I had this business trip eagerly circled in the diary for months.
17th – 19th November: Stockholm
At our heart we’re a family business – the offspring of Bonnier Books, headquartered in Sweden and publishing books now for over 200 years. It’s a rich literary heritage from which we can take huge inspiration. Trips to the Bonnier homeland always drive that home.
It’s been a long time – too long – since we’ve been able to return to Stockholm and see our friends and colleagues in person. And it was with huge excitement that we made the journey to the Bonnier family home, the picturesque Nedre Manilla villa on the outskirts of the capital.
Walking through those old pillared doors always feels like a homecoming: being welcomed warmly in from the crisp Scandinavian cold by the family and stealing a fond glance at the familiar 19th century clock that has kept time here for generations (and that inspired the logo that sits on the spines of every book published under our flagship Manilla imprint).
Nedre Manilla is a haven for book lovers: it’s Disneyland for bibliophiles. Well-thumbed first editions sit on towering bookshelves, marble busts of old literary masters watch on, and author portraits line the walls seemingly from carpet to ceiling. The joy of creating seems seeped into its very walls.
It’s our history, our heritage – a commitment to great writing and great art; tradition combined with a certain stylish irreverence that can’t help but inspire.
Meals there are always divine – as they always are when you’re on a table of book lovers – but this one was extra special. Between courses, Albert Bonnier rose from their seat, looked in my direction, and, as if from nowhere, I was being presented with the Albert Bonnier statue – a beautiful bronze that bears the image of his forefather and namesake.
First conceived in 1901, the statue is one of Sweden’s oldest literary awards and has been given to only a small handful of individuals each year. I won’t pretend I didn’t shed a few tears. I’m the first non-author to be awarded this great honour: an acknowledgment of my leadership of Bonnier Books UK and the role I’m playing in the publishing industry as we strive to put the trade on a more sustainable, ethical course. It is a huge honour, and I was deeply moved.
I never could have imagined – sitting in the local library as a child, engrossed in my much-loved copies of Mallory Towers, that my journey would lead here to Stockholm, surrounded by friends and with this storied prize in my hand. I’m so thankful to have such a supportive board and brilliant team around me: we did this together.
Travelling back home, my hand luggage weighed down somewhat by that beautiful hefty bronze, I returned to the UK renewed and reinvigorated. In a year that has seemed to fly by, and in which we’ve made so many major steps forward – from conducting a complete company rebrand to making our long-awaited move to our new HQ in Bloomsbury Square – the trip afforded a precious chance to take a breath and reflect on how far we’ve come.
This wasn’t just a business trip, but an opportunity to reconnect with our roots – to take inspiration from the past and heart for the future. I’m determined to do my best to live up to the legacy of Albert Bonnier and this historic statue that sits on my desk as I write this. Because although we’re 200 years into the Bonnier story – there’s still so much more to come.