Mendez, Sethi and Walsh on inaugural Working Class Writers Festival bill

Mendez, Sethi and Walsh on inaugural Working Class Writers Festival bill

The programme for a new literature festival showcasing the work of working-class writers has been announced, featuring Paul Mendez (pictured), Anita Sethi and Tony Walsh. 

The Working Class Writers Festival, also called ClassFest, is the brainchild of award-winning writer Natasha Carthew, and will run from 22nd–24th October with a mix of in-person and digital events across Bristol. It will include panel discussions, masterclasses, workshops, readings and book signings, with writers, editors, publishers, broadcasters, journalists, literary agents and poets all speaking. Tickets for all events are free and will be released for booking on 4th October.

Carthew said: "It's taken me three years to make the festival a reality, but a lifetime to highlight the barriers we working-class writers face every day; that's why I’ve created a festival for future generations of writers, an accessible festival that will celebrate the work of working-class writers and gift our community with a sense of pride. The festival will not only provide a platform for working-class writers but will set a precedence among future festivals to make attendance more affordable and accessible to all."

The festival is funded by Arts Council England, Hachette UK and Penguin, with support from the University of Bristol Policy Press.

Highlights include "Don't Mention the C Word", a panel discussion on the barriers working-class writers face and why the word "class" is often missing from the debate about access and diversity in publishing; "Escapism or Empowerment", looking at the importance of diversity in children's and young adult TV and books; and "Reclaiming the Wild", which will see acclaimed nature writers Sethi, Carthew and Tanya Shadrick discuss how to smash the middle-class norms and conventions in nature writing. It will also include a reading from Joanne Key, winner of the Nature Writing Prize for Working Class Writers 2021. 

Virago will also host a special event to discuss contemporary modern fables with a feminist bite, while writers and producers of Hat Trick Productions will talk about what it takes to write for the likes of "Derry Girls", "Outnumbered" and "Father Ted". 

Professor Katy Shaw, professor of contemporary writing at Northumbria University, said: “There has been a groundswell of working-class writing rising across the UK over the past 25 years. This festival is major step in bringing working-class writing from the margins and into the spotlight, and giving it the critical focus that it richly deserves. We can’t understand or celebrate our culture by only listening to only a selection of voices. The new writing and authors profiled by this vital new cultural event demonstrate how dynamic and diverse contemporary literature, and why class really does still matter today.”

The full programme is available here