Writers, MPs and Lords were welcomed back to the House of Commons for the first All Party Writers Group (APWG) Winter Reception since 2019 on 7 December.
The event celebrated the winners of both the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) – sponsored Educational Writers’ Award and the Ruth Rendell Award for Literacy, as well as discussing the APWG’s most recent report released in May 2021.
The evening kicked off with opening remarks from Chair of the APWG, Giles Watling MP, who discussed the APWG’s ‘Supporting Writers through the Covid-19 crisis and beyond’ report which made recommendations to the Government based on a supplementary inquiry held in November 2020.
Witnesses came from across the writing sector with representatives from the Society of Authors, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and authors themselves such as Poppy Corbett, a script writer, who also attended the Winter Reception.
The recommendations include:
- Increasing the overall fund for Public Lending Right as a fair and simple way to support all authors, particularly those beyond bestsellers.
- Securing ongoing targeted support for creators instead of funding that is limited to buildings and institutions.
- Creating a level playing field between high street bookshops and online retailers to help ensure a healthy supply chain in the book market
- Increasing opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds and areas of the UK to become a writer
- Protecting and promote the UK’s gold standard copyright regime – the confluence of Brexit and the pandemic has been a time of upheaval, we need to ensure that authors are protected to avoid any potential exploitation
Recently, the APWG has followed up on the first recommendation, in light of the Autumn Spending Review, by sending a letter to the Treasury asking for an increase to Public Lending Right.
Chair of the APWG, Giles Watling MP stated:
“It is always the writer that starts everything, everything we do. We are so dependent on you.
This group has been around since 2007 and we have sixty five members from both the Lords and the Commons. The whole point is to bring to Parliament’s attention what it is you do and how important you are to the British way of life and to British soft power around the world, and to make sure you are always at the forefront of our thinking.”
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Nadine Dorries, sent her apologies for not being able to make the reception and offered her support for the work of the Group through an online video, in which she said:
“As an author myself I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into every novel, play and script. I know the APWG has done great work advocating for writers over the year, particularly over the pandemic. As your report highlights, Covid has made it incredibly difficult for writers to carry on creating and making a reasonable living from their work.
I know it has had a knock-on impact on access and diversity. I have been very lucky to get into the world of writing and as we recover from the pandemic I want to make sure that we bounce back stronger than ever by opening the doors to new faces and voices.”
The ALCS Educational Writers’ Award was presented to the winner Sarah Maycock for her book “Sometimes I Feel…” by the Minister for Arts, Lord Parkinson, who recognised the contribution that writers continue to make to the wider cultural landscape. He stated in his remarks:
“We want the creative industries to continue growing just as quickly as they were before the pandemic, at twice the rate of the wider economy. We want creators to be fairly remunerated for their hard work across publishing, music and television. We want people in the sector to feel safe in the workplace without fear of bullying or harassment. We want the creative industries to be viewed as a positive career choice for school leavers which offer flexibility, high pay and opportunities for development.”
The winner of the Ruth Rendell Award was the inspirational Young People’s Laureate for London 2020/21, Cecilia Knapp, who received the prize for her outstanding contribution to literacy levels in the UK. Knapp has delivered various residencies for young people as part of her role as Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate, led free online workshops, and worked with young girls to explore issues such as #MeToo. She was grateful for the award, saying:
“The joy, recognition and empathy that comes from reading and the empowerment, self-discovery and expression that writing enables should be felt by everybody”
The APWG will continue to push for the changes highlighted in the recommendations above to ensure writers, like Cecilia Knapp, can continue to make a difference to today’s society.