1 What's your company called?
The Royal Armouries. We are the UK’s national museum of arms and armour.
2 What do you publish?
Material related to the RA’s core role as custodian of the national collection: guidebooks, illustrated introductions, art books, archival facsimiles and specialist catalogues. I also oversee the museum’s research journal, Arms & Armour, which is published on our behalf by Taylor & Francis.
3 What's the story of the company?
The origins of the Royal Armouries lie in the Middle Ages. At its core is a celebrated collection that originated in the nation’s working arsenal, assembled over many centuries at the Tower of London. In the reign of Elizabeth I, selected items began to be arranged for display to visitors, making the Royal Armouries heir to one of the oldest deliberately-created visitor attractions in the country. The collection is now housed and displayed at three sites: Leeds, the Tower of London and Fort Nelson near Portsmouth.
4 How's business?
I think it’s good! We had no formal publishing programme until 2016, when I was appointed to kickstart the process. Our turnover has increased tenfold in three years, admittedly from a fairly low base.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
The chance to take risks on books that would otherwise not see the light of day. We’re not wholly independent—the museum publishing arm needs to align with the wider museum strategies—but we still take risks!
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
The B-word. It has created so much uncertainty, frustration and delayed decisions.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
The publishing world is much broader than you might imagine, with opportunities in the most surprising places. I used to commission books on international marketing; now I’m on first-name terms with the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
As well as the great resources and the London Book Fair drinks reception? A reality check. RA isn’t a publishing house, so we can lose sight of industry expectations and developments. There’s also a shortage of water-cooler moments. I need somewhere to ask silly questions and benchmark my thinking: the IPG is very sympathetic in this regard.