We are thrilled to announce that two working-class writers from the East Midlands will join a list of seventeen from around the country who have been selected for inclusion in a crowdfunded anthology alongside well-known authors.
In her recent BBC Radio Four documentary, novelist Kit de Waal asked an important question: ‘Where are all the working-class writers?’ The answer is right here.
Inspired by a shared concern that working-class voices are increasingly absent from the pages of books and newspapers, Kit de Waal has come together with Unbound and the regional writing development agencies, including New Writing North, Writing West Midlands, Spread the Word, Writing East Midlands, Writers’ Centre Norwich, New Writing South and Literature Works to do something about it. Common People is a collection of essays, poems and pieces of personal memoir, bringing together seventeen well-known writers from working class backgrounds with an equal number of brand new as-yet-unpublished writers from all over the UK.
Seventeen new writers have now been selected by the regional writing development agencies, who will support and mentor them in the run-up to publication. They are: Paul Allen, Ruth Behan, Astra Bloom, Jenny Knight, Katy Massey, Julie Noble, Louise Powell, Emma Purshouse, Loretta Ramkissoon, Riley Rockford, Jodie Russian-Red, Adam Sharp, Eva Verde, Lynne Voyce, Helen Wilber, Elaine Williams and S M Wilson. Their work was carefully selected from hundreds of pieces submitted to the agencies all over the country.
Kit de Waal, who is editing the collection, comments: ‘What stories! What lives! It’s been so great to read these seventeen memoirs of working class writers. All life is there; hard, (inevitably) but also wry, bizarre, sad and proud, there’s some kick-ass ones too, all of them laced through with a determination to see the funny side, to do more than survive, to celebrate. It’s always a privilege to read a record of someone’s life and I’m absolutely delighted to welcome all these new writers to Common People, and can’t wait to see them all in print.’
Henderson Mullin, Chief Executive of Writing East Midlands, said: ‘The promotion of reading enables people to learn and understand the voices of others (and that is vitally important), but promoting writing gives people a voice of their own. We champion voices that are unheard, and celebrate true diversity. What Kit is doing here, with the support of Unbound and regional writing agencies around the country, is giving a platform to some of those voices, and it is something Writing East Midlands is proud to be a part of.”
The writers who will represent the East Midlands are Helen Wilber and Jodie Russian Red
Helen Wilber grew up in South Yorkshire but now lives in Leicester where she studied at university. She has held a variety of jobs in education and the voluntary sector, and her experiences working with children and young people are a key theme in her writing, which takes place during the evenings and weekends. Helen is working on her first collection of short stories and is experimenting with different forms.
Jodie Russian-Red is a part-time administrator, part-time writer in Nottingham. Over the past few years she has primarily focused her efforts on writing for spoken word and has had small writing and performing commissions for ‘Freedom Festival’, Hull (2015), ‘Wordlife’, Sheffield (2016) and was invited to be a featured guest writer/ speaker at the spoken word event ‘Women of Words’, Hull (2017). She currently writes a weekly newsletter in the form of a personal memoir blog for the School of Culture, Languages & Area Studies at the University of Nottingham, where she also holds a completely unrelated day job processing invoices, ordering stationary and monitoring coffee levels.