Roll up for the main event

The timing of this year’s Children’s Conference could not be more acute: by Monday 23rd September, we may be on the cusp of leaving the European Union with or without a deal, or preparing for a general election. Three and a half years on from the referendum result, the ghost of Brexit past, present and future hovers over us, helping provide the theme for this year’s event: how to publish for everyone in today’s divided world.

For children’s publishers and booksellers, the idea of the “big tent”—an inclusive environment with books for everyone—has never been more important, as keynote Catherine Bell, co-m.d. of the big publisher Scholastic, will outline in her talk on how to “wow all children”. Other keynotes will see Kiera O’Brien, The Bookseller’s charts analyst, assess why this sector continues to rise—is it all about unicorns, and other fings, Kiera will ask—and Alice Burden and Jamila Metran outline when to take a story beyond the book. For the first time too, we are hosting the official World Book Day 2020 title launch.

Following the keynotes, the conference will ask how to bring in the crowd, how to reach new audiences, and how to publish to the widest brief; in our “inside the tent” stream for safe debate, panels will focus on publishing YA, how to build a viable children’s audiobook business, publishing outside London, innovative librarianship, and training needs for next-generation publishers. Or on the main stage, there are sessions on maximising IP in China, teenagers’ habits and the role of the high street. Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix, a children’s fiction development company with a focus on inclusive representation, will also chair a session on sustaining the careers of new authors and illustrators, while author Sharna Jackson will talk about how the cultural sector engages with children.

At the end of the day, Annette McCartney, special educational needs relationship manager at Pop-Up Projects, will talk about how picture books empower children with special educational needs; while a final panel will ask publishers and experts how publishing is responding to the mental health crisis in young people.

The end keynote from Cressida Cowell, author and Children’s Laureate—“Reading is Magic and Magic Should Be for Everyone”—will charge and inspire us to once again face the challenges ahead, after a year of strong publishing and sustained growth.

The Bookseller children’s editor Charlotte Eyre is on parental leave, and stepping into her shoes as host of the day is our children’s previewer Fiona Noble.

Our thanks to all speakers, partners, sponsors and delegates, all of whom make this event so special.