necessary sentiment: You are not alone. You will be alright. Small in the City is a story of a child’s journey through an urban landscape, and an emotional journey, processing the loss of a friend. 

“This book does not have an easy ending, but it does end with a hug as does any journey worth taking. I believe that will be one of the most beautiful rewards at the end of our difficult journey. The promise of reuniting with a friend and having a laugh or sharing a hug with a loved one. All with the knowledge that we got through this together. And that it was well worth it.”

The winning books were chosen by an expert volunteer team of 15 librarians reading a total of 152 nominations. The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

Tens of thousands of young people who shadow the Medals have also been reading and debating this year’s shortlists and have voted for their favourites to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards. Announced today by a selection of young Shadowers, the Shadowers’ Choice for the Carnegie Medal is Run Rebel, a debut novel by Manjeet Mann, about a girl who runs in quiet rebellion to escape an arranged marriage. The Shadowers’ Choice for the Kate Greenaway Medal is Starbird, illustrated and written by Sharon King-Chai, a mythical tale of a singing Starbird caged by a Moon King.

BBC Three commissions adaptation of Akala’s bestseller ‘Natives’ from Immovable and Greenacre Films

The BBC has commissioned a new documentary series from BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, bestselling author and social entrepreneur Akala, entitled Akala: Race, Class and Empire (w/t). 

Inspired by his bestselling book, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, the series will combine the story of Akala’s own personal journey of self-discovery with an immersive exploration of issues of race, class and empire and how they affect the lives of young people today.

Akala says: “When I was writing Natives, I wanted to try and show how race, class and power dynamics impact the lives of everyday people – these issues affect us all in complicated and chaotic ways, which is why I wanted to contextualise my life and my experiences with the history of Britain and the British Empire that shapes the world we live in today.  My ambition is to do something similar with this TV series. This is going to be a bit of an epic journey for me . . . exploring this and fresh ideas further with audiences globally.”

Fiona Campbell, Controller, BBC Three, says: “This landmark series promises to dispel myths and common misconceptions around race, class and empire in a digestible manner. Akala is a huge talent and a proven success in a multitude of areas and I couldn’t be happier that we will be bringing this vital series to the BBC Three audience.”

Nadine Marsh-Edwards of Greenacre Films says: “Amanda and I founded Greenacre with a mission to showcase diverse stories to a global audience – so this truly is a dream project for us. In Natives, Akala wrote with such insight and eloquence about the pervasive impact of race, class and power dynamics on the lives of everyday British people, so we are delighted to be partnering with him and with Immovable on what we believe will be a landmark series.”

Akala’s interviews, encounters, and unique insight will reveal how race, class and power dynamics continue to shape social policy and life opportunities in the UK.  He will explore how they impact the daily lives and aspirations of working class and young black British people today.

Akala will meet those at the centre of these experiences and will question experts, policy makers and opinion formers, and will also meet those who are bucking the trend and making positive changes.

Akala: Race, Class and Empire (w/t) was commissioned by Fiona Campbell, Controller BBC Three and Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History and Religion. It is being produced by Akala’s production company Immovable and long-time producing partner Greenacre Films. The Executive Producers are Chanelle Newman of Immovable Limited with Nadine Marsh-Edwards and Amanda Jenks of Greenacre Films. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Carl Callam.

Image © Paul Husband

Cath Kidston launches brand new Moomin collaboration for summer 2021

Beloved British lifestyle brand Cath Kidston has partnered with Moomin Characters Ltd to launch a beautiful, nature inspired Moomin range for summer 2021, refreshing two of its most-loved archive prints – linen sprig and mushrooms – with bright, fun colours for an uplifting collaboration that celebrates love and looking after one another.

The product range includes fashion for both adults and children – from pretty print dresses and pyjamas to Breton tops and embroidered shirts – as well as a broad selection of rucksacks, tote bags and accessories. Stationery, water bottles, travel cups, and lunch boxes will all be available, as well as beakers and plates for children.

The colour palette for the collection is a summery yellow and pink, and the main characters featured are Moomintroll, Moominmamma, Snorkmaiden and Little My. The range has a strong floral theme, with characters depicted gardening, wearing traditional Scandinavian flower crowns, and enjoying meadows full of bright blooms.

Cath Kidston’s Creative Director, Holly Marler, said: “Nature was such an important inspiration to Moomin creator Tove Jansson – her illustrations are full of magical flowers, fascinating plants, and mysterious forests. We’re delighted to present this collection which takes its cue from Tove’s love of all things floral to celebrate summertime in bright, blooming colours.”

The price range of the collection begins at £7 for a Cath Kidston x Moomin pen and goes up to £75 for a patterned sleeveless midi shirt dress.

The Cath Kidston x Moomin range will be available to purchase from Cath Kidston 180 Piccadilly and from 21st June.

Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist characterised by “invention, playfulness and above all, joy”

The National Centre for Writing has today announced the three titles shortlisted for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize. The Manningtree Witches by A. K. Blakemore, little scratch by Rebecca Watson and The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams are all in the running to win the £10,000 prize and be named the year’s best first novel from across the UK and Ireland.

All three titles on the shortlist explore themes of self-discovery and language, as well as the nuances of British history and culture, through the lens of female experience.

Chairing the panel of judges for 2021 is former Desmond Elliott Prize winner Lisa McInerney, who is joined by journalist and author Chitra Ramaswamy and book reviewer and broadcaster Simon Savidge. Collectively the three judges are tasked with deciding which title to crown as the best first novel of the last 12 months.

Of the shortlist, Lisa McInerney said:Chitra, Simon and I are delighted to announce a shortlist we feel is characterised by invention, playfulness and above all, joy. Each of these books stood out not only because of their writers’ distinctive voices, but because they feel vital in the way great literature should: defiant in theme and tone, curious, and utterly lovable.”

K. Blakemore’s debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, is a first-person narrative that plunges readers into the fever of the English witch trials of the 17th century. The fatherless and husbandless Rebecca West is barely tolerated by the affluent villagers in Manningtree, which has been depleted of men since the wars between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers began. Then newcomer Matthew Hopkins, a mysterious, pious figure dressed from head to toe in black, takes over The Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. About the novel, Lisa McInerney said: “A.K. Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches thrills with electric sentences, thorny characters and an original take on a real historical horror. But more again; it is startlingly empathetic, stirring and certain from the first page.”

In little scratch Rebecca Watson tells the story of a day in the life of an unnamed woman processing recent sexual violence. Exploring the coexistence of monotony with our waking lives, the protagonist relays what it takes to get through the tasks of daily life while working through this trauma. Lisa McInerney said: “Rebecca Watson wields the eccentricities of little scratch with conviction, tackling a dark subject — trauma — with unexpected and complex lightness, even including moments of visceral happiness that felt revolutionary to us.”

Rounding off the shortlist is The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams, which follows a character who aims to discover the secret to living a meaningful life through words. It is a story of two lexicographers – Peter Winceworth who penned fictitious entries, known as mountweazels, in Swansby’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary in 1899, and young intern Mallory who has to uncover these mountweazels before the dictionary can be digitised for modern readers. Lisa McInerney said: “Eley Williams imbues The Liar’s Dictionary with an irresistible passion for words and her canny understanding of language’s subversive potential, and has this current run alongside an equally delightful, equally compelling love story.”

The Early Career Awards portfolio also includes the University of East Anglia (UEA) New Forms Award, worth £4,000, for an innovative and daring new voice in fiction, and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship, also worth £4,000, to recognise an exceptional writer who has experienced limiting circumstances. The shortlistees for the UEA New Forms Award are I.R. Franklin, Charlotte Geater and James Wilkes. The shortlistees for the Laura Kinsella Fellowship are Maritsa Farah Baksh, Harminder Kaur and Annie Walmsley.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at the National Centre for Writing, said: “We’re delighted to reveal the shortlisted names for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Laura Kinsella Fellowship and the UEA New Forms Award: a hugely talented, innovative and exciting set of writers.  It is no easy task for our judges to whittle the longlists down to shortlists of three and we very much enjoyed hearing Lisa, Chitra and Simon’s thoughts on these captivating and thought-provoking titles.”

The winners of all three awards will be announced on 1st July, and all will benefit from a tailored programme of support from the National Centre for Writing, supported by Arts Council England.