This year’s class of Rising Stars arrives as a welcome boost in what, on the national stage, has been (despite the football) another tough week heralding much uncertainty ahead.
Our chosen nearly-50 individuals from across the industry demonstrate passion and energy in abundance, and there’s real conviction on display about the need for a more inclusive future for the book trade. “Make sure you get people in that aren’t often invited to the table”; “[inclusion work] will definitely be a focus throughout my career”; “re-envisioned our programme to put an intersectional, inclusive ethos at its heart”; wanting to “encourage openness within the industry by supporting new writers’ schemes and seeking out talent from a range of backgrounds”; and “calling for marginalised folk [in my company], especially at lower quartiles, to be heard”. There’s clearly a shared vision here, across many different fields, that our stars of the future want to turn into reality—and if the momentum continues, it is going to bring real transformation in publishing over the next few years.
My colleague Tom Tivnan rightly also comments on the entrepreneurialism of this year’s crop, the “DIY” approach, fuelled by personal conviction: so many have struck out on their own with projects they see a need for, whether it’s Banshee Press, celebrating the literary achievements of women, or the You Read it Queer First website for LGTBQ+-inclusive children’s books. That creativity and dynamism bodes well for the future and we salute our Stars one and all, and in particular our Shooting Star, HarperFiction’s Phoebe Morgan.
Age is not the defining factor in our choice of Rising Stars, but in reality many of them are in the earlier stages of their book trade careers. In general, while the last 16 months have been unbelievably tough on everyone, newer entrants to the industry have had particular challenges to deal with: short of the easy, face-to-face, in-office mentoring of line managers and colleagues, and bereft of the industry’s all-important social side. A year of working from home with a mix of relative professional isolation and London’s typically cramped, often shared accommodation is a particularly challenging combination when you are in the formative stages of forging a career.
Unfortunately, the government’s latest gamble this week, with its risky “with one bound, he was free” approach to opening up, means the wholesale lifting of restrictions later this month comes with a particular sting in the tail for the under-30s, many of whom will not have the chance of being double-vaccinated till the start of the autumn. The spiralling infection rates that are being clearly indicated will leave them more exposed to the virus than ever over the next few weeks, with two jabs needed to make a really substantial difference to the rate of protection against the Delta variant. Bloomsbury’s declared policy that vaccination will be required for everyone returning to the office looks, in the light of this, understandable. However intensely frustrating it is for those desperate to be back with their colleagues, for these next few weeks a cautious approach should prevail.