Saqi imprint The Westbourne Press has bought world English rights to Smashing It: Working Class Artists on Life, Art and Making It Happen, edited by poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz, recently made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
The book began when Mahfouz wrote a tweet about how being working class has been the principal obstacle she has faced in the arts, although she is only ever asked about her gender or ethnicity. The tweet was viewed 214,727 times and clicked on almost 7,000 times, and prompted a host of responses. Mahfouz took this as a call to action and set up a free workshop to help working class writers access UK arts funding, The success of that first workshop, which attracted people from around the country, meant Mahfouz now holds them monthly.
Smashing It will use contributions from writers, musicians, visual artist and filmmakers, including Kerry Hudson, DJ Target, Riz Ahmed, Bridget Minamore, Anthony Anaxagorou, Salena Godden, Madani Younis and Bryony Kimmings, to explore how they overcame obstacles from the financial to the philosophical. It will incorporate journalistic, reportage-style pieces alongside memoir and excerpts or images of original works, as well as offering practical information in a guide section on issues such as how to apply for funding or present a proposal.
Mahfouz said: "Despite my own experiences as a working-class playwright, poet and writer, I have been saddened and shocked to learn of the extent to which talented working class artists continue to face exclusion. It feels urgent and absolutely necessary to give this dedicated, talented and huge group of artists supporting tools, and to show that others have done it before them, creating genre and generation-defining work. For others in the industry it is important to read this and know that support must be given to enable such work to continue being made, as I’m sure everyone agrees it is to the benefit of us all to have more balanced representation in the arts."
Westbourne Press publisher said she was "blown away" by Mahfouz's "vision, generosity, engagement and empathy." She said: "Sabrina seems to do the impossible, constantly creating extraordinary new work while juggling family life, and now selflessly running free workshops for hundreds of artists across the country. Our visions for the book, and the arts more generally, are very much aligned, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to support her in this endeavour and to publish so many fantastic artists, writers and musicians."
Gaspard acquired rights to the book via Becky Thomas at Johnson & Alcock and will publish Smashing It in September 2019.