Dotti Irving, who will step down from her role as Chief Executive of Four Culture at the end of June, first worked on the Booker Prize in 1993, the year Roddy Doyle won the prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
She was then CEO of Colman Getty, the PR firm she founded in 1987, and which became part of Four Communications in 2012. Along with her gifted team, she has promoted and steered the Booker Prize for well over half its lifetime, forging links all over the world and earning the long-standing respect of all its stakeholders – be they prize judges, publishers, agents, authors, journalists, or academics. The world of culture, and of books in particular, is filled with members of the Dotti Irving diaspora, who count working at her side as a key element in their CV.
As further Booker Prizes have evolved – the International Booker Prize being the most significant – virtually every operational element of the Booker Prize Foundation’s work has been added to her agency’s roster. The Booker of Bookers, the Golden Man Booker festival at the Southbank, the 50th anniversary party at Buckingham Palace, the 2020 ‘ceremony without walls’ broadcast by the BBC: these are highlights in a dynamic contribution which has ensured that the renown of the Booker Prizes has continued to grow.
It is no exaggeration to say that the present-day Booker Prizes would not exist without Dotti. In 2002, when Booker plc decided to end its responsibility for the Booker Prize, she was instrumental both in setting up the Booker Prize Foundation to ensure the prize’s survival, and in securing funding from the Man Group, which sponsored the prizes from 2002 to 2019. The Foundation is the charity that now lies behind everything from the awarding of the Booker Prizes themselves to work with the RNIB, reading projects in prisons and a creative writing scholarship at the University of East Anglia.
Though Dotti leaves Four Culture she will remain a part of the Booker family, and the plan is for her association with the prizes to continue in a different form. Meanwhile, Four Culture’s work on this year’s prizes will be led by Truda Spruyt, who will be building on her close involvement with the International Booker Prize.
Dotti’s influence has been immeasurable and there is no better moment to express the Booker Prize Foundation’s debt to her, with affection and gratitude from its trustees and executive team.
Mark Damazer, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation Board, remarks:
‘Dotti Irving has been central to the life of the Booker Prizes for over three decades. She was a driving force behind the setting up of the Booker Prize Foundation – which has given the prizes deeper roots and more security. Her work with Four Culture for the Booker has given the Booker Prize Foundation the benefit of her creativity, passion and know-how and the Board would like to express its very great thanks. We expect to continue to benefit from her wisdom and palpable commitment to the Booker’s purposes and activities.’
Dotti Irving comments:
‘Founders are just people who have found something they love. I’ve been exceptionally lucky in that I founded a company I love and, early on, found The Booker Prize – which I also love – as a client. Work doesn’t feel like work when it’s as fun and rewarding as that!’
Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, adds:
‘It is hugely to Dotti’s credit that the Booker Prizes have acquired the global prestige they enjoy today, and it’s a privilege to build on that with her blessing. Every judging panel gratefully acknowledges the vital role Dotti and her team play with their efficient, professional and always cheerful support. Though Dotti will step aside from those day-to-day operations, we’re glad of the chance to draw on her expertise in future as well as celebrating her achievement. Congratulations to Truda, who we know will ably fill Dotti’s shoes.’
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