New Virago bursary for London Library's Emerging Writers Programme

New Virago bursary for London Library's Emerging Writers Programme

The London Library's Emerging Writers Programme will run for a third year in 2021, including a new Virago Participation Bursary to support Black women and Black non-binary people overcoming financial barriers to accessing it.

With the aim of supporting writers at the start of their careers, the programme offers unpublished writers, in all genres, one year’s membership of the London Library (usually costing £540 per year) alongside writing development masterclasses, literary networking opportunities, peer support, and guidance in use of the Library’s resources. 

Supported by the A M Heath Literary Agency, the Julio and Maria Marta Núñez Memorial Fund and other anonymous donors, the Emerging Writers Programme is free to enter and free to participate in.

However, recognising hidden costs could include those related to travel, childcare or other caring responsibilities, among others, the Virago Participation Bursary has newly been rolled out to support Black women and Black non-binary people in particular. The Virago Participation Bursary will run alongside the Emerging Writers Programme for the next three years.

In recognition of the Emerging Writers Programme's success since launching, the London Library is publishing a free-to-download anthology of writing by participants of the first EWP programme which ran from 2019 to 2020. A limited print run of a physical edition of the anthology will also be available to purchase direct from The London Library costing £8.

Philip Marshall, director of The London Library, commented: "The Emerging Writers Programme has proved to be extremely valuable to early career writers by giving them access to the extensive resources and community of The London Library to help them develop their writing talent. We are delighted that Virago Books is supporting us with the Virago Participation Bursary and that A M Heath continues to support the initiative and we look forward to working with our partners, and with all the writers who are selected for the programme this year."

Sarah Savitt, publisher at Virago Press, said: "We at Virago read and supported the Black Writers’ Guild open letter published in June 2020 calling for action against racial inequality within the British publishing industry, and setting up this bursary was one of the ways we decided to respond. We are a feminist publishing company and know that women and people from other underrepresented genders – particularly if they are also people of colour – often face extra challenges in accessing writing development programmes and we hope this bursary will make a meaningful difference to a group of writers each year.

"Publishers can’t exist without writers – and readers – and we know that The London Library is a wonderful place for both."

The Emerging Writers Programme runs from 1st July 2021 to 30th June 2022, and is open to anyone who is committed to pursuing a career in writing, whether for publication or performance, and wants to develop their work. It aims to fund 40 places a year. 

The closing date for applications is 5th March 2021; applications will then be selected anonymously by a panel of judges. The judges for the Emerging Writers Programme 2021 are: Virago editor Ailah Ahmed; YA and adult fiction writer Sareeta Domingo; screenwriter and previous EWP participant Karim Flint; Forward Prize winning poet Will Harris; agents from A M Heath; and travel writer and London Library trustee Sara Wheeler (chair).

Further details are available at

Wheeler said it would have been impossible for her to write 10 non-fiction books in the past 30 years had it not been for The London Library, testifying it is "an extraordinary resource, indispensable inspiration and warmly congenial home to writers of all persuasions. I remember the challenges of kickstarting a career with a blank page, which is why I am thrilled to support new voices though the impressive Emerging Writers Programme," she said. "Now, especially, in a climate of shrinking resources, I am proud to see the London Library offering this opportunity."