The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Sixteen get A Writing Chance

The writing programme backed by acting star Michael Sheen is up and running again
A Writing Chance 2024-25 writers at Arvon. Credit: Dan Haworth-Salter

A route into writing has been secured by 16 people chosen for the latest round of A Writing Chance, the programme championed by actor Michael Sheen.

The pioneering programme was co-founded in 2021 by Sheen along with Newcastle-based New Writing North, Northumbria University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Supporting writers from working class and under-represented backgrounds, A Writing Chance was established in recognition of the fact that entry to competitive careers involving writing traditionally favours people from more privileged backgrounds.

A Writing Chance 2024–25 is produced by New Writing North in partnership with publisher Faber & Faber, the Daily Mirror and online publishing platform Substack.

Funding has come from the Joseph Rowntree and Esmée Fairbairn foundations, Michael Sheen’s charitable foundation, Mab Gwalia, and Arts Council England, and with support from audio sponsor Audible.

The programme is supported by research from Northumbria University and Bath Spa University funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Each of this year’s 16 chosen writers receive a £2,000 bursary supported by a grant from the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

And they have already embarked on their writing journey with a five-day residential course at The Hurst in Shropshire, run by the Arvon Foundation.

Each writer has been paired with an industry mentor and one of four pastoral mentors, all experienced writers, whom they will meet throughout the coming year.

The writers have been divided among three programmes, one each run by the Daily Mirror, Faber & Faber and Substack.

Northumberland’s Sophie Wren is one of the 2024/5 cohort of A Writing Chance

One of this year’s chosen 16 is from the North East.

Sophie Wren, from Northumberland, is being mentored by Claire Venus, Substack writer and creative engagement consultant.

Michael Sheen said: “A Writing Chance exists not only to enable talented writers to access opportunities that have for too long relied on connections, networks and a financial cushion, but also to find the voices and stories that have been missing from our national conversation.”

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, said: “I’m proud that this programme has brought together a wide range of partners and supporters to make all of this possible.

Michael Sheen has thrown his considerable support behind A Writing Chance. Credit: Sarah Dunn

“We received more than 1,000 applications and are thrilled to be working with the 16 selected writers, whose work is truly exciting and has much to add to our wider discourse.”

This latest edition of A Writing Chance follows the success of the 2021-22 programme which supported 11 new writers, several of whom have gone on to enjoy notable success.

Tom Newlands’ novel, Only Here, Only Now, was published by Phoenix in April, Mayo Agard-Olubo won the Mo Siewcharran Prize 2023 for his unpublished children’s book, Kid Rex vs the Dastardly Dust Bunnies, and Maya Jordan’s The Emergency Chicken & Other Stories will be published by September Publishing in 2026.


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