Celebrating the excellence of writers from communities that have been under-represented in UK literary culture
The RSL believes that literature is at its best when it includes voices from the greatest breadth of backgrounds and experiences, in all literary forms, from across the UK. In 2020, with the launch of the RSL Open programme, we are celebrating the great diversity of outstanding writers and writing in Britain, by electing 60 Fellows over two years from communities under-represented in UK literature.
We are asking you – RSL Fellows, as well as publishers, agents and arts administrators, passionate readers, and peers – to recommend excellent writers from communities under-represented in UK literary culture for nomination to Fellowship.
Recommendations of writers will be considered by a panel of RSL Fellows (pictured above), chaired by Bernardine Evaristo and including Jay Bernard, Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo, Ian Duhig, Cynan Jones, Val McDermid, Sinéad Morrissey, Daljit Nagra, Nikesh Shukla, Ali Smith, Jack Thorne, Colm Tóibín, and Eley Williams. The selected 30 writers each year will be elected by the RSL Council as FRSL. They will sign the historic Roll Book alongside 15 Fellows elected by the RSL’s direct Fellowship nomination process.
At the heart of the RSL is its Fellowship, which encompasses around 600 of the most eminent authors working in the English language in the UK; the new FRSLs will give support to the RSL’s ideals of openness and inclusivity, convey the multi-faceted character of literature as created today, and help shape the RSL’s activities. Our Fellows inform all that we do—from judging prizes to writing new work for our young people’s outreach programme, from speaking at events to leading new initiatives to bring literature to the greatest possible number of people across the UK. Guided by your recommendations, we seek to celebrate the great diversity of the UK’s literary writing and writers in our Fellowship.
You can read Arts Council England’s 2020 report on the creative case for diversity in the arts for more on the benefits to culture of diverse voices.
If you want to read more about the historic and current under-representation of writers from marginalised communities in UK literary culture, you can find reports and articles from the last five years on the need for greater recognition of writers from all backgrounds and experiences:
- articles in The Guardian from 2015 and 2017
- the Free Verse report from Spread the Word in 2016
- the Common People programme led by New Writing North and launched in 2018
- the Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing report from Spread the Word, The Bookseller and Goldsmiths, University of London in 2020
- the BAME perceptions and experiences of Scotland’s literary sector report from the Scottish BAME Writers Network and EDI Scotland in 2020
The Fellows elected through RSL Open will be announced in 2022 and 2023. Each year, they will be invited to sign the Society’s historic Roll Book, bearing signatures from Fellows since 1825, using a pen that belonged to George Eliot, Lord Byron, T. S. Eliot, or – new for 2020 – Jean Rhys or Andrea Levy.
Submission of recommendations is now closed – elected Fellows will be announced in June 2022.