The Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls has been named FutureBook’s Person of the Year for 2020, an award that recognises those individuals making a real difference in their sectors. Halls is credited with working tirelessly for booksellers and bookshops during the pandemic, which included a three-month shutdown of bookshops' high-street stores. She follows past winners Dialogue Books founder Sharmaine Lovegrove in 2018 and the author Kit de Waal from 2019.
The award, sponsored by Mosaic Executive Search, is part of the FutureBook awards, announced each year as part of the annual conference run by The Bookseller. Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said: "Meryl stood tall when the industry needed it; she and her colleagues at the Booksellers Association worked tirelessly to keep booksellers informed, motivated and visible during a terrible period for high street bookshops. She's the deserved winner this year, but as Meryl will be the first to say, it is what she represents as well as what she does that has mattered this year."
Former BA president Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr B’s Emporium Bookshop in Bath, said Halls had been a “complete dynamo for the beleaguered booksellers of the UK—working hours that would put even us booksellers to shame”. Lovegrove said she had been an “incredible, knowledgeable and passionate champion of independent bookshops and the publishing industry . . . I have long admired her commitment to independence and storytelling for everyone across the nation”.
Andy Rossiter of Rossiter Books, the current BA president, said: "Meryl is an inspirational m.d. and it has been a privilege to experience her tireless work to combat the effects the Covid crisis has had on bookshops. From the moment this crisis hit, she has been totally focused on what could best be done to help create an environment in which book-sellers could survive and flourish... She has been utterly brilliant."
Jo Howard from Mosaic added: “Meryl leads with authority, authenticity and impact. Although it’s so lightly held she has an exceptional ability to make strong relationships and get things done. Her operational nouse combined with her strategic oversight is a superb combination which has proved hugely beneficial to the industry and Mosaic is proud to support this award. Congratulations Meryl!”
Halls said: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this accolade, and in the time-honoured way of award recipients, I am keen to make the point that the award is something that wouldn’t have been possible without the group of people I work with. The team at the BA, obviously, who work so tirelessly for our bookshops, and are a fantastically creative and mutually supportive group of colleagues, but most importantly our members. Without them, the BA wouldn’t exist, and without the inspiration and energy they bring to us, we wouldn’t be able to deliver what we do for the sector. So, thank you so much for the accolade; I appreciate it and feel energised and inspired anew by what it represents, which is that bookselling is regarded with the respect, affection and support it deserves.”
Halls is among the speakers at this year’s virtual FutureBook Conference, which takes place online next week (16th–20th November). To see the full programme and book tickets, visit thebookseller.com/futurebook-conference.