Acclaimed Writers of Colour Join City of Stories Library Initiative This June

New literary initiative places London’s libraries centre stage in a search for hidden stories and undiscovered talent

Acclaimed authors, 20 London libraries and a leading London writers’ agency are collaborating to inspire Londoners to reveal their stories as part of a two-year literary initiative.

City of Stories is an Arts Council England funded London-wide celebration of writing, reading and stories, managed by Spread the Word and commissioned by the Association of London Chief Librarians.

Leading writers Irenosen Okojie (Butterfly Fish, Betty Trask Award 2016), Courttia Newland (The Gospel According to Cane), Bidisha (Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London) and Alex Wheatle MBE (Crongton Knights, Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016) will take up residencies in London libraries.

As well as producing original short stories themselves, they will hear Londoners’ tales and encourage them to take part in short story writing workshops with an eye on spotting emerging talent.
The project, which will run from 2017 to 2018, will annually:

  • Run 40 free short story writing workshops in June 2017 for adult learners, and those with English as a Second Language, in London libraries across 20 London boroughs, led by experienced writers.
  • Have four writers in residence, located in four libraries, with commissions to produce original short stories based on their borough, which will be made into films.
  • Host a City of Stories Short Story Competition for participants who have attended the workshops, with a judging panel comprised of the writers in residence.
  • Identify and develop new talent from the City of Stories competition entrants, with an invitation to attend a writer development day.

Anthony Hopkins, President of the Association of London Chief Librarians, said: “The City of Stories project gives London’s libraries an opportunity to enhance their engagement with aspiring writers and authors. Libraries historically have been an important part of a writer’s development and this project gives them even greater access and tools to improve their craft. Through a series of workshops, aspiring writers will be given access to experts and the tools to further develop their work.”

Novelist and playwright Courttia Newland said: “Libraries are the lifeblood of literature. Without them, many of our well-loved authors might have struggled to become writers at all, or at least found things a great deal tougher. They’re our beacons in a misty world, particularly in cities where stories are plentiful, but distractions equally numerous. With Spread the Word we can continue to find the meaningful, necessary stories that beg to be told, and work with the many talented writers who are determined to tell them. This will be a very exciting residency for all involved.”

Writer and broadcaster Bidisha added: “I’m delighted and excited to be a part of this new initiative. My mission will be to explore a new part of the city I was born and brought up in, make new connections, discover exciting new voices and develop new ways of seeing and writing. It’s time for writers and readers in one of the most diverse and international cities on earth to put pen to paper and let loose a creativity without borders.”

There will also be a City of Stories booklet containing 20 winning entries from each London borough, which will appear alongside the writers in residence short stories. The booklet will be launched at celebration events at local libraries and made available to readers across London.

Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said: “Spread the Word is delighted to be working with the Association of London Chief Librarians to find and celebrate Londoners’ stories at a time when dialogue and understanding is much needed. Libraries are essential to the life of a writer; helping them to engage readers with their work. It is vitally important that we celebrate what makes London one of the greatest cities on earth – its people and their creativity – and to promote the value of everyone’s voice being heard.”

The City of Stories event takes place across the UK find out more below:

  • See the City of Stories schedule and book your slot here.
  • To join a free City of Stories creative writing workshop see the schedule of events and dates here.
  • If you have a literature project idea you want to discuss, find out more and book a slot here.

To see specific writers: 

  • See Bidisha at Willesden Green Library in Brent: Tuesday 20 June 6 – 7.30pm | Saturday 24 June 2 – 4pm  Book Here.
  • See Alex Wheatle at Kingston Central Library in Kingston: Wednesday 14 June 12.30 – 2.30 Book Here.
  • See Irenosen Okojie at Forest Hill Community Library in Lewisham:  Sunday 11 June, 2 – 4pm / Thursday 22 June, 10-12 noon Book Here.

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