Review: Common People - Working Class Writers

By Ciarán Hodgers

Where are all the working class writers? I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately. Well, on the 2nd May they were in Toxteth Library. Writers and journalists Kit de Waal, Lynsey Hanley and Laura Waddell brought their perspective on working class representation within writing, literature and publishing. They spoke eloquently about seeming flash-in-the-pan “schemes” to support working class writing, and how they’re inefficient as they’re not approaching the problems from the ground up. This idea of social mobility within writing became a really interesting point the panel picked apart – discussing how the idea of its aspirational to only move upwards is a kind of snobbery or negative view on working class culture. The books they discussed, Common People (Unbound) and Know Your Place (Dead Ink) proved the point that working class writers are there, they’re creating stellar work that is important for the industry – but that the issues lies in a systemic bias away from it. An inspiring moment was when Kit talks about how it’s in publishers interests to sell books, and if there’s a growing appetite for work from working class writers – why don’t we just ask them to publish more of it? Change starts with us – so I personally feel emboldened to contact my favourite publishers and demand they make a step-change in how they’re representing and publishing working class writers.