Carthew's ClassFest wins £43,000 from Arts Council

Carthew's ClassFest wins £43,000 from Arts Council

ClassFest, a new literature festival showcasing the work of working-class writers, has received £43,000 funding from Arts Council England.   

Running from 22nd to 24th October the festival will take place in a variety of Bristol venues and across digital platforms, featuring panel discussions, speaker events and workshops. It is the brainchild of award-winning writer Natasha Carthew.  

“ClassFest — the Working Class Writers' Festival — will provide much-needed exposure to working-class writers, inspire young people from similar backgrounds and showcase authentic stories reflective of and relatable to the experiences of working-class communities,” Carthew said. 

The event has received a grant of £43,090 from Arts Council England as well as sponsorship support from Hachette UK, Penguin Random House and the University of Bristol. 

Carthew, first tweeted out a “call-to-arms" for the industry back in 2018, originally planning the festival for 2020.  

Now artistic director of the event, she said: “It's taken me three years to make the Working Class Writers' 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 for years to come. Commissioning and showcasing writers of all styles and disciplines is at the heart of this festival, providing a platform for both established and debut writers to get involved with both live and online events."

She added: "The Working Class Writers' Festival will not only provide a platform for working-class writers, but will set precedence among festivals that will make attendance more affordable and accessible to all.” 

The event aims to be both accessible and affordable to attend. It will include the commissioning and showcasing of working-class writers of all styles and disciplines, providing a platform for those who are already established as well as those making their debut. Writers that are set to appear include Stella Duffy, Val McDermid, Paul Mendez, Mohsin Zaidi, Tracy King, Anita Sethi, Kerry Hudson, Patrice Lawrence and Tony Walsh among others. 

The festival will include an event with Hat Trick TV Productions, panel discussions on tackling socio-economic inequality in the UK with Policy Press, folktales and feminism with Virago Press, and demystifying publishing with Hachette UK. It will also feature workshops and masterclasses with writers and a chance for aspiring writers to speed-pitch to editors from Hachette UK and other UK literary agents. Events will be held in Bristol venues including Watershed and Knowle West Media Centre, as well as online. The full programme will be announced in the summer. 

Research conducted by The Bookseller in 2019 showed that almost 80% of people in the publishing industry who see themselves as working class feel that their background has adversely affected their career. 

For more information, follow the festival on Twitter at @ClassFestival or visit the website.