A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Evaluation on Breaking New Ground: Scotland showcase 2019

This special, one-off event was an addition to our agreed programme of activity and took place on 18 June 2019, from 6-8 pm at Scottish Storytelling Centre to celebrate and champion children’s writers and illustrators of colour.

It was a collaboration with Scottish Book Trust (SBT) as part of a national touring showcase in partnership with Speaking Volumes, Pop Up Projects and BookTrust.

The free event was jointly introduced by our own Co-Vice Chair Valentina Bold and SBT’s Director of Programme Rosemary Ward and hosted by Pop Up Projects.

More than 60 publishers, agents, librarians, teachers, booksellers, literary programmers, literature organisations, literary influencers, academics and Scotland-based writers of colour came along to hear more about the work of four featured children’s authors and illustrators and why children from all backgrounds need to see each other in the books they read.

The participating children’s authors were Faridah Àbíké-lyímídé (based in Aberdeen who has just been given a two-book deal) and Sarwat Chudda, and author-illustrators Ken Wilson-Max (replacing Nadia Shireen in a last-minute change to the programme) and Emily Hughes.

Lighthouse Bookshop also provided a pop-up shop to feature the work of the authors, and other children’s writers of colour in Scotland.

Project and Comms Manager Jenny Kumar co-ordinated Scotland activity and marketing with the team at Pop Up Projects in London and worked closely with Rosemary Ward and SBT’s Head of Writing Communities Caitrin Armstrong. Pop Up Projects covered the costs of the four writers’ fees, accommodation and travel while LAS and SBT equally shared the costs for the venue, catering and programming.

The event was invitation-only to ensure the right people were in the room with a professional interest in attending, namely: writers of colours living in Scotland; teachers; school and public librarians; booksellers; book festival and other programmers; children’s and Young Adult (YA) publishers and agents; academics and PhD students working in children’s & YA literature; Bookbug coordinators and freelance trainers; LAS members; literature organisations, Creative Scotland, influencers including arts correspondents and book bloggers.

The guest list was divided into sections based on best SBT and LAS contacts to avoid contravening GDPR. LAS member, CILIPS, helped distribute the e-invite to library contacts. The Eventbrite page was viewed 675 times and the total number of booked tickets was 75 with 60+ attending.

To boost numbers, we tweeted about ‘last-minute availability’ tickets on Thurs 13 June before the event, which earned 8,785 impressions and 101 total engagements. On the day, the event was live tweeted by both SBT and LAS. Audience members also shared their own photos, quotes and comments, which most frequently used the word “inspirational”. See feedback below.

LAS Co-Vice Chair Valentina Bold wrote a blog about the event, which we shared on Twitter and was picked up by one of the children’s author speakers Ken Wilson-Max, thereby raising our visibility with a wider audience across the UK.

One of our librarian guests, Markie DeLeavey, also wrote a blog about the event for the CILIP in Scotland website, which was shared with the library community.

As a result of the successful Breaking New Ground event, we created connections and developed relationships with a number of Scotland-based writers of colour and, with their consent, added them to our event mailing list to keep them up-to-date with LAS, our members and sector-wide activities. We also developed a strong working relationship with Alycia Pirmohamed, co-founder of the Scottish BAME Writers’ Network, which is now a member of LAS.

Feedback

A short round-up of feedback via emails, anecdotally and on Twitter.

From emails:

This was an incredibly inspirational event which I really enjoyed.​

~Caroline Craig, Policy Officer, Culture Engagement at Scottish Government

 Thank you and everyone involved for the wonderful event tonight. It was a beautiful showcase of writers, and a very welcoming space – so, so appreciated!

~Alycia Pirmohamed, invited writer

From anecdotal feedback:

The audience had a wonderful evening, and the Breaking New Ground catalogue opened many eyes on the night. We had a much more diverse audience than is usual for book events in Scotland.

All three writers I was speaking to said how important the event was, how nice it was to see different faces in the room, the great connections they’d made and asked about how we’d marketed it to get the right people in the room (I explained we invited them). They were also keen to point out that we need to build on this momentum. They’re keen to be invited to more literary events and to be kept in the loop too.

 Inspiring – used the most often on Twitter

Inspiring and important event:

Really inspiring and important evening hearing from #BreakingNewGround19. We need to ensure that children from all backgrounds see themselves in the books they read ~@Rach_laburn (SBT)

Had such a great time at #BreakingNewGround19 last night hearing (and looking at/experiencing!) the brilliant work by Emily Hughes, @sarwatchadda, @faridahlikestea and @kenwilsonmax. What an inspiration. ~@AlicePiotrowska

Publishers have a lot more to do in supporting writers and illustrators of colour, but as buyers, we can be more adventurous too ~@grinders

At #BreakingNewGround19 this evening joining the revolution to share and celebrate British writers and illustrators of colour ~@grinders