Last Wednesday night the magazine publishing industry stormed the Grosvenor House Hotel for the PPA Awards 2012.
This major annual event is our opportunity to celebrate the people, teams and brands within the industry and, judging by some of the anecdotes the following day, there was no shortage of celebration among the winners and those who were highly commended for their hard work over the past 12 months.
This year, there were two new categories among the 22 awards handed out on the night: Front Cover of the Year and the PPA Diversity Award. Supported by equalities minister Lynne Featherstone as part of the government's body confidence campaign, the PPA Diversity Award has been introduced as a celebration of diversity within the magazine publishing sector.
Given that every year 80% of the population spends around £2bn across 3,000 consumer titles that cater for almost every demographic and specialist interest area you could imagine, there's diversity aplenty to celebrate in printed magazines. And that's not including the content on the websites of magazine brands and the increasing number of magazines downloaded onto tablet devices as digital editions.
For the PPA Diversity Award, however, the judges were specifically looking for examples of how magazine brands provide genuine representation of a diverse spread of people within their editorial content, reflecting a variety of body sizes and shapes, ages, sexualities and ethnicities.
The shortlist was in itself diverse, featuring leading women's titles such as Cosmopolitan and ELLE from Hearst Magazines UK, Centaur Media's business weekly The Lawyer, and Immediate Media Co's Something Special magazine, which has been created to be accessible for children with learning disabilities..
The independent judges said they were "extremely impressed" with the overall high standard of entries. Competition was so close, in fact, that the panel made the decision to highly commend Psychologies magazine.
There could be only one winner, however, and it was Essentials magazine that took to the stage to accept the award from Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone. Explaining why the IPC Media title should be singled out, the judges said: "Essentials really puts diversity into practice, clearing its front covers for unique portraits of real women. This is the title currently setting the standards for all other titles in this area."
Essentials first published a Real Women special issue in 2010, marking the first time it had not used models or celebrities on its cover. The positive feedback prompted editor Jules Barton-Breck to make the decision to continue to use real women on its covers throughout 2011 and into 2012, reinforcing its tagline of "No models, no celebs - just you!"
Commenting on the award win, Publishing Director Linda Swidenbank said: "Essentials has been steering a path of reflecting women in a celebratory way for a good few years now. Each month it brings this to the forefront with the reader cover star, drawing from a wide range of inspirational women across the UK."
Hear, hear, Linda. Our thanks to Lynne Featherstone for her input into this inaugural award and congratulations again to Jules Barton-Breck and the Essentials team.
This post forms part of the government's blog series on body confidence which will run throughout 2012.