2019 Speakers

  • Cressida Cowell


    Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell is the number one bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book series, and the author of the Emily Brown picture books, illustrated by Neal Layton. She has sold over 11 million books worldwide in 38 languages. Cressida is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, a trustee for World Book Day and a founder patron of the Children's Media Foundation. She has won numerous prizes for her books, including the Blue Peter Book Award.

  • Annette McCartney

    SEN Relationship Manager, Pop Up Projects

    Annette McCartney is SEN Relationship Manager at Pop Up Projects. She has 30 years’ experience as a learning professional, specialising in the development of school programmes. A passionate advocate of Visual Literacy, Annette has trained special school teachers in techniques for ‘reading' wordless books to support children with learning disabilities.  

  • Marc Lambert

    Chief Executive, Scottish Book Trust

    Marc Lambert graduated from Edinburgh University in 1986 with an MA Hons degree in History. He has worked for Waterstone and Co. as a main fiction buyer, and for Penguin Books in Italy and the UK as a salesman.  After four years of writing about and interpreting contemporary art at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, he joined The Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2000, becoming Assistant Director. In 2002 he was appointed CEO of Scottish Book Trust. Since then he has grown the Trust from a small organisation of three people into a national charity with 60 staff, offering a range of reader and writer development programmes that span the early years to old age.
    A Trustee of the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, and Literature Alliance Scotland, he chaired the Scottish Government Excellence in English Education Group, and was a member of the Scottish Government’s Standing Literacy Commission, co-authoring its final report. In 2018 he help devise and implement EURead’s Europe Reads programme, currently taking place across the continent.

    As an editor Marc’s work has included two volumes of poems, essays and translations by Alastair Reid Inside Out and Outside In (2008), an overview of contemporary Scottish writing Discovering Scottish Literature (2008), Voyage of Intent: Sonnets and Essays from the Scottish Parliament by James Robertson (2005) and The Girl in Red and Other Poems by Vicki Feaver (2003). He has written widely both on the visual arts, and on book and literacy related subjects.

    Born in Thailand in 1964, Marc has lived in Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Australia, and Italy, as well as the in UK. He is fluent in Italian and French.

  • Catherine Bell

    Co Group Managing Director, Scholastic UK

    Catherine is the Co Group Managing Director of Scholastic UK where the broad mix of children’s publishing, education, ELT, book clubs and book fairs keeps her busy. Before Scholastic, she worked at Dorling Kindersley, Ladybird and Puffin books in marketing and sales roles. She lives in Kent with her family and plays netball in a social league which provides more highs than her football team Arsenal.

  • Lucy Swinburn

    Head of Children’s Books, WHSmith

    Lucy joined WHSmith in 2005 and has a wealth of experience working across many categories, spending much of her career at the retailer sourcing and developing their Own Brand Stationery ranges. 

    In 2015 Lucy assumed responsibility for the Children’s Books category: heading up the Buying team and setting the strategy behind WHSmith’s successful Children’s Books proposition covering: Pre-School, Fiction, Young Adult, Education and Special Purchase books.As a mother to two young children, Lucy’s passion firmly sits within Children’s literacy, and she lives and breathes the impact of reading with and encouraging children to enter the world of books.

    Lucy studied Retail Management (specialising in Buying) at Bournemouth University before joining WHSmith.

  • Jasmine Richards

    Founder, Storymix

    Jasmine Richards is the founder of Storymix, a children’s fiction development studio that creates narratives with an inclusive cast of characters. She has also published more than a dozen books, from picture books to teen fiction, and her most recent novel Keeper of Myths was published by  Harper Collins US last year.

  • Liz Cross

    Head of Children’s Publishing, Oxford University Press

    Liz Cross is Head of Children’s Publishing at Oxford University Press, the British home of Pippi Longstocking since 1954. Liz has brought more than 20 of Astrid Lindgren’s titles to the UK market, as well as managing the Pippi Longstocking brand, including commissioning Lauren Child’s iconic 2007 full colour version.

  • José Borghino

    Secretary General, International Publishers Association

    José Borghino has been Secretary General of the International Publishers Association, Geneva, since September 2015. He joined the IPA as Policy Director in 2013, and was in charge of policy development, organizing the Prix Voltaire (IPA’s Freedom to Publish Prize), and managing the IPA’s activities in the educational publishing sector, including the annual ‘What Works?’ conference and the Educational Publishers Forum. Before joining the IPA, José worked as Manager of Industry Representation at the Australian Publishers Association. He has been Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors, a lecturer in literary journalism and creative industries at the University of Sydney, and editor of the online news magazine NewMatilda.com. José held senior positions at the Literature Board of the Australia Council and was the founding editor of EDITIONSReview.

  • Keira O'Brien

    Charts and Data Editor, The Bookseller

    Kiera is The Bookseller’s charts and data editor and is the author of two children’s books, published by Hachette Children’s

  • Debbie Jane Williams

    Head of Publishing, UCLan

    Debbie Williams has over twenty years’ experience in the book and publishing. She started her career as children’s buyer at Waterstones Head Office through the Harry Potter era. Passionate about training the next generation of publishers Debbie set up a highly-practical innovative Masters in Publishing in her home town, Preston, at the University of Central Lancashire. The students help to run a trade, independent publisher as part of their course, UCLan Publishing, which publishes bestselling authors. This year, UCLan Publishing has won acclaim in winning the Independent Publisher of the Year – Newcomer and even had a Waterstones number one.

  • Johan Palmberg

    Rights Manager, The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Johan Palmberg works as a rights manager at The Astrid Lindgren Company in Stockholm, Sweden, handling global film, theatre and book rights for Astrid Lindgren’s work. He is also a great-grandson of Astrid Lindgren and has been a member of the jury for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award since 2014.

  • Kayleigh Keam

    Director for CBeebies Bedtime Stories

    Kayleigh is a director for CBeebies Bedtime Stories.  She compiles the shortlist of picture book submissions, working closely with the producer to assign stories to celebrity readers. She also writes television scripts for CBeebies and is working on her debut middle-grade novel. 

  • Penny Thomas

    Co-Founder & Publisher, Firefly Press

    Penny Thomas is the co-founder and publisher of Wales-based Firefly Press, which was set up in 2013 to publish fiction for 5 to 19-year-olds. Penny has also worked as fiction editor for Seren literary publishers, among others, and is a trained journalist, having worked in the regional press for 14 years. 

  • Megan Farr

    Marketing & Publicity Manager, Firefly Press

    Megan Farr has many years experience in a variety of PR, marketing and project manager roles both in publishing and for literature charities. Megan also works for Welsh indy publisher Graffeg and has previously worked for New Welsh Review, Literature Wales, BookTrust, Bonnier, Macmillan Children’s Books, Little Tiger Press and Barefoot Books. 

  • Ni Hongri

    International Sales Deputy Manager, Beijing International Book Fair

    Hongri Ni has helped hundreds of international publishers successfully enter the Chinese market since he joined BIBF in 2015. He is highly experienced in children’s books rights trade through his daily contact with both Chinese and international children’s books publishers. Hongri is interested in exploring the IP licensing potential for BIBF exhibitors to maximise the value of their content in China. He is fluent in Chinese, English and Russian.

  • Jill Coleman

    Director of Children's Books, BookTrust

    Jill Coleman is Director of Children's Books at BookTrust. She is responsible for BookTrust's expert selection and recommendation of great books, managing book purchasing across the organisation, and working with arts organisations, publishers, authors, and illustrators to promote excellence in children's books. Jill has had held a number of senior roles in publishing, including board director of Bloomsbury publishing, managing director of A&C Black and managing Director of Little Tiger Press.

  • Jonathan Watson

    Chief Product Officer, The Insights People

    Jonathan is the Chief Product Officer at The Insights People, the global leader in kids’ teens’ and parents’ market intelligence, operating in seven countries across three continents.

    Jonathan is a first class graduate in Economics from Manchester Metropolitan University, and having joined the team as a Researcher has progressed to become Chief Product Officer, where he is responsible for leading the company’s team of researchers and developers who produce the company’s award-winning portal and industry leading reports.

  • Pete Selby

    Head of Books, WHSmith

    Pete has been at WHSmith since April having spent the previous eight years at Sainsbury's where he was Head of Books & Music.   

    He started his retail buying career at Our Price Music in the late '90s having graduated from Loughborough University with a Bsc in Psychology.

    A father of two young children, he is a passionate advocate for Children's publishing and a brand licensing champion and mentor. 

  • Kirsten Cozens

    Press Officer, Walker Books

    Kirsten Cozens joined Walker Books in the summer of 2016 as the Marketing and Publicity Assistant. Since then she has been promoted to Press Officer, and worked on children’s book campaigns including Malamander by Thomas Taylor, “I Will Not Be Erased” by gal-dem, and of course Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, for which she won the Children’s Book Award at the Publisher’s Publicity Circle Annual Awards earlier this year.

  • Sharna Jackson

    Artistic Director, Site Gallery & Author

    Sharna Jackson is the Artistic Director at Site Gallery, Sheffield’s leading international contemporary art space, specialising in moving image, new media and performance. She is also a children’s author, her debut novel High-rise Mystery was released in April 2019. She is on the board of Sheffield Doc/Fest and New Writing North in addition to being a member of BAFTA’s Children’s and Learning and New Talent committees and the Children’s Media Conference advisory board.

  • Hazel Holmes

    Publisher, UCLan Publishing

    Publisher at UCLan Publishing. Hazel studied for her MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University and returned to Preston to work as the Children’s Book Specialist for Borders. After the company went in to administration she was employed by Askews and Holts Library Services as the Children’s Buyer in 2009, supplying libraries across the country with the very best children’s books on the market.  Hazel also coordinates The Northern YA Literary Festival and is currently working on acquisitions, building a rapidly growing children's list.

  • Nicolette Jones

    Children’s Books Reviewer, The Sunday Times

    Nicolette Jones has been the Children’s Books Reviewer of the Sunday Times for more than two decades.  She has also written author interviews and features about children’s books for national newspapers and is an events chair. She has judged children's book prizes such as the Branford Boase and the Lollies and was nominated in 2012 for an Eleanor Farjeon Award for an outstanding contribution for children’s books.

  • Denise Johnstone-Burt

    Publisher & Executive Editorial Director, Walker Books

    Denise Johnstone-Burt is a Publisher and Executive Editorial Director at Walker Books, the largest independent children’s publisher in the UK.  Since she joined Walker Books in 1998 Denise has published a range of titles from baby books, picture books and gift books through to middle grade and YA fiction and non-fiction.  She runs the editorial team for fiction and non-fiction at Walker and works with editors to curate the distinctive and high quality fiction list which features authors such as Angie Thomas, Patrick Ness, Cassandra Clare and gal-dem.  She also loves working with authors directly and believes that editing is about helping authors and artists generate their stories and turn them into finished books. 

  • Lucas Maxwell


    Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, Lucas has spent the last ten years working with youth in both public and school libraries. He is a writer for Book Riot & contributes to School Library Journal. In 2017 he was named the UK’s School Librarian of the Year. He currently works as a Librarian at Glenthorne High School in Sutton, Surrey

  • Ellis Moore

    Rights and Content Manager, Bolinda Publishing

    Ellis Moore has worked in the audiobook industry for five years to date, specialising in audiobook acquisitions across the trade and library market. Since being awarded a place in the Bookseller’s Rising Stars in 2017, Ellis currently works as Rights and Content Manager at Bolinda Publishing, the world’s largest independent audiobook publisher.

  • Daphne Lao Tonge

    Founder of Illumicrate & Marketing Director, Knights of

    Daphne is the founder and owner of Illumicrate, the UK's first YA and crossover book subscription box since 2015. She was an award-winning YA book blogger from 2011-2018, and is also marketing director for inclusive children's' publisher Knights Of and event chair. She's built a wonderful community of YA lovers and can usually be found recommending books on social media.


  • Candy Gourlay


    Candy Gourlay was born in the Philippines, grew up under a dictatorship and met her husband during a revolution. Her latest novel BONE TALK (published by David Fickling Books) was shortlisted for the Costa and the Carnegie. Last year she was thrilled to publish her first picture book, IS IT A MERMAID (published by Otter-Barry Books), illustrated by Francesca Chessa.

  • Sam Bradbury

    Commissioning Editor, Hodder & Stoughton

    Sam Bradbury is a commissioning editor for adult and young adult speculative fiction at Hodder & Stoughton, SFF book nerd, ex-bookseller, enthusiastically terrible gamer, graduate psychologist and aspiring monster slayer.

  • Imogen Russell Williams

    Children's Book Reviewer, The Guardian

    Imogen Russell Williams reviews children’s books for the Guardian, the Metro and the TLS. She’s also the author of The Big Book of the UK, and a forthcoming poetry collection called The Women Left Behind.

  • Alicia Liu

    Managing Director, Singing Grass Communications

    Alicia has a decade of experience in cultural brand building in lifestyle and entertainment. Born in Beijing, she has lived and worked in London, New York and Hong Kong. After working in the Mayor of London’s Strategic Culture Team, she launched her career as a consultant, advising international brands including the London Book Fair, Beijing International Book Fair and the BBC.

  • Brionee Fenlon

    commercial fiction marketing executive, little brown book group

    Brionee Fenlon is the commercial fiction marketing executive at little brown book group where she works on a broad list from women’s fiction and crime fiction to young adult fiction and SFF.  Brionee has always been passionate about books, completing an English Literature degree and then a Masters degree in publishing at UCLan in conjunction with UCLan Publishing where she helped commission, design, publish and marketed their novel Cold Bath Street

  • Kirsten Grant

    Director, World Book Day

    Kirsten Grant is an award-winning marketer and has been Director of World Book Day, the charity behind the world’s biggest celebration of books and reading for pleasure since 2011. She is responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the campaign, dedicated to celebrating the transformative benefits of reading for pleasure, the magic of books, the power of imagination and the importance of sharing stories on children and young peoples' futures.

  • Georgina Atwell

    Founder, Toppsta

    Georgina has broad experience across the industry, having worked previously at the Penguin Group, launched and run the UK ebook store for iTunes and founded Children’s discovery website www.toppsta.com. Her vision of providing a peer-to-peer space for children to review books, has quickly grown to become the UK's leading online community with over 45,000 children’s book reviews, connecting publishers, authors and illustrators with readers across the UK.

  • Amy Lankester-Owen

    Publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

    Amy Lankester-Owen is responsible for children’s and teens’ publishing across JKP. She commissions across dyslexia and neurodiversity, including autism in the teen years. Amy previously commissioned politics for Palgrave Macmillan and children’s social work and child psychology at JKP. Amy has worked in publishing since 1997, is writing a YA novel herself, and has a BA in philosophy and neuroscience from Oxford and an MA in English literature from King’s College London. @Amy_JKP on Twitter.

  • Loraine Evans

    Family and Schools Programme Manager, Cheltenham Literature Festival


    Loraine started her career at Walker Books in Sales and Marketing, becoming Special Accounts Manager and then Publisher.  After 18 years she left London to freelance as a children’s publishing consultant working on Where’s Wally?, start-up children’s lists, digital libraries and live events.  She joined Cheltenham Festivals Literature Programming Team in 2016.  Loraine programmes the Family, Schools and Free children’s events as well as supporting and advising the Education team on year round projects. 


  • Carrie Morris

    Co-owner, Booka Bookshop

    Carrie Morris is the co-owner of Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, Shropshire.  Formerly a primary school teacher, Carrie opened Booka with her husband Tim in October 2009. It was named Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2015.  Carrie has been part of the Booksellers Association Children’s Booksellers Group for the last 7 years, completing two years as Chair. 

     Although a general Bookshop, Booka has a strong children’s offer working with local schools and hosting a wide range of children’s events and activities throughout the year.  In addition, Booka runs 6 children’s Bookclubs, inspiring readers from birth to young adult.

    Recently, Booka has expanded its physical premises, taking on an additional floor of retail space.  Over the Summer, to celebrate ten years of Bookselling, Booka has revamped its Children’s offer to create a vibrant and dynamic space; a ‘Book Theatre’ to bring books to life and put books in the spotlight.

  • Beth Cox

    Author & Editor, Inclusion Consultant and Co-founder, Inclusive Minds

    Beth Cox is an editor and inclusion consultant and a co-founder of Inclusive Minds, an organisation supporting the children’s book world in creating authentically inclusive books. 

    Following a brief stint as a primary school teacher, Beth has worked in children’s books for over 15 years and has spent much of that time ensuring that the books she’s worked on reflect our diverse society, first in-house at Child’s Play, and since 2011 on a freelance basis working for a wide range of publishing houses.


    She’s also the author of the Level Headers series, written in collaboration with confidence coach Natalie Costa of Power Thoughts. The series is designed for children from 6-9 and helps them develop strategies to build self-esteem and confidence through informative text, fun facts and activities.

  • Alice Burden

    Children’s Media Consultant

    Alice has worked in children’s television and publishing for over 20 years. With a Masters Degree in Children’s Literature, Alice went on to work for companies including ITV, Macmillan Children’s Books and the Walker Books Group before setting up her own creative development company. Alice has worked on many children’s books and brands including The Gruffalo, Peppa Pig, Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Wally and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and is a consultant for entertainment companies all over the world including Spin Master (PAW Patrol).

  • Jamila Metran

    Children’s Media Consultant

    Jamila spent many years as a commissioning broadcaster of children’s programming at ITV and then Sony Pictures Entertainment. She now runs her own consultancy specialising in content development and acquisitions and channel and broadcast strategy across linear and digital platforms. During her time as a broadcaster Jamila acquired PJ Masks, Miraculous, Masha and the Bear, Alvin and the Chipmunks and My Little Pony. She has exec produced over 20 TV series for children.  

  • Debbie Foy

    Publishing Director, Wren & Rook

    Debbie began in adult non-fiction co-edition publishing at the Quarto group, working across food, fashion and lifestyle, before making the leap into children’s publishing in 2005. She has spent over 20 years in non-fiction publishing, spanning mass market, co-edition, education and now trade. Debbie launched the Wren & Rook imprint in March 2017, and since then they have had a Number 1 and a British Book Award for Matthew Syed’s You Are Awesome and further Number 1 for Bryony Gordon’s You Got This.

  • Jo Clarke

    Librarian, Whitchurch C of E Primary School and award winning book blogger

    Jo is a primary school librarian based in Hampshire. She is passionate about promoting reading for pleasure and finding the right book for each child. An avid reader of children's books, she shares her recommendations on her award winning blog, 'BookLoverJo.' She writes for children and is currently working on her latest manuscript.


  • Hannah Whitty

    Associate Director, Plum Pudding Illustration Agency

    Hannah studied Illustration and Animation at University and has worked in publishing as a freelance illustrator and an editorial assistant. Her passion for children’s illustration and penchant for literature lead her to become an agent and an author. She is now the Associate Director of Plum Pudding Illustration Agency where she thrives on nurturing artist and author careers. She is most content when fostering book concepts with her clients and loves the process of seeing a book though from initial concept to final publication.

  • Caroline Carpenter

    Web Editor, The Bookseller & Chair of the YA Book Prize

    Caroline is web editor at The Bookseller and chair of the YA Book Prize. She has worked at The Bookseller since 2013, following publishing internships and a stint at The Voice newspaper, during which time she has taken a keen interest in children’s and YA publishing. She is also the author of Guide to the Hunger Games.

  • Annie Crombie

    Director of Programmes and Partnerships, BookTrust

    Annie Crombie is BookTrust's Director of Programmes and Partnerships. She is responsible for designing and improving our programmes, for our partnerships with local government, and for our research and impact work. Prior to joining BookTrust in October 2018, Annie was Chief Executive Officer of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies UK. Before that she was a senior civil servant at the Department for Education where her roles included Head of Early Years Funding (including the roll-out of funded nursery places for two-year-olds), Head of Adoption Reform and Head of Early Intervention Strategy (including parenting interventions). She is also a qualified teacher.

  • Suzy Reading

    Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach

    Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is on the editorial board for Motherdom Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster came out in 2017, 'Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents' and 'The Little Book of Self-Care’ are both hot off the press.

  • Samantha Halstead

    Editorial Director, Penguin Random House Audio

    Sam Halstead is Editorial Director for Penguin Random House Audio, having joined the team in 2013. She oversees an award-winning team working on the entire audio catalogue across eight publishing houses. Recent highlights include standout productions such as; Michael Sheen’s narration of The Book of Dust, an immersive adaptation of Robert MacFarlane’s The Lost Words, and the launch of a brand new Ladybird original audio list (Ladybird Audio Adventures).

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