Society diversity

The Royal Society of Literature seeks to diversify in the coming years

On the occasion of its 200th anniversary, the Royal Society of Literature plans to make changes to improve diversity among its members and in the literature they promote.

The Royal Society of Literature in Great Britain was founded in 1820 by King George IV, “to reward literary merit and to excite literary talent”. Over the years, many renowned writers have been members of the Royal Society of Literature. It also has several awards to encourage writers of various genres and ages at different stages of their careers.

Previous members were mostly white males, such as WB Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, JRR Tolkien and Thomas Hardy. Nowadays, the membership is more diverse, with popular contemporary writers such as Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, David Hare, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Andrew Motion, Paul Muldoon, Zadie Smith, Nadeem Aslam, Sarah Waters, Geoffrey Ashe and JK Rowling.

Nonetheless, they recognize that they can improve and have issued a statement requesting recommendations for 60 fellows from under-represented communities.

“RSL believes literature is at its best when it includes voices from the widest range of backgrounds and experiences, in all literary forms, from across the UK. In 2020, with the launch of the RSL Open program, we are celebrating the great diversity of outstanding writers and writers in Britain, electing over the next two years 60 fellows from communities under-represented in British literature.

We ask you – RSL Fellows, as well as editors, artistic agents and administrators, avid readers and peers – to recommend excellent writers from communities under-represented in British literary culture for nomination to the Fellowship, ”they said.

A panel of RSL Fellows will assess the recommendations and choose 20 writers each year. The panel will be chaired by last year’s Booker Prize co-winner, Bernardine Evaristo.

They are also launching a program called RSL International Writers to ensure that writers around the world are represented and read.

“The program will recognize the contribution of writers from around the world to English literature and the power of literature to transcend borders. In an era of growing nationalism, RSL International Writers celebrates the many ways in which literature can shape a future world. , bring people together in a better understanding.

We ask you, readers and writers, to recommend writers who are not residents or citizens of the United Kingdom, whose works have made the greatest contribution to literary culture. ”

They went on to explain, “We are looking for recommendations from writers of various literary forms, including writers of drama, fiction, graphic fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screenplays.”

All new members of society sign their names using a famous author’s pen, usually TS Eliot, Lord Byron, George Eliot or Charles Dickens. Now, for the first time, a colored woman’s feather has been added to the ranks. Andrea Levy, former fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and author of “Small Island” and “The Long Song” died last year and her pen was donated with Jean Rhys. Thus, future members will have the opportunity to ink their signature with one of their pens.

The Royal Literature Society has also announced its next president – Daljit Nagra. She will begin in January 2021, succeeding the current president, Lisa Appignanesi.

It’s nice to see such a renowned institution making such efforts to expand and improve its pool of writers to include voices from all over the world.