Why Represent's Book Club brought out the best in the dentsu Family

Mark Gorman, Strategy Director, Whitespace | 11th March 2021

I’m white, middle aged and male. 

The ideal demograph for a book club that explores writing by largely young, black females. 

That’s not the exact reading profile, but it’s certainly pretty polar to the world I live in. 

Scotland is whiter than most parts of the UK but it hasn’t stopped Whitespace, where I work as a Strategy Director, (or the SNP-led Scottish Government) from trying really, really hard to balance the oddly skewed nuance of our population. 

One way to do this is to actively seek out balancing cultural insight and my first experience of that, through Represent, was the outrageously great Spotify Playlist that celebrates Black music. I strongly recommend downloading it. It has been a staple of my listening since it was published last summer, and I contributed many songs to it myself. 

The other, was to join this book club. Something I have long wanted to do having never had an outlet to discuss one of my greatest loves. Reading. 

So, since its inception in November, to coincide with Black History Month, we have read Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens, Small Island by Andrea Levy, Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and are setting out on The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. In addition, I’m nearly finished A Promised Land by Barack Obama and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. 

It’s been an engrossing experience with universally excellent reads and a lightness of touch from our growing membership that has not been in the least judgemental about people’s mixture of views about each read, or discriminatory if we’ve failed in our duties. 

What has resulted though has been a wonderful cross-cultural mixture of enthusiastic devotees of the genre and some unbelievably insightful commentary from all sides of Britain’s peoples, of every colour and identity. 

We come from Asian, Afro Caribbean, and very white British and Irish backgrounds with a shared love of the written word and a willingness to see life through different lenses. 

It’s the highlight of my ‘working’ week when we spend an hour at 5.30 every third Wednesday discussing the pros and cons of each text before sharing ideas for ‘Off topic’ cultural gratification. What’s on TV that week, what box sets and movies we love and how life in lockdown is for us in Edinburgh, Manchester and London, from where we are drawn. 

You might be surprised at how many data disciplines are represented. It’s very much not the domain of our creative fraternity, indeed that is probably the most underrepresented discipline in our band of brothers, sisters and others.  

It gives substance to Dentsu’s ambitions to become a business that is at pains to be representative of our population as a whole and is a real microcosm of our society. 

I feel I now have an amazing bunch of pals all over the UK that I had never met before and that I would dearly love to meet in the pub, not the library, to chew the fat on everything from racial stereotyping and discrimination to whether or not Firefly Lane is an abomination of TV schmuck.