CENL Event

13th January 2021

Creative Women, Creative Business: Feminist Publishing, Design and Comix

A free, three day mini-festival showcasing the past, present and future of feminist publishing and creativity

This is a live online event. You only need to book once to receive a separate link for each event. Links to join sessions will be sent to bookers in advance, and they will remain available to view for seven days. Watch as many or few as you want. Everything is free.

Our fantastic line up of practical workshops and energising talks will ignite your creative feminist visions. Meet Virago chair Lennie Goodings, Dialogue Books publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, Crystal Mahey-Morgan from Own It! literary agency, Kate Macdonald of Handheld Press, Sofia Niazi from One of My Kind, comic artist and Laydeez do Comics founder Nicola Streeten and many other inspirational women creatives.

Creative Women, Creative Business is brought to you by The Business of Women’s Words: Purpose and Profit in Feminist Publishing team, in partnership with The British Library.

We gratefully acknowledge support of The Leverhulme Trust and the Universities of Sussex and Cambridge.

This conference is supporting our exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights. Book your tickets and take a look at our Shop range, including the exclusive exhibition book.


Wednesday 13 January

15.30 – 16.30
Creative Feminisms in the Marketplace: Meet the Game-changers

Two inspirational, award-winning publishing pioneers reflect on careers championing the stories of women and marginalised writers. With bookshop founder publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove of Dialogue Books and Lennie Goodings of Virago, the UK’s longest running feminist press.

This is a pre-recorded event which you can watch from Mon 11 January. (You’ll be sent a link.) It will be formally screened on Wed 13 Jan at 15.30 to introduce the Q&A, starting at 17.00.

17.00 – 18.00
Creative Feminisms in the Marketplace – Meet the Game-changers Live

Sharmaine Lovegrove and Lennie Goodings follow their talks with a Q&A. Introduced and chaired by Professor Margaretta Jolly, author of Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement, 1968-present and Principal Investigator of The Business of Women’s Words: Purpose and Profit in Feminist Publishing.

Thursday 14 January

12.00 – 13.00
How to… sell a feminist story

So, you’ve got a great idea for a novel, playscript or podcast? Learn how to bring radical stories to a wider audience. Gain insight into the workings of the book trade and how together we can transform it to become more inclusive, more feminist.

Join creative industries agent Crystal Mahey-Morgan from brand and agency Own It! in conversation with Jane Anger from Feminist Book Fortnight and Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham.

Chaired by Dr Eleanor Careless.

14.00 – 15.00
How to… reprint a lost feminist classic

Republishing books can be an important political act. Virago’s Modern Classics series has revived the memory of countless women writers that have fallen out of favour. How though, do you go about it – from research and rights, to design, to curation and marketing?

Find out more from Maria Vassilopoulos, the British Library’s publishing sales & marketing manager and book trade historian, who talks about the new British Library Women Writers series. She’ll be in conversation with Handheld Press director Kate Macdonald who discusses the elegant Handheld Classics. Chaired by D-M Withers, author of Virago Reprints and Modern Classics (c.1975-87): The Timely Business of Feminist Publishing.

17.00 – 18.00
How to… make feminist comix

Comic art and visual storytelling have long powered feminist movements. Humour can be used to convey serious political ideas, while combining words and images can give messages impact. Graphic art is a uniquely accessible, arresting and fun medium.

Laydeez do Comics founder and award-winning graphic artist Nicola Streeten introduces you to the history of comics as part of feminist activism. You will have the opportunity to create something for yourself, learning the tricks of the trade from a leading coach in this fascinating world.

Chaired by Professor Margaretta Jolly.

Friday 15 January

12.00 – 13.00
Creative Feminisms in a Capitalist World

What are the challenges and successes in balancing purpose, feminist principles and profit?

How have activists used publishing and other media forms to empower readers, create writers and establish communities? What is the role of business in feminist movements, in the past and in the future? How are feminist politics transformed when they are published and consumed in the marketplace?

This intergenerational panel discusses how ideas can be shared through the commercial world. It reflects on how activists in times gone by have shared feminist ideas with great effectiveness, offering inspiration and courage in uncertain present times.

The conversations will be followed by Q&A featuring Roisin Boyd, journalist and Spare Ribcollective member in the 1980s, Sofia Niazi of One of My Kind magazine and Catherine Riley, general manager of Primadonna Festival.

Chaired by Dr Lucy Delap, author of Feminisms: A Global History.


Jane Anger has spent most of her book trade career on the retail side. Starting in medical bookselling she became a founder member of Silver Moon Bookshop, which opened in 1984. She was active in both Women in Publishing and the Feminist Book Fortnights of the 80s. Having run a general bookshop and been a publisher’s rep, she from 1999 ran academic bookshops for the University of Leicester until 2016. Since 2016 she has worked at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, an independent radical bookshop. Five Leaves initiated restarting Feminist Book Fortnight in 2018 and Jane co-ordinates this national promotion for about 50 independent bookshops.

Róisín Boyd is an award-winning journalist. She began her journalistic career when she left Dublin in 1980 to work at Spare Rib magazine. On returning to Dublin in 1983 she worked on RTE’s ground-breaking radio programme Women Today; she was with RTE for 16 years as a presenter, reporter and current affairs producer – with a focus on social justice, human rights and international stories. She now is a lecturer in Journalism at Technological University Dublin and is currently co-producing podcasts with Muslim Women in Ireland as part of the Glencree Belonging & Identity Project.

Lennie Goodings is author of A Bite of the Apple: A Life With Books, Writers and Virago. She is Chair of the UK publishing house Virago Press. Her authors include, amongst many others, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Sarah Waters, Natasha Walter, Sandi Toksvig and Marilynne Robinson. Goodings was part of Virago’s management buy-out team of five who created a newly independent Virago in 1987 and became the Publishing Director in 1992. In 1995 Virago was sold to Little, Brown where Goodings remained the Publisher and Editorial Director. She stepped back from that position in 2017 and became Virago Chair, still editing and commissioning her authors. Lennie Goodings won the Bookseller’s Industry Award: Editor and Imprint of the Year in 2010 and A Lifetime’s Achievement at WOW, London’s Southbank Women of the World festival in 2018. Born in Canada, she came to London in her early twenties and has remained there since. She is married with two children. Working with authors and books is her passion.

Sharmaine Lovegrove is the Publisher of Dialogue Books, the UK’s only inclusive imprint, part of Little, Brown Book Group and Hachette UK. Dialogue Books is a home for a variety of stories from illuminating voices often missing from the mainstream. Sharmaine was the recipient of the Future Book Publishing Person of the Year 2018/19 and is inspired by innovative storytelling, and has worked in public relations, bookselling, events management and TV scouting. She was the literary editor of ELLE and set up her own bookshop and creative agency when living in Berlin. Sharmaine serves on the boards of The Black Cultural Archives, Watershed and is a founding organiser of The Black Writers Guild. Home is London, she lives in Berlin and her roots are Jamaican – Sharmaine is proud to be part of the African diaspora and books make her feel part of the world.

Kate Macdonald is a literary historian and the director of Handheld Press, which she runs from a small house overlooking the Avon valley east of Bath. She is a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, and has published her own research widely on twentieth-century British publishing history. Handheld Press brings forgotten stories and lost authors back into print, in beautiful editions, designed and edited with care.

Crystal Mahey-Morgan began her career as a freelance journalist at the age of 16 writing for publications such as the Guardian and The Face Magazine. At the age of 19 Mahey-Morgan became Marketing Manager for Raindance Film festival and after Graduating from SOAS University she embarked on a career within Publishing, firstly working as Literary Assistant at Peter, Fraser and Dunlop (PFD), then joining Random House in 2009. Her most recent role at Penguin Random House was Online/Digital Account Manager where she was responsible for managing digital retailer relationships with the likes of Apple and Google. Mahey-Morgan resigned from Penguin Random House at the end of 2014 to realise a long held vision of bringing fresh voices and new stories to market in pioneering ways. Mahey-Morgan established the storytelling lifestyle brand OWN IT! in 2015, a publisher and agency that publishes and produces powerful stories across books, music, art and film.

Sofia Niazi is an artist, illustrator and member of One of My Kind (OOMK) artist collective. As part of OOMK, she currently runs a community Risograph print workshop, Rabbits Road Press, in Newham. In her personal work, she is currently researching and producing work relating to housing and technology. She regularly leads workshops and delivers talks about her work in community, gallery and academic settings.

Catherine Riley is a feminist historian and writer, and an expert on contemporary feminist publishing in the UK. She has taught English Literature and Gender Studies at Lancaster and Northumbria Universities and Birkbeck College in London, where she completed her doctoral thesis on the feminist publisher Virago. Catherine has published two books on women’s writing and publishing, and has contributed chapters and articles to edited collections on these themes. She worked for two years as Head of Communications at the Women’s Equality Party, the UK’s first feminist political party, helping build it from the ground up before leaving at the conclusion of the 2017 general election. Catherine now works as general manager for the Primadonna Festival, a festival of writing, creativity and ideas celebrating diversity, inclusivity and equality, while continuing to write about trends in gender theory and praxis, particularly as they apply to publishing and social change.

Nicola Streeten is a drawer, speaker, writer, mentor, teacher of comics and organiser of comics events. Nicola’s award winning graphic memoir Billy, Me & You is about her bereavement following the death of her child. She co-edited The Inking Woman – an illustrated history of women’s cartooning, UK; providing a theoretical framework in UK Feminist Cartoons and Comics: A Critical Survey. This is complemented by her YouTube series Feminism, Comics & Humour, UK.

Maria Vassilopoulos is the sales and marketing manager at British Library Publishing and is tasked with finding the authors of their women’s fiction list to appeal to a new generation of readers and book buyers. She is also a PhD student at UCL looking at the commercialisation of the British book trade in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and has conducted research into the lifespan of the Net Book Agreement, women in bookselling and other related topics.

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Name: Creative Women, Creative Business: Feminist Publishing, Design and Comix
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
Price: Free Event: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546