Sometimes, the planets seem to shift, and things come together in a way that seems almost magical. And so, it was for Inkpots on Wednesday 6 June.
On a beautiful summer’s evening, in Bedford Square Gardens, central London, representatives from across the world of books gathered to celebrate the Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2018, and I was lucky enough to be there.
To be invited to such a prestigious event was an honour enough but it was a double pleasure because I was there to represent the Brighton hub of the NatWest Accelerator Programme of which Inkpots has been a part for the past 15 months. This year NatWest was one of the sponsors for the Women’s Prize alongside Baileys and Deloitte.
Inkpots started in 2013 and has grown steadily over the years, but I was spending a lot of time working in the business and overall development was being sadly neglected, and opportunities were being missed. So last year, I took some decisive action and joined the free Nat West Accelerator programme which has a hub in Brighton. The programme offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to scale up their businesses and grow, through a wide range of support including excellent business coaching and a stimulating office environment. Inkpots (and me!) has completely thrived in this environment and our business development is continuing apace.
Being in the programme also – from time to time – offers entrepreneurs the chance to attend events which are of interest and benefit to their businesses. Hence, my invitation to the Women’s Prize.
When the email came through about the event, I must admit to almost pinching myself. And arriving at Bedford Square for the awards evening, was like walking into a fairy tale. For anyone who doesn’t know the area, it’s a particularly leafy and elegant part of London. The perfect summer’s evening was just what was needed for an outdoor event; fairy lights twinkled on the huge marquees and authors and actors rubbed shoulders with people from all parts of the publishing world.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction champions and celebrates outstanding fiction written by women from all over the world. Author Kate Mosse, as the founder of the prize and chair of the board, kicked off the proceedings with a typically inspiring speech which stressed the importance of how novels can help us stand in another person’s shoes – something which I feel is important for the children who come to Inkpots.
Another inspiring speech came from Sarah Sands who chaired the judges and is also the editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, before the winner of the prize was announced – Kamila Shamsie for her novel ‘Home Fire’.
However, before the excitement of the prize giving, Kate Mosse also announced a new initiative from the Women’s Prize and NatWest which made me really take notice. This is a new young adult reading list to empower and inspire a new generation of readers and writers, aimed at girls age 14 – 18 years.
A glittering evening (great food and company too!) came to an end and I collected my goody bag on the way out. I was absolutely delighted to find that it contained a copy of ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman alongside a message charging us to pass the book on to a young woman, from NatWest CEO of Commercial and Private Banking, Alison Rose, as the first title from the new reading list.
My copy went out swiftly to Rebecca, one of our Inkpots from Southway Junior School in Burgess Hill. Rebecca has been coming to Inkpots for many years and is about to leave the after-school club as she moves to secondary school. She’s also an avid and knowledgeable reader so it was a real pleasure to pass ‘Noughts and Crosses’ on.
This was a special evening, which will stay in the memory for a while. But it was even more inspiring to feel right at the centre of such an initiative.
At Inkpots, we encourage children to read far and wide. There’s nothing more wonderful than finding an author who creates characters that you really identify with. A child can have new worlds opened to them, and extend their vocabulary, experiences and ideas. By being involved in the Women’s Prize/NatWest young adults’ reading list, we hope that we will continue to inspire a wide range of reading for the young people who come through our groups.
Thanks go to Dale Sidebottom, NatWest Regional Entrepreneur Director – South Region, for great company on the night and Olu Peyrasse my business acceleration manager within the NatWest hub, for keeping Inkpots focussed and on track.
As we approach the school holidays, our plans are coming together for a whole summer of creativity at Inkpots. If you would like to get the holiday programme as soon as it’s launched, you can sign up for our newsletter HERE. Thank you.