'More working class voices' needed in publishing

'More working class voices' needed in publishing

The book trade should be doing more to promote diversity in publishing, according to the chief executive of New Writing North, Claire Malcolm, who has called on the publishing industry to help it in addressing the issue.

Malcolm, who will be speaking this evening (7th July) at the New Writing North’s Summer Talent Salon at Foyles, said she wants to involve publishers and literary agents in grassroots activity and in establishing community ambassadors to help connect with writers from a wider range of backgrounds.

In support of New Writing North's partnership projects, she said the industry was "keen to discover and bring forth more writers of colour, more working class voices and more work that represents a diversity and range of experiences" and New Writing North’s 20 years experience in literature development meant it was well placed to help deliver this. 

"Our twenty years of experience of literature development work means that we have the skills and experience to build programmes that can penetrate more deeply into communities to find and develop new writers. Through our work we can offer the sustained and personal support that it often takes to get writers from raw talent to industry ready,” she said.

New Writing North was founded in 1996 to support writing in the North of England. Its Northern Writers’ Awards programme is the country’s biggest talent development scheme for writers, and recognises work in progress. Recent winners include Andrew McMillan, Carys Davies, Zaffar Kunial and Benjamin Myers.

2016's 30 winners were announced at an event in Newcastle on 30th June. The awards ranged from receiving cash to buy time to finish a project, to developmental opportunities for emerging writers.

Malcolm said: “We work with winners to support their ideas and ambitions as much as we can. In the past year that has included helping writers achieve Arts Council funding for projects, commissioning new work from them and working on a one-to-one basis to support and champion their work.”

Its success of working in partnership with the broadcasting industry to discover new talent, for example with its Channel 4/ Northumbria University Writing for Television Awards, is something Malcolm and her colleagues at New Writing North say they "hope to replicate" with new partners in the publishing industry, too.

David Roche, chair of New Writing North and chair of London Book Fair, said: “New Writing North is an organisation that is innovative, inspirational and impactful. It shows leadership and drive in developing blue chip partnerships that deliver real results in a genuinely collaborative manner. Its reach now spreads right across the north of England and it is well placed to discover and develop diverse writers whose success is independent of their social background, and who produce writing that can have influence with no boundaries. I look forward to helping New Writing North come together with the publishing communities for the benefit of all.”

Concerns about publishing's "London-centric" nature were recently raised by Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page, who said it "had to stop" at an open day at the University of Derby in May.

The university has since launched an MA and the first joint writing and publishing BA in support of this aim. It is also the first university to participate in the Spare Room project, a scheme matching aspiring publishers from outside London with accomodation during work experience placements, supported by the Publishers Association, that launched to help tackle regional diversity.