I was hopeful when I wrote last year's Review of the Year that it was very much a one-off, standalone piece that would soon be relegated to the dustbin of history, never to be repeated. But here I am again, talking about what another challenging year it has been. And it has been another very challenging year in which to be a writer, with yet more cancelled events, schools visits and more. Through another extensive lockdown, ALCS has managed ‘business as usual’, a fact for which we writers are all very grateful. A steady presence is what we all need right now.
It's been a year though that has brought about some positive changes too, ones that we hope will stick around long after this pandemic has ebbed away into the murky depths of history. I hosted ALCS’ first ‘online’ AGM. A daunting prospect, performing to a camera in my home office, but one which felt surprisingly intimate and inclusive. It certainly enabled more people to attend from all corners of the country than ever before; we were able to answer more questions too, all with the added benefit of not having to worry about train times and parking, and inclement weather forcing members to stay away. We’re doing it again this year because it felt like it actually worked really well and enabled so many more people to attend than is normally possible. A pity not to have the opportunity for a face to face chat and a drink with members afterwards, but we’re aiming to do more of that around the country in due course.
As part of its international work, ALCS has been involved in the production of the International Authors Forum ‘Creating a Living’ series of online events, which have gone even further in terms of reach and have brought together writers from across the globe online. The events have been organised at relative short notice and have included writers and representatives from countries across the world who would very likely not have been able to attend in person. Somehow this worldwide situation has managed to bring together people in a way that would have seemed impossible ‘before’.
There is also another word that is impacting authors right now, and the other one promises to bring its own set of challenges. Brexit and its impact may have been playing second fiddle for a while, but it’s no less threatening to the potential incomes of authors. ALCS has been working hard over recent months with the Publishers’ Association, Society of Authors and other industry representatives to ‘Save our Books’ – a campaign which is urging the government not to change how copyright works, a prospect which looks to be being considered. At the time of writing, over 800 ALCS Members had written to their MPs to urge them to consider the issue and to make sure all the angles are evaluated. Let us hope that Government listen. The pandemic has been awful, but imagine if you also didn’t have a book to read to escape from it all?
It’s a real pleasure this year to announce that we’ve collected more than £40million for creators for the first time. I predicted last year that there would be an imminent fall in the amount that we would distribute to members, and I’m really pleased to say that I was wrong! It’s a huge milestone and this means that our licence income is now up 92% over the last 15 years. We paid more members than ever before, and not only that, but we were able to pay members a share of the profits that were made through prudent investments too. Our commission rate remained at 9.5%.
Among the £40million collected were new payments received for audiovisual works from Russia and Columbia, as well as a new revenue source from Finland too. On the books side, we have this year been involved in the setting up of ‘AuthorSHARE’; a scheme where the authors of second-hand books purchased through the World of Books and Bookbarn International websites receive a share of the money from the sale. It’s a scheme very much in its infancy, but one that we hope will expand in the future to other second-hand book retailers across the world and help to reflect the principle of ‘no use without payment’.
We are doing all we can to secure new agreements that help maintain these levels of income. However, the last couple of years, combined with the impact of Brexit, mean that we will never truly know what is around the corner financially. What you can be certain of is that we are doing all we can to ensure we continue to work as hard as possible for authors and to collect money wherever we see authors’ works being used without payment.
ALCS will continue to advocate for authors’ rights and work closely with the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group in the United Kingdom and other writers organisations’ around the world to ensure the voice of the author is heard. We continue our work internationally through the International Authors Forum and raise issues about the needs of the author wherever we can.
Of course, all of the work that has been carried out this year has been done under the umbrella of a worldwide pandemic. Throughout, we’ve managed to maintain business as usual, albeit in a more ‘online’ way. We carried out our Annual General Meeting online, hosted an online awards ceremony, carried out online focus groups with members and have visited writers’ groups around the country via zoom too. We’ve taken on a number of new staff members – all who have integrated brilliantly remotely and helped us achieve a landmark year for ALCS and our members, so I’d like to thank all of the team for their tenacity in the face of adversity and for doing all they can for writers in what has been a difficult time for all. My thanks too go to the Board of Directors for their wisdom and guidance. We look forward, with optimism, to the year ahead.
Money collected for Members
Money paid to Members
Number of Members paid
Our membership increased by 3,500 to 111,831
Money paid out to Members through membership research initiatives
Overall commission rate
In total we’ve paid out £570 Million to members
We want all writers to thrive as a central part of our society. Throughout the last year we have continued to support and sponsor a variety of projects that help new writers or disadvantaged sectors of the writing community get established, as well as mentoring schemes and initiatives that provide support for creators.
Copyright is vital to creators. We spread the word about the importance of copyright to students of all ages as well as writers and the general public through our partnerships and copyright education resources.
Forward Arts Foundation
National Literacy Trust
ALCS is led by a Senior Management Team of six. Between them they’ve worked at ALCS for almost 100 years, so they’re pretty experienced.
We are staffed by a small, dedicated team who are committed to our organisation and our members.
We aim to employ the best people to meet the changing needs of the Company and to promote and develop staff within the organisation.
In addition to Owen Atkinson, who sits on the Board of Directors as Executive Director and Company Secretary, the following comprise the current Board of Directors.
The Distribution & Membership Committee reviews the policy framework for ALCS in relation to those parts of the operations facilitating the payment of fees to members and proposes developments and changes in policy and procedure to the Board. It also reviews and advises on the recruitment of, and services for, members.
The Nominations Committee reviews and makes recommendations to the Board on such matters as Committee membership (non-executive and externals), co-options to the Board and recruitment at Board level as and when appropriate.
The role of this working party is to advise and support the Board in relation to political developments and how this may impact on the work of ALCS.
The Remuneration Committee reviews, analyses and makes recommendations to the Board on matters pertaining to the remuneration policy.
The Finance & Audit Committee monitors the financial, accounting, investment, taxation and associated matters affecting the Company’s performance and reports back to the Board as requested or as appropriate.
While we work in a low-risk office environment with regard to health and safety, it is important to ensure colleagues and visitors enjoy our premises at Shackleton House safely. Risk assessments are used to review and, where appropriate, improve the workplace and our working practices. The hybrid working environment, with staff continuing to work from home some of the time has meant that we are now carrying these principles through to ensuring our staff work from home in as risk-free environment as possible.
ALCS acknowledges its responsibilities in relation to tackling modern slavery and commits to complying with the provisions in the Modern Slavery Act 2015. No labour provided to the Organisation in the pursuance of the provision of its own services is obtained by means of slavery or human trafficking. ALCS does not enter into business with any other organisation, in the United Kingdom or abroad, which knowingly supports or is found to involve itself in slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Our full statement can be viewed on our website alcs.co.uk
We are committed to achieving equality in all our employment policies, procedures and practices. We promote an environment free from discrimination, harassment and victimisation, irrespective of race, colour, creed, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, age, gender or marital status.
We regularly review our environmental policy. We usually operate in an office environment, so our direct activities have a low environmental impact. However, overall energy usage and/or waste are closely monitored.
When working offsite, we encourage staff to be considerate of their environmental impact, and to make environmentally conscious choices accordingly.
Executive Director and ALCS Chief Executive
Owen joined ALCS in 1997 having previously spent ten years working in Hong Kong in IT consultancy developing bespoke solutions for the publishing and book industry.
Owen was initially responsible for the design and development of a new bespoke royalties system which was successfully implemented in 1999. He became Head of Operations in 2000 and has overseen the doubling of royalties collected and paid to authors over the past eight years. Owen became Deputy CEO in 2004 and CEO in 2006.
During this time he has been involved in international projects regarding information and repertoire exchange, as well as working with data standards groups on the development of identifiers.
He is also involved in lobbying and campaigning in support of authors’ rights and raising the profile of writers in both the UK and EU, raising issues with ministers and MPs on the value of creators to the creative economy.
Owen is married with two lively children and lives in Surrey.
Deputy Chief Executive
Barbara started her career in direct marketing. Having spent seven years in the US designing and marketing properties, she returned to the UK to work within the International Department of a major multinational HR consultancy.
Barbara joined ALCS in January 2004 where she focused initially on HR. She then took over responsibility for communications and membership, looking at ways in which ALCS raises its profile amongst the membership, potential members and the public in general, and devising successful marketing and membership recruitment strategies.
She has also been involved with the work of the APWG, seeking opportunities to bring issues regarding writers to the attention of the appropriate parliamentarians.
Barbara represented ALCS for a number of years on the Board of the SAA or Société des Auteurs Audiovisuels. In November 2015 Barbara became Chair of the SAA.
In 2016 Barbara became Chair of PLR International.
Head of Communications
Alison joined ALCS in 2000 as a ‘royalties administrator’, took the role of membership secretary shortly afterwards, and moved into the communications department in 2004. In 2014 she became Head of Communications at ALCS.
Alison has a CIM marketing diploma, is a qualified project manager and has a background in visual arts. Her team at ALCS have overseen the development of several websites, organised more than 15 AGMs around the country, and sent several million copies of ALCS News to Members via email.
She’s been asking Members to give ALCS their email addresses for the last 15 years and hasn’t given up yet.
Her spare time is mainly devoted to chasing her two-year-old around a park.
Head of Rights and Licensing
Richard joined the ALCS legal team in 2002, having previously worked in private practice, and became Head of Rights and Licensing in 2007.
His work at ALCS focuses on the development of collective rights and licensing schemes in the UK and internationally, aimed at providing writers with fair remuneration for the re-use of their work. This role involves a significant degree of partnership and collaboration with other UK writers’ organisations and licensing bodies as well as authors’ societies and collecting agencies around the world.
Richard’s department is also responsible for engaging with UK and EU policy on copyright and authors’ rights – an area of growing prominence on the political agenda – by drafting responses to government consultations, preparing ministerial briefings and setting the agenda for the APWG.
Richard represents ALCS on the Boards of the British Copyright Council and the Educational Recording Agency, of which he is currently Vice-Chair.
Chief Financial Officer
Mark is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a graduate of the University of Kent. He is also a Non-Executive Director of Ignite Film Fans.
After many years in retail and FMCG (latterly as UK Finance Director at Fosters), Mark spent the next 13 years business partnering the owners of complex, fast-growing, entrepreneurial SME and start-up businesses in media and multi-site hospitality.
In April 2017, he became Group Chief Financial officer for both ALCS and the Copyright Licensing Agency.
Head of Membership Services & Operations
Colette joined ALCS in 2003 as Broadcast Media Manager. She subsequently took over the management of the then newly expanded Membership Services and Recruitment team. Having spent the last 15 years building the membership up to 100,000, in 2019 she became Head of Membership Services and Operations.
She looks after the customer services and membership recruitment departments as well as the published and audiovisual teams of the Operations department. Her aim is to maximise the income that writers receive from ALCS whilst providing them with a top notch customer services experience.
Colette’s previous roles include working for a management consultancy specialising in change management and internal communications where she headed up a team of project coordinators. She also spent a number of years living overseas in France, Finland and Portugal teaching English as a foreign language.
Colette lives in South London with her husband, 2 children and their dog.
Appointed by the Board in November 2017
Tony Bradman is an award-winning author of books for children of all ages. He published his first books in the 1980s, soon became active in writers’ organisations, serving on committees for both the Society of Authors and the Writers’ Guild, and has twice been a member of the Advisory Committee for Public Lending Right.
He served as a Director of ALCS between 2007 and 2013, and returned to the company as Chair in 2017. He also served as a Director of CLA between 2008 and 2014, and is currently Co-Chair. Tony has edited many anthologies of short stories and poetry, and reviewed children’s books for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times Educational Supplement and various specialist journals. In 2008, he helped set up The Siobhan Dowd Trust, a charity that makes books available to under-privileged children and was Chair of the organisation until 2018.
Elected by the membership in January 2019
Joanne Harris is the author of 19 novels, including Chocolat, as well as scripts, libretti, short story collections and cookbooks.
Her work has been published in over 50 countries and has collected a number of British and international honours and awards. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was granted an MBE by the Queen. She has been a judge of numerous prizes, including the Orange, the Whitbread, the Desmond Elliot, the Betty Trask and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science. An ex-teacher turned professional author, she is currently a member of the Management Committee of the Society of Authors and the chair of the Society of Authors' Membership Committee.
Appointed by the Board in September 2017
Faye is the author of two Young Adult novels – My Second Life and What I Couldn’t Tell You. She worked in Television for over 10 years as a Literary Agent at The Agency (London) Limited and Talkback Management representing scriptwriters in drama, children’s and comedy before becoming a writer herself.
She regularly visits schools giving talks and running workshops on creative writing for young people, and has been part of the Schools Outreach Programmes for both the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. She has also presented workshops for Booktrust and the National Literacy Trust on inspiring reluctant readers. Both of her books were well received and shortlisted for several children’s book awards, including the NE Teen Book Award 2014 and Lancashire Book of the Year 2017.
Faye joined the ALCS board as a Non-Executive Director in 2017.
Appointed by the board in June 2017
Dr Tom Chatfield is a British writer, broadcaster and tech philosopher.
The author of six books exploring digital culture - most recently Live This Book!, How to Thrive in the Digital Age and Netymology – his work is published in over two dozen languages. Tom is interested in improving our experiences of digital technology and in better understanding its use in policy, education and engagement.
Most recently, he was a Visiting Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute, researching a new book on critical thinking. Past collaborators include Google, the BBC, Channel 4 Education, Mind Candy, Shift, Flamingo London, Six to Start, Preloaded, Firefish, Future Lab, Sense Worldwide, SAGE Publications, Sugru and Allianz.
Tom joined the ALCS Board in 2017
James McConnachie is a writer and journalist. He wrote a critically acclaimed study of the Kamasutra, The Book of Love, and is the author of numerous Rough Guides, from Paris and Nepal to Conspiracy Theories and Sex. He is a Sunday Times critic, the editor of The Author (the quarterly journal of the Society of Authors) and, much to his surprise, an agony uncle for the Metro newspaper. He is currently working on a book about the Himalayas, due to be published by Bloomsbury.
Elected by the membership in January 2019
Maggie Gee is a novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and was re-elected to the Board of ALCS in 2019.
She has lobbied for writers, e.g. on the Society of Authors’ management committee, the PLR committee, the British Library’s Authors’ Lives committee, the London Arts Committee and the Royal Society of Literature, where she was the first female Chair of Council and is now a Vice-President.
She has written 12 novels, including The Ice People, My Cleaner, My Driver and The White Family, a collection of short stories, The Blue, and a writer’s memoir, My Animal Life. Her most recent novel is Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, a comedy which brings Virginia Woolf back to life in New York and Istanbul. Her next novel will feature Neanderthals in Gibraltar and the ‘black’ Goyas.
Maggie ‘s books have been translated into 14 languages; in 2012 an international conference about her writing was held at St Andrew’s University, and in the same year she was awarded the OBE for services to literature. She is often to be found tramping the beautiful beaches of Thanet.
Elected by the membership in January 2019
Di Redmond has written scripts for most of the major broadcasters – Nickelodeon, CBBC, Cbeebies, ITV, CITV, Aardman TV, Channel 4 and Siriol TV Wales, in Europe she’s been commissioned by the Disney Channel, ZDF, KIKA Germany, Universal TFI France, Content Film and TV Finland, KETNET Belgium and RSK Norway, in North America she’s written for HIT NYC, the Jim Henson Company and CBC Canada.
Apart from film and television she’s worked for BBC Radio, nationally and locally, and published over 100 books with most of the major publishing houses. She’s written for the stage, has been a successful ghost writer and her on-going work Bomb Girls (a WW2 Saga series commissioned by Penguin) is rated on Amazon’s top 100 bestseller list. Di’s passion for campaigning on behalf of her fellow writers has led her to work with the All Party Writers’ Group in Parliament and the SAA (Society for Audiovisual Writers) in Europe.
Elected by the membership in June 2021
Okechukwu Nzelu is a Manchester-based writer.
In 2015 he was the recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North. In 2020 his debut novel, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney (Dialogue Books/Little,Brown), won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Polari First Book Prize. His second novel, Here Again Now, will be published by Dialogue Books in March 2022. He is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
Photo credit: Martin Glackin
Elected by the membership in January 2017
Joan Smith is a novelist, columnist and campaigner for human rights. She has published six novels, including the Loretta Lawson series of crime novels and a thriller, What Will Survive.
Her non-fiction books include Misogynies, Moralities, Hungry for You and The Public Woman. She has written for many national newspapers, including The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.
Since June 2013, she has been Co-Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Panel (now the VAWG Board). She is a former Chair of the English PEN Writers in Prison Committee, where she worked on behalf of imprisoned writers and their families. She is currently Chair of Labour Humanists.