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London Writers Awards

The London Writers Awards

The London Writers Awards are Spread the Word’s new annual development programme for talented London writers. The Awards’ aim is to increase the number of writers from under-represented communities being taken up by agents and publishers. To make the step change from unpublished writers to being agented, writers need good sustained professional input and quality feedback to produce work that will be published. The London Writers Awards offer this opportunity. 

The Awards focus on five genres: literary fiction (including short stories), commercial fiction (for e.g.: crime, science fiction, romance), narrative non-fiction, YA/children’s (including middle grade and Young Adult fiction, excludes picture books) and poetry.  

The Awards run from September to May each year. They are free to participate in. Bursaries are available for writers in need and there is an Access Fund for disabled writers.  

WHO ARE THE AWARDS FOR? 

The Awards are focused on supporting 30 London-based writers of colour and working class, LGBTQ+ and disabled writers each.  

Writers are selected through a free and open application process. The programme is for writers who are committed to developing their work, their craft and their career. 

Author judges for the 2018 Awards were: Diana EvansVaseem Khan, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Daljit Nagra and Patrice Lawrence. The industry judges were Aimee Felone (Knights Of founder), Lucy Luck (literary agent at C+W), Ella Kahn (co-founder of Diamond Kahn & Woods Agency), Rukhsana Yasmin (Wasafiri Deputy Editor), and Rachael Allen (poetry editor for Granta, Clinic and Tender). 

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE PROGRAMME? 

Awardees become part of a critical feedback group meeting twice a month. Critical feedback groups are a proven way to take writing forward, and participants will receive feedback on their work at least four times, as well as getting 1-2-1 professional development sessions. 

Writers will participate in one craft masterclass run by professional writers for their chosen category, and five career masterclasses run by industry speakers and experts. The career masterclasses will help them to build industry and business knowledge and gain practical skills. The 2018 writer masterclasses are run by Adam Kay, Catherine Johnson, Claire McGowan, Karen McCarthy Woolf and Romesh Gunesekera.  

Awardees take part in two WritersLabs. The first WritersLab, is an opportunity for writers get to know their peers; ask questions about the programme; be introduced to the critical feedback model through their group facilitator; meet and hear from the 2018 Judges and about the current publishing landscape and trends. 

The second WritersLab is where writers will get to network and showcase their work to invited editors, publishers and agents. 

All Awards activity will take place at venues with good transport links and full accessibility. 

APPLY FOR AN AWARD 

Applications are now closed for the 2018 London Writers Awards. The 2019 London Writers Awards will open for submissions in May 2019. 

GET INVOLVED 

If you are a publisher, agent or professional writer and interested in finding out more about becoming a supporter, partner or patron to the London Writers Awards, please contact: Ruth Harrison, Director at Spread the Word. 

The Awards are supported by Arts Council England and with sponsorship from ALCS. Founding partners are: Independent Publishers Guild, the Society of Authors, Knights Of, Diamond, Kahn & Woods Literary Agency, Burning Eye Books and Bookouture. 

AWARDEES

Alex Falase-Koya

YA/Children’s


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Alex is a London native. He graduated from Middlesex University with a computer science degree, and now works as a Technical support engineer in Old Street. However, he has been both reading and writing since he was a teenager. Anything at the cross section of social commentary and genre fiction floats his boat. Alex is currently working on The Thursday Club, a YA novel manuscript that he would call a cross between Brick, The Breakfast Club and cosmic horror. When he’s not writing, he’s baking apple crumbles or playing video games. Alex now lives in Hackney with his girlfriend and hopes to soon welcome a cat into his life.

Alexis Rigg

YA/Children’s


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Alexis is a court stenographer by day (yes, they do still exist) and a fixer of things that have fallen off their temperamental houseboat by night. They are a queer woman from a working class background and has been writing from a young age, never quite thinking that their work would have a place in the mainstream. They are dedicated to writing stories featuring a diverse range of characters, particularly LGBTQ and BAME leads, believing that all children and young adults should be able to easily identify themselves in literature. They are currently working on their first novel, a high concept drama for young adults.

Anne Chen

YA/Children’s


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Anne Chen is a British-Chinese writer. She has lived most of her life in London and glad to be part of this diverse and dynamic city. She is an avid reader and spent her childhood daydreaming, lost in books. At university, she gained a Masters in Physics and post graduate diploma in Actuarial Science. She has worked in science research and in finance before having her two children.  Anne writes YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. Her YA fantasy is set in ancient China with magical martial arts. Currently, Anne is exploring Chinese SF as an emerging and exciting new genre, reading work from native and diasporic authors. She says she would like to inspire more writers of Chinese descent to give writing a go, especially at this time where there are wonderful opportunities for diverse narratives. 

Annie Hayter

Poetry


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Annie Hayter embraces the queerness of writing about herself. She has always been drawn to relics, and in her current work on her first collection, she is deconstructing the mythologies we create for ourselves. She holds no God, but her grandfather did – and she is forever searching for them both. When she was younger, she won the BBC Proms Young Poet 2011, and was a runner up for Times Young Poet 2012. She is a Barbican Young Poet 2017-2018, and in the past year, she has performed in A Change is Gonna Come at The Pit in The Barbican, at Jazz Verse Jukebox at the Hoxton Hall, on the main stage at the Walthamstow Garden party, at Hammer and Tongue Solent, and at the Barking Broadway.

Arun Das

Commercial Fiction


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Arun Das is a former journalist and television producer. He has produced and directed award-winning news television and non-fiction programmes in India. In 2015 he moved to the UK to join his wife and currently lives in east London. His short story Words for Sounds has been shortlisted for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME short story prize. He has also participated in Penguin Random House’s Write Now. When he’s not writing fiction, he volunteers as a digital marketing manager and works as a freelance content writer.

Bunmi Ogunsiji

Narrative Non-Fiction


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A 52-year-old Nigerian-British London-based writer and single mother, Bunmi began writing (initially poetry) as a shy teenager and in her twenties found her way to the stage as a Performance Poet with a few poems published here and there. In 1999 writing took a back seat to parenting but a passion for learning, cinema and ‘story’ led to an MA in Screenwriting at UAL. In 2016she took a leap of faith and left her job as a Helpline Adviser for the Alzheimer’s Society to focus full time on writing. A short story, Blessing, was commended in the 2016 Bath Short Story Award and in 2017 Things Carried Over was awarded 3rd prize in the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her writing is strongly informed by but not confined to personal experience, racial and gender identity, cultural heritage and the ever-changing demographic of lovely London city.

Chris Simpson

Commercial Fiction


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Chris Simpson grew up in Bracknell and Slough. He has worked as a waiter, a cinema projectionist, a shoe salesman, an attendant in an amusement arcade, hiring out construction and demolition tools, a pasty seller, a teaching assistant, a tutor and a caretaker for a primary school. He was a collaborator on a sketch show and has performed as a stand-up comedian. He received a First in Creative Writing at BA level from Birkbeck University. In 2016 he was nominated for the Royal Academy and Pin Drop Short Story Award 2016. While living in Moscow he completed his first novel, The Infinite Ache (unpublished). He now lives in London and is at work on his second, The Healer. Part-Time Happiness(unpublished) is his first collection comprising of seven short stories bookended by two novellas. He is also the writer of several plays. 

Elaine Williams

Narrative Non-Fiction


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Elaine Williams hails from Sheffield, where she spent a moment in her late teens performing and writing plays for the Crucible Youth Theatre. Now a resident of Hackney, East London, she has a long and varied CV including a proud history of work as a freelance writer for Calabash – a once important platform for African, Caribbean and Asian writers. She spent three years specialising in sound at the National Film and Television School and worked as a freelance sound recordist on independent productions and as a sound designer in the computer games industry. In 2008, she produced the radio documentary feature The Man Who Was Bojangles for BBC Radio 4. She is currently working as an English teacher and tutor and writing her nonfiction book Dad – Black Women and Girls Talk about their Fathers. In 2016, Dad was shortlisted by Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme. Her short story Night will be published in the Common People Anthology in May 2019. 

Esther Poyer

Commercial Fiction


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Esther writes about an imagined past from a rich Guyanese legacy, alongside the imagery and vernacular of her life as born and raised in 1980’s London. These and other contrasting aspects, resonate in her storytelling where she draws on emotional responses to the tension between family relationships in unfamiliar environments. She writes to the tell the stories that are otherwise hidden from mainstream view and to inspire people to listen and relate to one another.

Gavino di Vino

Narrative Non-Fiction


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Gavino di Vino was born in Merseyside to a Kenyan mother and British father and moved to London in 2014 to study Russian & Spanish at UCL. Foreign languages have been an integral part of his life since his teens, now speaking four fluently and currently acquiring Portuguese. His first writing project was his one-man show,Auntie, in which he plays an African mother and her gay son, which gained strong reviews at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, and following his first independent trip to Russia shortly after, he embarked on his current focus, Russia in 2017.  This travel writing book, inspired by works from the 19th century, presents his unique perspective of this culture, which inspires awe and contention in equal amounts.  

Helen Bowell

Poetry


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Helen Bowell is a graduate of The Writing Squad and was a commended Foyle Young Poet in 2010 and 2011. She is also a member of the Dead [Women] Poets Society, a project exploring women poets’ relationships to women writers of the past. Her work has appeared in Strix, The Manchester Review, The Missing Slate, and Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets. She works at The Poetry Society and runs Young Poets Network.

Iqbal Hussain

Commercial Fiction


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Iqbal is a second-generation Pakistani immigrant, born into a large working-class Muslim family in Lancashire. He has lived in London for the majority of his life and very much considers it home. He manages a team in the document processing unit of a City law firm. Northern Boy is his first attempt at writing fiction and is a nostalgic coming-of-age novel. In it, he hopes to challenge stereotypes and prejudices about Muslim lives, giving an insight into what is normally seen as a private world. The other main reason he wanted to write the novel was to give a voice to women like his mother, who are often invisible in the wider world. In his spare time, he enjoys going to the theatre, taking long hikes in the countryside and composing music – a legacy of his exposure to Bollywood film music while growing up. 

Jamie Hale

Poetry


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Jamie Hale is a poet and writer whose work explores what it means to have a body and to live in it, through themes of queer/trans/disabled dis/embodiment, in/visible subjectivity, and multiple meanings of impairment and disability. A wheelchair user dependent on tubes and machines, Jamie is interested in the creative potentials of bodily automation, identity regeneration, and the weight of mortality. They have recently performed at the Barbican Centre, the Tate Modern, the Saboteur Awards and the Trans Creative Arts Festival, and have been published in Poetry Quarterly. Current projects include a collection of nature poetry, a book of essays, and a show being developed alongside the Barbican OpenLab scheme. It is tentatively titled NOT DYING, and charts their navigation of illness, uncertain prognosis, and above all, living as a disabled person in the world. 

Jemilea Wisdom-Baako

Poetry


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Jemilea Wisdom-Baako is a British-Jamaican poet, writer, facilitator and creative director. Understanding the power and potency of creative writing and its impacts on the community she set up a non-profit arts organisation Writerz and Scribez in 2014 delivering poetry workshops with marginalised communities. A Callaloo Fellow, Winter Tangerine and Speakeasy alumni, her work has been widely commissioned and appears in Pittsburgh Poetry ReviewThe Good Journal, and elsewhere. Her writing centres on themes of womanhood, identity, culture rituals, religion and relationships. She is listed as one of the top 20 promising artists in the UK and is currently working on her first collection.  

Kira McPherson

Literary Fiction


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Kira grew up in Perth, Western Australia. She has been living in London since 2013. She was shortlisted for the 2017 London Magazine Essay Competition. She writes short stories and is currently working on a novel. 

Koyer Ahmed

Literary Fiction


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Having been born and brought up in London, Koyer considers himself fortunate to experience the everchanging scenery of this vibrant society and getting to experience such a globalised culture. From a young age, he harnessed a great passion and interest for arts and creativity and would often spend histime daydreaming or being imaginative with stories in his head or on paper.  He has a great love for music, film, fitness, education and politics with a thirst to learn about different parts of the world and the unexplained. Recently, he has taken up long distance running and have taken part in four major races with an aspiration to do more. He is a SEND professional and has worked in education and in community for the last 14 years with stint in PR and Marketing. All of which continues to inspire him in his creativity and writing. 

Lily Paine

Poetry


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Lily Paine (b.1996) lives and works in Stockwell. Since 2009 she has written 6 collections of poetry which she has given to friends and sold at the deli Italo, where she works:  Oral of Yore; Dire Tusks; Fire thy Weary Eyes; Question of the Many PitiesHearing of the Many Few and Passing out the Ponders A selection of Lily’s poetry was displayed in the group art exhibition Fraternise – the salon (Beaconsfield, 2011) alongside work by artists such Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas; and her work was included in a poetry reading that accompanied the artist Rachel Howard’s Northern Echo exhibition (Blain Southern, 13th March 2014). The poems from Question of the Many Pities form the soundtrack to Lily’s film of the same name (Morley Gallery, June 2015; Bonnington Centre, September 2015). 

Lui Sit

YA/Children’s


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Lui Sit was born in Hong Kong, raised in Australia and now lives in London with her family. She started writing plays and poetry as a child which eventually led to a degree in English Literature and Drama from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.  The writing bug followed her to London where she completed the Certificate in Creative Writing at Birbeck University and an MA from Roehampton University. She was longlisted in the Spread the Word Life Writing Award 2018 and included in Penguin’s WriteNow 2018. She is currently completing her first middle grade children’s book and her first memoir. 

Marta Bausells

Narrative Non-Fiction


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Marta Bausells is a writer and freelance journalist living in London. She was born and raised in Barcelona, Catalonia. Her personal writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and The Millions, and her reporting has been published in the Guardian, the Observer, Literary Review and Electric Literature, among others. She is also the literary editor at Elle magazine, European editor-at-large at Literary Hub, and a contributing editor at Oh Comely magazine, and runs the London chapter of the Subway Book Review project. She has recently spent time in Berlin on a fellowship from the International Journalists Programme. Previously she worked for Guardian Books, where she founded the Guardian Books Network.

Merrie Joy Williams

Poetry


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Merrie Joy Williams is a poet, novelist, librettist, reviewer, and educator, with an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry). She is a past winner of The Rosamond Prize for poet-composer collaboration. Krystallnacht, an AHRC-sponsored chamber opera, debuted in 2016. Her poetry has featured in various publications, including The Interpreter’s House, Penguin: IC3, Writing in Education and The Colour of Madnessanthology (2018), as well as Manchester: A New Alphabet, where she worked with illustrators to eulogise the city of her birth. A former English teacher, most recently she has coached Creative Writing in schools, led or been a member of various adult writers’ group, and co-organized a residential for BAME fiction writers – a safe spaces to develop and nurture their work. In 2016, Merrie won an Arts Council award for her debut novel, SO, recently completed. Both this and her poems explore loss, faith, adolescence, and family. 

Nina Duttaroy

Commercial Fiction


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Nina Duttaroy loves a good story, and this led her to study English at London University. She is passionate about telling hidden stories and has written and directed award winning documentaries, which have been supported by Film London and B3 Media. She has also worked on BBC and independently produced feature length documentaries. Nina has a Masters in IT and has managed IT training projects, but she later changed career to work in the arts. She has subsequently managed arts, communication and film training projects for charities and councils. Her work has helped support young people from under-represented communities enter the creative industries. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Penguin WriteNow scheme and longlisted for The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. She is currently writing her debut crime novel set in India. 

Priscilla Mante

YA/Children’s


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Priscilla Mante is a London based, Scottish writer of Ghanaian parentage. She is passionate about working with young people, the Arts and social & economic justice. Priscilla was born in Glasgow where she spent the first 19 years of her life, but has since lived in a variety of cities throughout the world including Sheffield, Dundee, Philadelphia and Seoul. Priscilla tells stories about the world as she sees it, and she currently works in communications and policy where she enjoys using storytelling to convey information about inclusive growth, business and innovation. When she isn’t at work, you’ll probably find her devouring books and vegan cakes in equal amounts or travelling on a last-minute holiday to a new city or country. In addition to the Middle Grade manuscript she will be reworking over the next ninemonths, she is also in the early stages of writing a YA book. 

Riley Rockford

Literary Fiction


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Riley grew up in East Anglia and spent most of the holidays with family in Scotland. Now, she loves living in her east London neighbourhood. For work, she manages projects in education and the community, especially relating to writing and/or social justice in some way. At University, she studied literature and culture, focusing on silences, visibility, and standpoint theory. After a break of a few years, she went back to study part-time while working full time, and after 5 years graduated with a PhD in Creative Writing. Riley’s work will be published for the first time next year in the Common People anthology, edited by Kit de Waal. She loves travelling to new places, telly, listing Top Fives, swimming outside, orange juice & lemonade, having no plans on Sundays, and pasta.

Sahar Halaimzai

YA/Children’s


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Sahar has worked as an advocate and campaigner for ten years. Using storytelling, she has advocated for the inclusion of young people in the creative industries, the inclusion of diverse communities in the arts, for the for the rights of writers and journalists at risk with the worldwide literary organisation, PEN International. From organising a screening of La Haine with young people at Broadwater Farm estate in London on the eve of the Mayoral election in 2012 to a protest for the imprisoned writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov outside the Russian embassy in London in 2018, Sahar’s work has focused on bringing the voices of marginalised and silenced individuals and communities to centre stage.

On winning a place on the London Writers Awards, she said: ‘I moved to the UK when I was a young teenager and books became a sanctuary for me and a way to connect with my new home. However, I could never fully relate to the characters or stories I read. I come from a community whose way of life is shrouded in myth and stereotypes. Often our history is written by other people. I’m excited to be part of this programme because it will give me the space to express my lived experience in my own words.’

 

Sara Jafari

Literary Fiction 


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Sara Jafari is a British-Iranian writer who works in book publishing. She also runs TOKEN Magazine, a literary and arts print magazine featuring under-represented writers and artists. Longlisted for the Goldsmiths Life Writing Prize, her writing has also been published in numerous magazines online and in print. She studied English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London and is a Faber Academy 2018 graduate.

Sofia Fara

Literary Fiction


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Sofia Fara is a bad immigrant, just another Romanian feminist coming over here to steal novel-writing jobs. Despite her lack of scruples about appropriating both football and binge drinking from her host culture, she remains a proud citizen of nowhere as she keeps plugging away at The Great European Novel. In the meantime, she tinkers with assorted fictions about the Eastern European women who don’t seem to exist outside of tabloid headlines. Decent reader though, great taste in translated fiction.

Stacey Ng

Narrative Non-Fiction


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Stacey is working on a book about Chinese food. Brought up in the UK to Hong Kong parents, she writes about how food carves memories of nostalgia, belonging and identity in a faraway land. Working in her parents’ takeaway as a counter girl in Birmingham, she saw how invented dishes such as sesame prawn toast and Singapore noodles were made to appeal to a Western palate. Tracing the history behind this cuisine, she follows her family’s journey from colonial Hong Kong to Britain. She studied History with Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham and has a Master’s in Anthropology from UCL. Fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, she has spent time researching and travelling in China. In 2016, she attended a Narrative Non-Fiction course at City University. Her favourite writers include Rebecca Solnit, Deborah Levy, Amy Tan, Madeleine ThienFuschia Dunlop, Hans Fallada, and Elena Ferrante. 

Stephen Wrench

Narrative Non-Fiction


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In 2008, Stephen Wrench finally found himself in London. Originally from Sydney, he thought his destiny was to live in Paris again, 18 years after a student stint. But that turned out to be a stepping stone. Along the way, he wrote. For himself at first, to dissect dreams seized and dashed. Then gradually for others: readers of his blog, fellow apprentices at various South London groups and classes. In 2016, an Arvon writing course gave him the confidence to define a more specific project, to start structuring his scribbles and aim for something heftier. He gained impetus from the ‘Writing Lives’ programme at the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education. The London Writers Award is helping Stephen to complete his memoir: a tale of two ages in Paris, written from London, his adopted home and adapted destiny. 

 

Tice Cin

Literary Fiction


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Tice Cin is a poet, writer and arts producer from Tottenham, North London. Her work has been published in Skin Deep Magazine and commissioned by venues around London, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Battersea Arts Centre. An alumnus of the poetry community Barbican Young Poets, she recently took part in the Barbican’s Art of Change series. Through this, she performed in the dance poetry experience A Change is Gonna Come and wrote poetry in response to the Dorothea Lange and Vanessa Winship double photography exhibition. Tice recently completed her MA in English: Issues in Modern Culture at UCL, specialising in representations of the female body in posthuman literature. She is currently working on her first novel – a story set in Tottenham and North Cyprus exploring generational trauma. Over the next year she hopes to tell a story built from both research and experience, defamiliarizing the traditional crime novel. 

 

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‘As the world changes around us, the need of the hour is for a generation of diverse literary voices to come to the fore, reflecting our modern societies. But such voices need to be encouraged, nurtured, and given the same opportunities as those traditionally favoured by the industry. The London Writers Awards are leading the way in this brave new world, by providing meaningful career support for emerging writers from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to achieve that breakthrough moment. For me such a breakthrough came after 23 years of waiting. I only wish something like the London Writers Awards programme had been around when I was first trying to make my mark … I am truly excited to be a part of this initiative.’

Vaseem Khan, writer and judge

Contact

Please contact Bobby Nayyar, Programme Manager at Spread the Word, if you have a question about the Awards.

T 020 8692 0231 (ext 249)

E bobby@spreadtheword.org.uk

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