Level Playing Field

Level Playing Field

As I write this, I am sitting in a shepherd’s hut on a farm, in the middle of nowhere. You can’t get the bus here and when you arrive in your car you need to walk a fair distance to get to the hut across a big field.

There is no running water in the hut, but there is a very nice snug back across the field with a log burner and some mod cons. Today the wind has been howling and as I walked across the field, I was thinking of the work that goes into keeping the grass down so that I could get to the hut. In fact, there is a very large tractor that does the job.

The reality is that for the field to be level someone must do the work; do you see where I am going with this.

Publishing is not a level playing field. Not everyone gets the same opportunities. Not level. Not equal. Not fair. Despite the kerfuffle made by a few loud grumpy people it is still true today that the books that get the biggest advances, the most publicity, the bigger marketing budgets, the space on the top seller lists, (top seller doesn’t actually mean what you think, but that is a whole other story!) the most shelf space in the big shops are still written by white men and women. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions.

This is because very few are willing to do the work do level the playing field. I did a talk at a publishers’ conference a couple of years ago and I told them that what they needed to do was stop taking risks and play it safe in publishing. They looked surprised. I then explained that publishing black and brown people is not a risk, it’s just publishing, which is what they do.

When I started Brighton Book Festival, I did not think I was taking a risk, I thought I was doing the obvious thing levelling the field. I wanted to make a space for marginalised authors, to give them a platform. It wasn’t a risk because, I knew what the world really looked like and therefore knew that these individuals had an audience. In fact, these individuals had frustrated audiences who were willing to go to great lengths to see these people because no one wanted to give them a platform.

I believed and still do that the book festival is just giving audiences what they want. Connection with people who represent the diversity of this nation and this world. I use my energy and small platform to endure that authors and their audiences are given the space that they deserve. It shouldn’t be a big deal and I don’t get why people behave as though doing this requires something extra from them. Like I said, the publishing world just needs to do their job.

 I am not a superhero; I have no special powers. I don’t even have a tractor (I asked if I could have a go, they said no!) I just have a bit of passion, some great friends, and a desire to roll my sleeves up and get on with it.

 Just like you. . .

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