The Royal Society of Literature is launching a programme, “Literature Matters”, to campaign for recognition of the power and value of great writing. Writers and readers are being asked to help with contributions, proposals and support.
One strand of the Society's new programme will be the Literature Matters Online Hub, which will select and present commentaries, research and personal experiences, to act as a resource of material which demonstrates the value of literature. It launches with contributions from Jonathan Coe, A L Kennedy, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and Kamila Shamsie.
Meanwhile the Literature Matters Awards will make “around £20,000” available in grants for unpublished “excellent writing" or literary projects, "especially if reaching outside the usual scope of literature, or generating discussion about the value of literature.” Entries will be judged by Fellows of the RSL, and entry opens today (26th September).
Another strand of the programme is Literature Matters Events, which will present writers and others talking about how much literature matters to them and to the world. The first lecture will be from new RSL president Marina Warner, lecturing on “Imagination in Action” tonight (26th September) at the British Library. Writers Philip Pullman and Adam Philips will be among the future speakers. The Literature Matters Supporters Circle will offer smaller events and special access for literature lovers to programme donors (£250 a year for three years).
RLS director Tim Robertson told The Bookseller: "For me and Marina [Warner], we are the new gang at the RSL, we are building on its tradition and heritage but feeling that in the panoply of all the different literature organisations - some like The Reading Agency about literacy and reading, some like Arvon about creative writing, others like the Society of Authors about writers' rights - our bit is about being a voice for literature, great writing, words that aspire to be more than plain communication.
"That's what we're trying to do, show that in this big, complicated, messy world, literature has a really vital, crucial role - our job is to make that case and get that debate heard out there in the nation."