Awards That Offer More Than a Round of Applause: The London Writers Awards
Considered a hub for cultural and creative diversity, London has long been at the vanguard of publishing development. With many universities, publishing corporations, indie publishers and booksellers based there, London has indeed become an axis around which many literary awards now orbit. One new such award that is setting itself apart from its peers is the London Writers Award, established by Spread the Word. Unlike other awards, the London Writers Award offers a distinguished system of support for new London based unpublished writers.
Launched in 2018, The London Writers Awards has established itself as a beacon of solace and assistance for budding authors. This award sets out to be accessible for all writers, particularly those from under-represented communities and who find themselves at a disadvantage with regards to visibility among the wider publishing community. They identify the backgrounds for eligible writers as disabled, LGBTQIA+, working-class and writers of colour. The award is offered to writers of four genres: literary fiction, commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction and YA/children’s novels.
By ensuring that this award is entirely free to enter, as well as offering a plethora of bursaries and funding options, Spread the Word is accomplished in their fight for more representative literary exposure. In what they describe as a “programme of support”, the creators behind this innovative award have not simply opted for a cash prize. They have corroborated their ethos with bespoke professional support that will nurture the awardees creative growth. This is done through monthly feedback groups and one-to-one professional development sessions, as well as masterclasses by accomplished authors and experts within the industry.
“Initiatives like the London Writers Awards are essential to the evolution of the literary world. For writers from underserved communities and marginalised identities, and readers wishing to encounter the full richness of the world in literature, we all have something to win through this Award.”
Season Butler, author, 2021 Judge
Narrative Non-Fiction, Alumni 2019 – Stacey Ng
Born in the UK to Chinese parents, Stacey’s writing revolves around the memories and ideas about identity that food evokes. Having worked in her parents’ takeaway, she went on to study History and Chinese Studies to trace the roots of this cuisine, which she now expresses in her writing.
Children’s and Young Adult Fiction, Alumni 2020 – RX Campbell
Born to emigrated Jamaican parents, RX now works in London as an English teacher. His works of children’s fiction aim to inspire young people that they can tell their stories of identity; however different they may be.
The London Writers Award is the newest endeavour from non-profit organisation Spread the Word. Spread the Word was founded as a writer development agency with the main aim of ensuring that London’s publishing and media industry reflects the colourful diversity of the city itself and the writers that illuminate it, for the benefit of both readers and writers alike.
But, more needs to be done to achieve their powerful aim than simply rewarding under-represented writers with a title and a clap on the back. Spread the Word assesses the pitfalls in London’s publishing industry and society, and intentionally tailors their programmes to motion towards bridging these gaps. They realise that under-represented writers may not have the time, space and money to produce quality work to live as a writer, and thus focus on fixing this directly.
The London Writers Award is not their first impact on the writing community, as they have been working on numerous other projects such as the Life Writing Prize and the #SayYourPeace campaign. Their leadership board not only reflects the diversity they advocate for but comprises internationally recognised experts in development and schemes for under-represented writers. As such, their programmes are specific to the real and measurable needs of London writing communities, as seen in the reports they have published. The ‘Writing the Future’ report (2015) looked into Black and Asian authors and publishers in the UK, and provided evidence for initiatives outside of their organisation (such as Penguin Random House’s WriteNow programme), demonstrating the impact of their thoughtful work.
Spread the Word’s London Writers Award is an inspiring initiative which sets the tone for literary prizes and awards to come. Is rewarding writers with prestige as valuable as rewarding them with their real needs met? When we continue to see the provision of under-represented writers with the means to reach their full potential, only then can we imagine an industry as colourful as the voices that deserve to represent it.
Applications for the London Writers Awards 2021 are open until 30 September.