Actor Michael Sheen has called on the media industry to create more opportunities for aspiring writers and journalists from lower income and underrepresented backgrounds, as he announced a new scheme to support 11 new writers.
A Writing Chance is designed to discover new talent and prise open an industry which remains difficult to access. It is co-funded by Sheen and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with support from the New Statesman and Daily Mirror. The UK-wide initiative is delivered by New Writing North with research from Northumbria University to better understand the barriers to success faced by aspiring writers from a broad range of backgrounds who are under-represented in the industry.
The 11 winners were selected from 750 applicants and will each receive one-to-one mentoring with an established writer or journalist, a £1,500 bursary, insight days with media partners, and publication or broadcast of their work. The project was inspired by the successful Common People (Unbound) anthology of working-class writers in 2019, which profiled and supported new voices alongside established names and created debate within the publishing industry about representation.
Sheen said: “The talent among our 11 writers is phenomenal. Combined with the diversity of their voices and at times revelatory points of view this is a real powerhouse of a group. They go way beyond the hopes I had for this project and make me so excited for not only what they themselves will go on to achieve but also the countless other yet to be discovered voices across all our communities.”
Husna Mortuza, deputy director of advocacy and public engagement at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said: “The published conversation frames how we think and feel about the world around us. The best writing shows us who we are by reflecting our lives. Currently, those who get to write, edit and set the agenda, too often do so through a very narrow prism of experience.
"We know visibility matters, and when a diverse group of writers are able to be published and progress in their careers, we all benefit from a greater understanding of our collective experience. JRF is proud to co-fund this positive initiative, and are delighted to be supporting such a talented group from underrepresented and lower income backgrounds."
The writers selected for A Writing Chance are:
Mayo Agard-Olubo, based in London
Tammie Ash, based in Bradford
David Clancy, based in Ulverston
Jacqueline Houston, based in Glasgow
Maya Jordan, based in Newtown
Anna Maxwell, based in Lancaster
Tom Newlands, based in London
Grace Quantock, based in Pontypool
Elias Suhail, based in Folkestone
Stephen Tuffin, based in Swindon
Becka White, based in London