For some people, the world of literature can seem remote and forbidding. The Royal Society of Literature’s Outreach Programme seeks to change this.
Windrush 75 in Verse:
Specially Commissioned Poems
We are very excited to be able to share with you, in celebration of the 75th Windrush anniversary on 22 June 2023, ten newly commissioned poems as part of Windrush 75 in Verse: a project that reflects on the experiences of the Windrush generation, in collaboration with Inua Ellams’ RAP Party. We worked with some of the poets to engage young people in school workshops in London and Birmingham, as well as online, encouraging young people to reflect on their heritage and to create their own poetic responses to the theme of Windrush. In the words of one participant: I felt like a part of me I didn’t know has been awoken to see the world from a different mindset. Why not watch Deanna’s video and write your own? Some of the poems created as part of these school workshops will be published on our website alongside the 10 poets.
The poems were written by Raymond Antrobus, Dean Atta, Casey Bailey, Malika Booker, Anthony Vahni Capildeo, Courtney Conrad, Mr Gee, Keith Jarrett, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa, and Deanna Rodger and you can read them all and watch the workshop video here.
History is in the Making
Anthology and Writing Workshops
For our new anthology, History is in the Making, we asked 20 of our current Fellows to tell us about writers from the last 200 years – from when the RSL was founded in 1820 to now – who they would like to have seen nominated for an RSL Fellowship. They’ve written letters to those writers, thought about why they weren’t celebrated by the RSL when they were alive, and shared with you – their readers – why you should be reading them too.
Our foremost thanks go to the RSL Fellows who contributed essays to this anthology, and to the Tara Getty Foundation, the Sutton Place Foundation and the Maria Björnson Memorial Fund for their generous support. Thanks to Splitpixel for designing this publication. Within the RSL team, special thanks to Beth Gallimore and Amanda Demwell for their time and attentions in producing the anthology.
Give A Book: Donate Books to Support Prison Libraries
The COVID-19 outbreak impacted the most vulnerable members of society particularly badly, perhaps none more than those in the UK’s prisons. With prisons visitations postponed indefinitely, most libraries closed, and no access to the internet, prisoners faced significant hardship with extremely limited contact with their networks of support.
We hope that literature can provide a form of emotional support for those in difficulty. We are asking our community to help Give A Book provide prisons with donations of books to be distributed on the wings – particularly foreign language books, which are in very short supply. Click here to learn how you can support our campaign.
RSL Fellows and Honorary Fellows – Daljit Nagra, Paul Muldoon, Emma Thompson, Kadija Sesay, Edmund de Waal, SF Said and Patrick Gale were matched with Year 8/9 classes in UK state secondary schools. Each Fellow selected a book that impacted their life when they were a young person, and copies were being sent out to every pupil in the class, supported by UK publishers.
Learn more about the project and watch the intro videos here.
We are grateful to Old Possum’s Practical Trust for supporting this programme.
Literature Matters: Fellows & Friends Writing Workshops and Top Tips
While it was not possible for authors to visit schools during lockdown, we commissioned special write-along video workshops, which brought together RSL Fellows and their friends to explore writing for pleasure. Take 10 minutes out of your day to get creative, either on your own or with a friend. You can watch collaborations between Neil Gaiman and Yetide Badaki, Nikesh Shukla and Josie Long, and Inua Ellams and Gemma Cairney.
We are also pleased to share a series of Top Tips videos from RSL Fellows Damian Barr, Peter Frankopan, Salena Godden, Catherine Johnson, Deborah Moggach and Vinay Patel, who share their advice on writing.
Watch all the videos here.
Write Across London Collaborations and Poetry Map
In April 2020, the Museum of London put out an open call for submissions of both objects and first-hand experiences to reflect Londoners’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Collecting Covid project received a remarkable number of poems. The RSL was delighted to be work in partnership with the Museum of London to celebrate the power of poetry to bring people together, even in times of significant isolation.
We brought together pairs of poet ambassadors to inspire people to write their own pieces – watch them discuss their experiences in the videos here. Submissions are now closed but you can view the map and poems here.