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Opening remarks from Sonali Misra, Co-Chair of SYP Scotland

Kickstarting the first day of the 2022 SYP Scotland conference, Foreword Thinking: Publishing for the Future, Co-Chair Sonali Misra took to the stage to welcome the audience with enthusiasm. (Her counterpart, Co-Chair Grace Balfour-Harle, unfortunately had to miss the in-person day due to testing positive for COVID earlier in the week, but she sent warm wishes from home!)


“Look at us here, together in one room!”


Sonali’s opening exclamation summed up how many of us were feeling as we sat alongside our publishing peers, no longer confined to a laptop screen! However, the journey to get to this point wasn’t easy. When the 2020 conference had to be cancelled because of lockdown, we had no idea it would be two whole years before we could be in the same room again.


As much as we have loved hosting virtual events throughout this year and last – which have provided a COVID-safe platform, while boosting accessibility – we have also missed seeing our members and friends in person! And that’s why we decided to bring together the best of both worlds and host SYP Scotland’s first ever hybrid conference.


“Hybrid is the future”


At the SYP, accessibility is an issue that is close to our hearts, as we want to reach as many publishing hopefuls and professionals as possible. To that end, we recorded all of our panels and uploaded them to the attendee space on our website, so those who could not be there on the day, for whatever reason, were not excluded.


We also met with a disability consultant last year and put measures in place to ensure our conference would be as accessible as possible. We sought out a venue with lifts, step-free access, and gender-neutral toilets. We offered free tickets to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and those who were financially impacted by the pandemic. All our online panels were captioned on Zoom, and we asked all speakers to introduce themselves with a visual description. We also offered a Twitter networking session (#SYPChat) for anyone who may have missed out on the in-person socialising. Plus, we have blog write-ups for each of our panels that are available to non-ticket-holders.*


“It’s time to look ahead”


When we started organising the conference in autumn 2021, the first item on the agenda was choosing a theme. Last year’s digital conference, Ctrl Alt Refresh, focused on the publishing industry’s response to COVID-19. Though the pandemic is far from over, this year we wanted to look further ahead – with hope and ambition for a brighter and more inclusive future. And that’s how Foreword Thinking: Publishing for the Future was born!


All our panels reflected these hopes. Is the Future Tense? discussed the obstacles and opportunities publishers foresee in the coming years. Hame Sweet Hame shone a spotlight on Scotland’s diverse publishing landscape – from indie presses to larger companies, and everything in-between. Publishers Unite brought together a range of freelancers, publishers, trade unions, and writers’ networks to talk about how unions and membership bodies can benefit us. PhDs: Formalised Curiosity shared quick-fire presentations from three publishing researchers at Scottish universities, highlighting the important research being done around the country. Something to Scout About dove into the world of literary agents and scouts, demystifying the crucial roles they play. Our Genderation addressed the developments and ongoing challenges in the industry regarding gender discrimination, transphobia, and the gender pay gap. And Trendspotting explored ‘what’ and ‘who’ makes a publishing trend, and how the industry spots these trends before they happen.


As well as our panels, we also hosted a workshop on how to ace a publishing interview, Talking Points, which was conducted by Suzanne Collier of Bookcareers. And our conference was book-ended by some amazing talks and performances: Amina Shah, Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland, gave an in-person keynote speech on day one; and we welcomed Booker-Prize-winning author Douglas Stewart and narrative artist Mara Menzies on our digital day. It’s an understatement to say we were delighted to showcase such inspiring Scottish voices!


*We are always learning at the SYP, so if you have any feedback for us about the accessibility measures at our events, please do email us at scotland@thesyp.org.uk.

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