A shared ambition to bring forth more diverse voices

On July 7th I was proud to introduce the winning writers from the Northern Writers' Awards to agents and editors at our Summer Talent Party at Foyles in London. The awards support work in progress by poets and prose writers and, in association with Channel 4, writers for television. Our £40,000 prize-pot is made possible by support from Northumbria University, Arts Council England and from many sponsorships and donations from individuals and companies.

I used to worry that we needed to 'tell the story' of the writers' awards to justify why it was important to invest in writers whose work was in progress, but increasingly our winners demonstrate the value of the awards for us with the impact that they make on the literature scene nationally.

In the last year alone, 2013 winner Andrew McMillan's poetry collection, physical was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and went on to be the first poetry book to win the Guardian First Book Award. Short story writer Carys Davies won the international Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, novelist Ben Myers won the Portico Prize for his novel Beastings that we supported, and Andrew Hankinson launched his daring novel, You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You are Raoul Moat] to fantastic reviews. Just this week, 2015 winner Shelley Day is launching her new novel and Sarah Dunnakey (new book from Orion in 2017) and Carmen Marcus (signed with Harvill Secker) are readying new books. These are just a few of our success stories - our alumni are an impressive bunch.

And the awards are growing - this year we read and assessed over 1,000 submissions from writers across the North of England and then worked with our awards judges Euan Thorneycroft (AM Heath), Leah Thaxton (Faber), Hannah Westland (Serpent’s Tail) and poet Patience Agbabi to identify the very best work.

At the event last Thursday, I talked to publishers and agents about the ways we support our winners through professional development opportunities, and via on-going support, mentoring, advice and encouragement. We know that the route to success can be long and circuitous, and we offer long-term support. It's a unique way of discovering and nurturing new writing talent, and it's a way of working that achieves real results both creatively and commercially.

It's this kind of approach to supporting new and emerging writers that we now feel we can develop even further in partnership with the publishing industry.

Our industry colleagues tell us that they are keen to discover and bring forth more writers of colour and more working class voices. We share these ambitions and we would like to work collaboratively with the publishing industry to achieve them.

We currently work in partnership with Channel 4 and the BBC to develop new writers in the North. Both of these partnerships have launched the careers of many new writers from diverse and working class backgrounds and both of those partners continue to work with us as together we deliver great outcomes for their business. Partnership working brings rich creative rewards for everyone involved.

Our 20 years of experience of literature development work means that we have the skills and experience to design and deliver talent development programmes that can develop new writers from raw talent to industry-ready. We just need the resources to make it happen.

Through regional roadshows, events and partnerships New Writing North encourages a rich diversity of writers to bring their work forward but we feel we must do even more – to reach out into communities more deeply and to work with ambassadors from a range of backgrounds to help us unearth new talent and to build confidence in the new writers we find.

Developing new work from writers whose voices and experiences reflect the realities of life in the UK is necessary for our culture, to build bridges of understanding between communities in our post-Brexit world, and to offer true access to literature for readers from all backgrounds.

And there is a clear business case for this kind of development. As well as developing writers, New Writing North also works closely with readers and with young people. Through projects such as Read Regional, Durham Book Festival and our Cuckoo Young Writers programmes we are in contact with a great many people, many of them living in some of the most deprived areas of our region. We know that when they discover books that reflect their experiences it can be very powerful in terms of growing an appetite for further reading. Finding writers whose work can connect with new readers is important for the long term.

We're a northern organisation, proud of our roots and of our place in the world and conscious of the varied challenges that face our communities. We want the writers that access our support to be as diverse as the communities we serve. The North has its own story to tell and there are many writers here who long to tell it.

We're ready to start making this happen. Who'd like to join us?

Claire Malcolm is chief executive of New Writing North.