Common People is a collection of essays, poems and pieces of personal memoir, bringing together seventeen well-known writers from working class backgrounds with an equal number of brand new as-yet-unpublished writers from all over the UK.

It includes two emerging working-class writers from the South West, selected by Literature Works for publication in this crowdfunded anthology that helps new voices be heard.

In her recent BBC Radio Four documentary, novelist Kit de Waal asked an important question: ‘Where are all the working-class writers?’ The answer is right here. Inspired by a shared concern that working-class voices are increasingly absent from the pages of books and newspapers, Kit de Waal has come together with Unbound and the regional writing development agencies to do something about it.

The seventeen new writers are announced today. They will receive support and mentoring from the regional writing development agencies in the run-up to publication. Literature Works selected Paul Allen from the Forest of Dean and Ruth Behan from Wiltshire. Kit de Waal commented today –

‘What stories! What lives! It’s been so great to read these seventeen memoirs of working class writers. All life is there; hard, (inevitably) but also wry, bizarre, sad and proud, there’s some kick-ass ones too, all of them laced through with a determination to see the funny side, to do more than survive, to celebrate. It’s always a privilege to read a record of someone’s life and I’m absolutely delighted to welcome all these new writers to Common People, and can’t wait to see them all in print.’

Unbound will publish Common People in May 2019. Established writers include Malorie Blackman OBE, Louise Doughty, M J Hyland, Stuart Maconie and Daljit Nagra. The two writers selected by Literature Works, the Regional Literature Development Agency for the South West, are –

Paul Allen for Fanny Testing

When Paul Allen was three, he would watch the gas men lighting the streetlamps from his gran’s bedroom window. He grew up in relative poverty, on a large council estate, which he says ‘was actually pretty good, as everybody I knew back then was in the same boat’. He left school at fifteen to be a bricklayer, like his dad before him, and loved it. Paul has played in bands and ridden motorcycles all his life, freelancing between building jobs road testing bikes for a monthly motorcycling magazine. Using that experience, he applied for a degree in journalism at the University of the West of England, swapping on to the creative writing course, where his tutor has described his writing as ‘experienced and emotionally intelligent.’

Ruth Behan for Stalin on our Mantelpiece

Ruth Behan was born in 1952, the daughter of Brian Behan, who was the brother of the writer Brendan Behan, and whose mother took part in the Easter rising carrying messages to the IRA. Her mother’s family were socialists from the North of England. She has three children, has run an antiques business, worked as a cleaner and a fiddle player, trained in Counselling Skills, has a degree in Child Development and has worked in Early Years Education. She has played for many years in the band, ‘Billy in the Low Ground’ and now teaches fiddle playing, which means she can play music for hours on end and get paid for it.