Spread the Word launches Early Career Bursaries for London Writers


“I know from personal experience how hard it is to develop a career in writing when you know no writers and when life gives you no time or space to write in. The Early Career Bursaries scheme is a brilliant idea. It will be life-changing, perhaps even life-saving, for those it helps.” 

Sathnam Sanghera, writer and journalist

“It is no overstatement to say that, for an early-career working class writer based in London, a bursary like this could be the difference between staying the course or having to accept the barriers are too many. Working class writers are particularly vulnerable at this stage in their career because there is a lot of graft, often very little monetary reward and even less resources to go around. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world but it is also, for better or worse, still very much the hub of publishing and one which emerging writers benefit by having access to. If we want those from working class backgrounds to have access to a career in writing that is based not on resource but on talent then bursaries like these level the playing field.

Kerry Hudson, writer

Spread the Word is delighted to announce the judges Tice Cin, Jeffrey Boakye, Luan Goldie and Dr Mark Blacklock for a new annual programme – the Early Career Bursaries for London Writers – made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from Sam and Rosie Berwick.  

The Early Career Bursaries for London Writers aim to make a significant difference to writers’ development of their craft and support career progression. The focus of the Bursaries is on unagented and unpublished London writers of narrative non-fiction and commercial and literary fiction who are on a low income and are working on a writing project or have a developed idea for a new project. 

The need for Early Career writers to receive support is stark. Unlike other artistic professions there is no defined career pathway for writers. It is particularly true for writers whose voices are underrepresented in the UK’s publishing industry who do not have the networks and connections to support them to take their first steps as a writer.  

Sam and Rosie Berwick, Donors, say: “We are so lucky to be able to help the fabulous Spread the Word in this new project to give writers a little bit more of the time and space needed to create art, and we look forward with excitement to helping this group of early writers grow their talent and career opportunities.”

Spread the Word Director Ruth Harrison says: “Spread the Word is delighted to be able to launch  this fantastic opportunity to London writers on a low income on the day that the new London Living Wage is announced. When you are at the beginning of your career creating time to write, and sustaining your life while doing so, is a priority. We are grateful to Sam and Rosie Berwick for identifying the clear need to support early career writers on a low income, particularly given the current cost of living crisis, providing them with the support, space and money to develop their stories and build connections and community.” 

The Early Career Bursaries for London Writers will provide three bursaries a year each with a value of £15,000, with £10,000 being awarded as cash and £5,000 towards talent development, including mentoring. There is no obligation for Bursary recipients to create an ‘end product’.

Judge Tice Cin says: It’s an honour to be a judge for the Early Career Bursaries. I cite the wisdom of people like Kit De Waal who once said that resilience shouldn’t be one of the most celebrated traits of the working class writer, as it is over-glorified and comes through unnecessary struggle. We need to have more opportunities like the Early Career Bursaries that offer sustained support for low income writers from underrepresented communities.”

Judge Jeffrey Boakye says: “I’m excited and energised by the opportunity to be a judge for the Early Career Bursaries. Unearthing new talent and helping guide the development of writers is hugely important, not only for the sharing of new narratives but also for the broadening of perspectives. I know this is going to be both fascinating and rewarding.”

Judge Dr Mark Blacklock says: “The generous endowment that enables these bursaries for early career writers will change lives. Embarking on a career as a writer is so risky in financial terms that it can seem impossible, but a literary landscape that excludes on economic grounds is an elitist desert. Support targeted at those whose work shows the greatest promise and who need it most will be absolutely transformative.” 

Judge Luan Goldie says: “Early support is vital when it comes to nurturing talent and these bursaries will be life changing for three writers. Spread the Word gave me one of my first breaks, back when I was unpublished and struggling to squeeze my writing around my ‘real job’. So, it’s a huge privilege to be involved with this project and I can’t wait to start discovering new voices from across London.”

Spread the Word and Sam and Rosie Berwick welcome a wider conversation with the publishing industry, philanthropists and funders on the need for philanthropic support for writers and equitable and accessible early career interventions to address the systemic barriers faced by writers on a low income in creating work and progressing a creative career.

Applications for entries are open from 10am, Thursday 22 September until 12pm (midday) on Tuesday 1 November 2022. 

For more information, including how to apply, please visit: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/early-career-bursaries

Published Thursday 22 September 2022