Diversity means little without working class representation

Stock image courtesy of Pixabay.
You don’t have to burn books to stop people engaging with literature: Fahrenheit 451 (1966) directed by Francois Truffaut and based on the novel by Ray Bradbury. Public domain.

Between the lines

The report was written by Katy Shaw, professor of contemporary writings at Northumbria University. She based her research around the Common People project; a collaboration between the UK’s seven regional writing development agencies, launched by NWN and Writing West Midlands back in 2018.

Common People, May 2020.
Stock image courtesy of Pixabay.

Speak for yourself

“For me, the most difficult part of writing is self-doubt,” said Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater and winner of the Portico Prize 2020. “When I was writing my first novel, I learned to constantly push back against the fear that my experiences were trivial and uninteresting, or were not ‘poetic’ or ‘literary’ enough, and that is because I had rarely seen a life like mine represented in literary fiction.

  • New public and private investment to support new publishing ventures outside of London. The aim is to bring publishing “closer to broader audiences” and generate more avenues for talent from across the UK to enter the industry
  • Increase investment in regional writing development agencies to improve “talent pipelines” and otherwise nurture “fairer, more equitable talent development practices”. This, it claims, would also help to improve access to professional support and networks for working class authors
  • Decentralise the UK’s publishing industry. This would include more literary agents being established outside of London to facilitate change and “broaden the base of the industry’s taste makers”
  • Improve access to the publishing industry by establishing clear routes of progression into the industry; transparent pay and job opportunities; and accessible recruitment campaigns. This would serve to enhance diversity among agents, editors, and publishers; this would also shift the profiles of the industry’s gatekeepers
  • There needs to be greater awareness — and acknowledgement — of the multiple barriers working class writers face, through “meaningful designed and sustained” programmes of support across the UK
  • The industry needs to recognise that developing and supporting new working class writers will “ultimately benefit us all”
  • The Government must create new policy options that will help overcome barriers and incentivise partnership working through public funding and regional initiatives
Stock image courtesy of Pixabay.



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Mark Cantrell

Mark Cantrell

A UK writer and journalist, Mark Cantrell is also the author of two novels: Citizen Zero and Silas Morlock. Read more of his work at tykewriter.wordpress.com