Publishing folk gathered en masse at the roof terrace at the Century Club in Soho last night (Thursday 28th November) for the retirement party of Hachette UK communications director Clare Harington, after a 40-year career in publishing.
Hachette UK c.e.o. David Shelley told the attendees: "Clare has organised other publishing parties to celebrate other people's careers and retirements, and no-one plans a party as well as Clare does, so it's fitting she finally has a wonderful splashy party of her own."
Shelley said he didn't know anyone who wore as many publishing hats as Clare - responsible for news releases, Hachette's internal communications, publicity forums, and organising 12 London Book Fair and 12 Frankfurt Book Fair attendances, "responsible for the creative direction of them all - including erecting Tim's famous turret!" - with communications timelines planned with military precision. He paid tribute to Harington's generosity of spirit, and her willingness to help anyone new in their role, while at the same time noting that when displeased her steely side comes out and she takes on "a look I can only compare to Paddington's hard stare".
David Shelley, Clare Harington and Tim Hely Hutchinson
Noting Harington's ability to remember several decades of industry gossip, he said: "She has consistently given so much to the book trade and transcends any one publishing house - she is the sort of person who helps bind us together. If publishing is a village, she makes publishing the kind of village you are proud to live in."
Former Hachette UK c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson's colourful recollections of Harington's time working for him included an international karaoke evening in a Marrakech desert, an occasion when she persuaded Jon Butler to present the Quercus list in Swedish, and Harington's remark to him during Hachette's big move to Carmelite House - when Hely Hutchinson was also busy doing up his own cottage - that he "knew more about interior design than I did about publishing, putting paid to the idea that Clare's diplomacy was beyond compare."
He said Harington had made an enormous contribution to company policy as well as communications, including in acquisitions, green developments and diversity initiatives. "She made every plan more thoughtful and in tune with the modern consumer. You enhanced the working lives of everyone around you - a huge, joyful thank you from us all," he said.
Harington recalled starting work in publishing with William Collins in the 1970s as a junior secretary in the publicity department, and knowing on her first day that she was in the right industry for her. There she worked with authors like Mary Poppins creator P L Travers, Michael Bond of Paddington fame, and Judith Kerr; later at Pan Macmillan, her authors included William Burroughs, Jackie Collins and Wilbur Smith, "whose first print run in paperback was a million copies." At Penguin, she drank copious champagne with John Mortimer, promoted Alex Garland's The Beach and Donna Tartt's The Secret History, and nearly gave birth on the floor of 10 Downing street with John Major in attendance, when going into labour while planning publicity for a book about Sarajevo. She also worked closely with Salman Rushdie on The Satanic Verses and therefore knows how to escape an ambush, she noted.
"The last years were the happiest of my career, working with brilliant leaders, Tim and David, it's been absolutely fantastic," she said. "Whatever your ambitions for your work, nothing matters like the people. Thank you so much for making my career so special."