Grab a GCA conference ticket quick!

Places selling fast for annual event featuring Graduate Open Call selection and key industry issues


Tickets are selling fast for this year’s GCA AGM & Conference so grab one quick as it’s where you can find out more about helping develop the next generation of greeting card talent – and for publishers and retailers to tap into fresh creative approaches.

The AGM and annual conference at Nottingham Trent University on Thursday, 29 September, has an agenda that ticks all the boxes for interest and relevance for the whole spectrum of the greeting card industry.

With over 120 tickets sold, already signed up to attend are representatives from retailers Scribbler, WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, Cardzone, Card Factory, and House of Cards, along with many trade suppliers, publishers and agents.

Among those delivering great pearls of wisdom will be The Art File’s Ged Mace; The Sherwood Group’s Richard Bacon; Jon May of Mooch Gifts & Home; Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire Sir John Peace, and industry stalwart and creative maestro Geoff Sanderson – all based in or around Nottingham – as well as Ni Wang and Alex Bandini from research company Kantar.

And it’s Geoff who’ll be explaining more about the GCA’s Graduate Open Call as the former Hallmark, Moonpig, and Tigerprint/M&S creative director is leading the bid to show just how brilliant the industry can be for students.

Above: Artistic teaser – examples of the selected graduates’ work
Above: Artistic teaser – examples of the selected graduates’ work

Following on from the original blog post on the GCA’s website, there is now a second one building up to the Portfolio Showcase at the conference between 9am-10.15am in the foyer, where up to 12 selected illustration graduates from three universities will attend to chat and show off their portfolios, so attendees should have their business cards and social contact details at the ready – to guarantee a slot please contact the GCA.

Geoff and the industry association would also love to hear from anyone able to pledge a work placement, mentoring, project or freelance brief, and help develop industry standards to steer how the Graduate Open Call develops, including aiding with the selection for next year’s showcase.

At this year’s GCA conference, the selected students – Betsy, Eleanor, Erin, Katie, Meg, Georgina, Poppy, Eve, Anna, and Kirsty – have a wide range of experience and interests, from children’s illustration, cartoons and animations, through crafting and books, to printmaking, packaging,  and of course greeting cards, with 3D, cut-outs, hand-crafting, and pop-ups mixing it up alongside traditional illustration and design.

Geoff asked Ian Whadcock, senior lecturer from the Manchester Metropolitan University BA (Hons) illustration with animation course, who is also the employability lead for the design department, his views on design education working with partners in industries such as greeting cards as well as the value of work placement and mentoring to a student.

Above: Student style – the graduates set to attend the GCA conference
Above: Student style – the graduates set to attend the GCA conference

“With a growing emphasis on the employability and graduate outcomes of our students,” Ian explained, “we increasingly recognise industry mentorship, often via work placement, as the most impactful intervention into the professional practice development of our students and curriculum “While awards and prizes bring the opportunity for headlines and visibility, the value of mentorship and work placement is of extended support that imparts, professional values, industry insights and critical feedback over an extended period of time.”

Geoff said: “This comment sums up my greatest joy from such involvement in mentoring or work placement – you’re not only developing new and exciting content or designs for your ranges but watching the development of that talent right in front of your eyes. A work placement lets you not only assess the graduate’s talent but their personality and fit to your business, like an informal interview.”

To find out more about the Graduate Open Call and meet some of this year’s graduates, as well as hear the other speakers – who will be touching on key issues affecting the industry, such as sustainability, diversity, supply chain challenges, the impact of cost-of-living increases and changes in consumer behaviour – book your ticket for the AGM and conference, which takes place on 29 September at Nottingham Trent University.

On the social front, anyone in the area the evening before is invited to join Paul and James Taylor, md and trading director of multiple retailer Cardzone, as they host a meet-up drink in the city centre from 5.30pm on September 28. The Art File’s James Mace will be organising this event and there will also be the opportunity to order food.

To enjoy the fun opportunity to network ahead of the conference, please email James on if you want to attend so he can share full details of the evening’s plans.

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