Introducing our conference speakers

  • Dapo Adeola
    Dapo Adeola is the co-creator and illustrator of the Sunday Times bestselling picture book series Look Up! (Puffin), winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020. London born and bred but of Nigerian heritage, he loves to create characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way.
  • Ibtisam Barakat
  • Jasmine Barker
    Bath Children's Literature Festival
    Marketing Manager
    Jasmine Barker is a marketing specialist who currently works at Bath Festivals, an arts charity who produce The Bath Festival and Bath Children’s Literature Festival, which this year was adapted into the Reading is Magic Festival. Building on previous experience gained at Bath Box Office, she has developed a keen understanding of audiences and using data to create strategic marketing plans. She also co-founded the Arts Marketing Bath Network, bringing together marketeers from arts organisations in Bath to collaborate on projects and share their knowledge and experience.
  • Rob Biddulph
    Author & Illustrator
    Rob Biddulph is the creator of the viral phenomenon that is #DrawWithRob, as seen online and on TV all over the world! Over 3 million views on YouTube alone. Rob is a bestselling and award-winning author/illustrator, with his tenth picture book, DOG GONE, publishing in September 2020. Rob’s picture books teach but don’t preach, are filled with warm-hearted humour and easy to follow rhyme, and are the perfect stories for children learning to read or in home education or home-schooling. Rob is hugely high-profile; he’s the official WBD illustrator for 2019/2020, his books are regulars on CBeebies, and various film and TV projects are underway! Rob’s debut Blown Away won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2015 / Blown Away also won for 'Best Illustrated Book' at the Waterstones Children’s Book Awards
  • Melanie Ramdarshan Bold
    University College London
    Associate Professor
    Melanie is an Associate Professor at University College London. She has published widely on inclusive youth literature; alongside numerous publications about contemporary book culture. Her books include: Inclusive Young Adult Fiction: Authors of Colour in the United Kingdom, 2006-2016 (Palgrave, 2019) and Book Trade Activism and Anthologies: Advocating for Change in the UKYA Market (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020). Melanie works in collaboration with the BookTrust to examine the representation of children’s authors and illustrators of colour and explore ways of better supporting them. Additionally, Melanie is currently working on an interdisciplinary research project, Adolescent Identities, which investigates the impact of inclusive YA on minoritised readers. Melanie is also on the Advisory Boards for the CLPE Reflecting Realities and Pop-up Pathways into Children’s Publishing projects, and has judged the YA Book Prize.
  • Tom Bonnick
    Nosy Crow
    Senior Commissioning Editor and Business Development Manager
    Tom Bonnick is Nosy Crow’s Senior Commissioning Editor and Business Development Manager. As well as commissioning fiction for the Nosy Crow list, he also works on all of the company’s audio and digital publishing, digital marketing, events, and other new projects.
  • Serlina Boyd
    Cocoa Publishing
    Serlina Boyd is the founder of Cocoa, the UK’s first black children’s magazines (Cocoa Girl and Cocoa Boy). In 4 weeks, the magazine grew a readership of over 10,000 children! The overwhelming positive feedback and demand for our magazines confirms the crucial need to build a strong community for young black girls and boys who are often misrepresented by mainstream media. Serlina wants black children everywhere to know that they don’t have to change their appearance to feel beautiful and she intends to use the Cocoa platform to celebrate their culture while making black role models more visible. The magazines are filled with inspiring and empowering content for young Black children aged 7-14 years and is intended to support carers and parents too. As a qualified childcare provider and having worked in the publishing industry for 18 years, launching Cocoa Publishing has given her the opportunity to combine her passion for children and the media.
  • Jenny Broom
    Magic Cat Publishing
    Jenny Broom studied at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art at University College London before taking up a career in children’s publishing. She cut her teeth at packaging company Brown Wells and Jacobs before moving to Bonnier-owned Templar Publishing, where she met Williams and helped found new imprint Big Picture Press. Big Picture Press launched in 2013 with an instant bestseller in Maps, and the following year, Broom authored Animalium, which was shortlisted for the National Book Awards and was chosen as The Times children's book of the year. Together with Williams, Broom moved to Quarto Publishing to set up a new children’s non-fiction imprint, Wide Eyed Editions. The imprint’s first title, Atlas of Adventures was another international bestseller, and Broom’s second natural history title, The Wonder Garden, followed in 2015, and was published in more than ten languages. In 2016, Wide Eyed Editions was nominated for Imprint of the Year, while Broom took on the additional role of Editorial Director of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and received a commendation for Editor of the Year at the National Book Awards. In 2019, Broom and Williams together embarked on their third and most exciting venture, founding an all-female-led independent publishing house, Magic Cat Publishing, launching with a list of 11 non-fiction and gift books for children. She lives and works with her young family between London and Norfolk on the east coast of the UK.
  • Nathan Bryon
    Actor & Author
    Nathan Bryon is a writer and actor, who grew up eating as much Uxbridge Road Caribbean food as his bank balance would allow. Nathan is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling picture book series Look Up! (Puffin), winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020 and in development for animation with Illuminated Films.
  • Cassie Chadderton
    World Book Day
  • Teresa Cremin
    The Open University
    Professor of Education (Literacy)
    Teresa Cremin is Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University. An ex-teacher and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) tutor, Teresa now researches reading and writing for pleasure. A reading expert on the DfE English Hubs council, Teresa is passionate about developing readers and leads a research-informed practitioner initiative with >100 Teachers Reading Groups and 30 ITE Institutions as partners.
  • Cynthia Davis
    BAME Recruitment
    CEO & Founder
    Cynthia Davis is the CEO/Founder of BAME Recruitment and Co-founder of Diversifying.io. Cynthia is dedicated to aligning candidates to the right organisations with inclusive cultures that help them to flourish and enhance the businesses they are working for. As a multi award-winning CEO, motivational speaker and diversity and inclusion specialist, Cynthia is passionate about improving equal opportunities for people from all walks of life by encouraging and motivating the next generation of leaders. Cynthia is a mentor to young adults via the Stephen Lawrence Trust Mentorship Programme and a fellow of St Georges College Leadership Fellowship in Windsor. She is also Chair of the Board for Pop Up, a social enterprise working in collaboration with educational, literary and cultural organisations to enable children, empower teachers and engage families from all walks of life to read more widely and creatively.
  • Marley Dias
    Author and Activist
    Marley Dias made headlines as a sixth grader when she started the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign to collect children's books featuring black protagonists. Her initiative led to appearances on The Nightly Show, Today, CBS This Morning, and many more. Marley has been featured in the New York Times, is the youngest member of the Forbes 30 under 30, has been recognized as a "21 under 21" ambassador for Teen Vogue, honored with the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award, launched a national literacy tour in partnership with the White House and is the host of Netflix’s Bookmarks. Marley lives in New Jersey with her parents and dog named Philly.
  • Pam Dix
    Author and Chair of the International Board on Books for Young People UK
  • Zoey Dixon
    Lambeth Libraries
    Zoey Dixon works for Lambeth Libraries combining her strategic and management roles, with the planning and delivery of quality frontline services to children and young people. She is a past judge for CILIP’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Book Awards, Vice-Chair of YLG (Youth Libraries Group) London, and a Bookseller Rising Star 2020
  • James Erskine
    Rocket - powered by The Big Shot
    James Erskine has worked in content , marketing and social media for two decades for some of the worlds leading brands including the UK Government, Vodafone, Channel 4, The British Army and Dubai Tourism at large Omnicom agencies and smaller , more dynamic independent agencies. For the last 10 years, with the team team, he has built and developed ‘Rocket - Powered By The Big Shot’ to be a leader in youth and children’s content and marketing. His team work on research, insight, content and marketing campaigns for well established brands like Penguin Random House, Merlin Entertainment, ITV and Harper Collins, 4 x Higher Education Facilities and high growth start-ups like Motorway.co.uk . People come to Rocket when they want to better understand and better engage youth, children’s and family audiences. At this years conference he is brining in to life some bespoke research into children’s audiences from their Little Shot’s research offering.
  • Carrie Hope Fletcher
    Actress, author and philanthropist
    Carrie Hope Fletcher is a West End actress (Les Mis and the upcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella), Sunday Times bestselling author (charting on both the fiction and non-fiction charts), YouTube star (over 1 million subscribers) and philanthropist (over 40k raised for charities such as Bullying UK, The Little Princess Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital) with the Evening Standard dubbing her as ‘a prima donna for the Hermione Granger generation’.
  • Rachel Fox
    Children and Schools Programme Director
    Rachel Fox is an events specialist who has programmed literary events for festivals, venues, charities and publishers. In 2019 Rachel took up post as the Children and Schools Programme Director at Edinburgh International Book Festival where she is responsible for creating a dynamic programme of events for young people of all ages. Usually this would be taking place in a temporary site in Charlotte Square but due to the pandemic this August sees a festival where the events are entirely virtual. Before the book festival she worked at Pan Macmillan, the Southbank Centre, Tate and Faber & Faber.
  • Candy Gourlay
  • Andy Griffiths
    Andy Griffiths is one of the world's bestselling children's authors with book sales of over 9 million copies. He has worked as a high-school teacher, been the lead singer in a rock band and a stand-up comedian. He is a passionate advocate for literacy. Andy has two daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Alex Harris
    BBC Teach
    Commissioning producer
    Alex Harris is the commissioning producer at BBC Teach, the BBC’s dedicated website for teachers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex was the series producer of the BBC’s emergency learning at home service – Bitesize Daily. Between 2011 and 2017, he produced content for BBC Children’s and has been involved with popular CBeebies brands such as Swashbuckle, Justin’s House and Go Jetters.
  • Giles Harris
    Come Round
    Founder and CEO
    Giles Harris is a former in-house lawyer for EMI Music. Either a bored lawyer or a bad lawyer, Giles eventually gave in to his creative side and quit his legal career to devise various projects within EMI - including setting up EMI’s Brand Partnerships department. Giles left EMI in 2009 to set up Come Round to achieve the holy grail for any marketer - namely generating powerful and genuine word of mouth recommendations by placing client product directly into the hands and homes of target consumers.
  • Debbie Hicks
    The Reading Agency
    Creative Director
    Debbie Hicks is a founder member and creative director at The Reading Agency, a national charity working tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. She is a committed reading activist and has played a leading role in reading research, strategy and programme development. She was awarded an MBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours list for her work promoting reading.
  • Kay Hutchison
    Belle Kids
    Before moving into publishing, Kay’s career was in Radio and TV (Channel 4, Five, Disney, BBC, London 2012 Olympic Legacy). In 2015 she launched the Belle Kids imprint with the magical wildlife conservation series Tigeropolis and the Captain Bobo picture books. With her broadcast background, Kay likes to use different media to develop Belle’s IP.
  • Tilda Johnson
    Golden Egg Academy North and freelance editor
    After starting at David Fickling Books, then PRH Children's, Tilda joined the Hot Key Books and Piccadilly Press team as Senior Commissioning Editor. Since relocating to the North in 2017, Tilda has set up and runs a Manchester branch of the Golden Egg Academy, as well as mentoring a number of writers and working freelance on children’s fiction.
  • Fritha Lindqvist
    Bath Children's Literature Festival
    Freelance Children's Programmer
    A former primary school teacher and passionate advocate of children’s literacy and reading for pleasure, Fritha Lindqvist has been a communications professional in children’s publishing for 17 years. She has worked with a wide range of authors, illustrators and brands. She has been freelance since 2017and in 2019 took on the role of freelance children’s programmer for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival.
  • Emma Layfield
    Hachette Children’s Group
    Picture Book Development Director, North
    After twenty years of working in London with Hachette Children's Group, Emma Layfield has taken on a new role with the leading children's publisher, as Picture Book Development Director, North, based in Manchester. She is responsible for networking, building relationships and looking for business opportunities in the North and Scotland, and is focused on acquiring talent from the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland for the HCG picture book list. Emma is from Lancashire originally.
  • Sarah Macmillan
    Simon & Schuster Children's UK
    Marketing & Publicity Director
    Sarah Macmillan is Marketing & Publicity Director for S&S Children’s UK. She leads a small passionate team who work on everything from picture books through to YA, including global bestsellers Supertato, Dork Diaries and Cassandra Clare. She has worked in the creative industries for almost 20 years, with time at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Usborne Publishing and the Victoria and Albert museum.
  • Barbara Marcus
    Random House Children's Books, Penguin Random House
    President and Publisher
    Barbara Marcus is a leading business and marketing strategist in the areas of children’s content and distribution and is President and Publisher of Random House Children’s Books (RHCB), the world’s largest children’s trade book publisher and a division of Penguin Random House. RHCB publishes many of the world’s bestselling and most highly acclaimed authors for young people today—including Philip Pullman, R.J. Palacio, Nicola Yoon, Nic Stone, Jennifer Niven, Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Paolini, Dr. Seuss, and Richard Scarry—and is home to many of the most recognizable licenses and characters in the world, such as Peppa Pig, the Berenstain Bears, Disney, Little Golden Books, Nickelodeon, Pat the Bunny, Sesame Workshop, and Magic Tree House. Previously, Barbara was Strategic Innovations Advisor to Penguin Books USA. Before her tenure at Penguin and Random House, Barbara was President, Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution where she, among other revenue building ventures, led the publishing effort for six out of the seven Harry Potter titles. She also led the growth of Scholastic’s Bookclub and Bookfair businesses. She serves on the Board of several charitable organizations including Graham Windham which was founded by Eliza Hamilton. In addition, Ms. Marcus serves on the Advisory Board of First Book; President of the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum of New York; and the Executive Publishing Council of United Jewish Appeal. Barbara lives with her husband Michael in New York City, and has two daughters, Lucy and Ava
  • Jelani Memory
    Jelani Memory is a Black entrepreneur, thinker, and constant learner. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and six kids. He still wants to be an artist when he grows up.
  • Kiera O'Brien
    The Bookseller
    Charts Editor
  • Joanna Olney
    Campaign Manager
    Jo is a campaign manager at Usborne Books, working on everything from That’s not my… to The Train to Impossible Places Adventures and most recently, launching Jenny Pearson into the children’s book world with The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates. Jo is passionate about helping kids find great books and keeping the consumer at the heart of her campaigns.
  • Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum
    African Bureau Stories
    Growing up in Accra, Ghana, as a young girl who read voraciously, Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum often wondered why the storybook characters she loved did not look like her. Starting as a teenager, she has built and led several organizations all of whose goals have been to give children across Africa culturally-relevant books to fall in love with. Her publishing house, African Bureau Stories, is committed to providing increased opportunities for African writers and illustrators to publish locally and internationally. Deborah also established the Golden Baobab Prize, the prestigious literary award which over the past ten years has discovered and supported children's book authors and illustrators across Africa. Deborah has championed and advocated for the African children’s literature industry from grassroots levels to large global stages such as the World Economic Forum. She is an award-winning entrepreneur and her work has been celebrated by international organizations such as Echoing Green, the Aspen Institute and the Grinnell Prize for Social Justice. She is a recipient of the 2019 Global Pluralism Award given by His Highness the Aga Khan and the government of Canada recognizing her efforts to promote African children's literature as a way to build a more inclusive world. Deborah is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and lives in Accra with her husband and little boy.
  • Katherine Rundell
    Katherine Rundell is the bestselling author of five children’s novels and has won the Costa Children’s Book Award, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize among many others. Katherine spent her childhood in Zimbabwe and Europe before taking her degree at the University of Oxford and becoming a Fellow of All Souls College. At night she goes climbing, secretly, across the rooftops of Oxford and London. She is also learning, very slowly, to fly a small plane, in the hope it will lead her to adventure.
  • Liz Scott
    Freelance Children's Book Publicist
    Liz is from West Yorkshire and has worked in the children’s book industry for 20 years, starting as an in-house publicist at Usborne Publishing before relocating to the North West as a freelancer. She has worked on campaigns and strategy with Publishers and Literacy Organisations from across the industry including Oxford University Press, Just Imagine and CLPE.
  • Rashmi Sirdeshpande
    Lawyer and Author
    Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a lawyer turned children's author who loves taking big ideas and making them accessible and exciting for young readers. She writes non-fiction picture books that ignite children's curiosity, as well as fictional stories that crackle with imagination. When she's not playing with words, you'll find her on her yoga mat twisting herself into all sort of shapes.
  • Sallyanne Sweeney
    MMB Creative
    Literary Agent
    Sallyanne Sweeney grew up in Dublin and studied at Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University. A literary agent at MMB Creative, Sallyanne was the Chair of the Children's Agents' Circle from 2014-2018 and her client list includes award-winning and Sunday Times bestselling authors and illustrators for children and adults.
  • Jaclyn Swope
    Senior Account Manager, Book Research
    Jaclyn joined Nielsen Book in 2013 while completing her Master’s degree in Publishing at Kingston University. She now works as a Senior Account Manager on the Book Research team, analysing book industry trends and providing support to publishers in understanding and utilising sales and consumer data.
  • Tom Walker
    Co-founder and CEO
    Tom Walker has been the CEO of Extra People Ltd for 10 years working with the likes of Netflix, HBO, Sony and Warner Bros. As a busy parent of young children Tom has helped launch LoveMyRead to help adults and parents overcome the overwhelming volume of choice of books, as well as creating a regularity and ease for consumers and sellers alike.
  • Rachel Williams
    Magic Cat Publishing
    Rachel Williams grew up in Melbourne, Australia, studying literature at university, followed by a Masters in Business and Publishing at RMIT University. She began her book-making career at Lonely Planet, commissioning illustrated armchair travel books. Emigrating to the UK in her mid-twenties, she fell in love with children’s books at Templar Publishing, where she met her business partner, Jenny Broom, and Magic Cat’s chairwoman, Amanda Wood. At Templar, she and Broom launched the Big Picture Press imprint, believing that there was more to do within the illustrated non-fiction and gift category. In 2014 she and Broom moved to The Quarto Group to start Wide Eyed Editions, and Williams subsequently also became Publisher of Frances Lincoln Children's Books, commissioning series such as Little People Big Dreams which has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. She also writes, authoring titles like Atlas of Adventures, Illuminature and more recently, Slow Down, all of which have sold in more than 10 languages, reaching both parents and children around the world. In 2019, Broom and Williams together embarked on their third and most exciting venture, founding an all-female-led independent publishing house, Magic Cat Publishing, launching with a list of 11 non-fiction and gift books for children.
  • Tom Weldon
    Penguin Random House UK
    Chief Executive
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