We recently spoke to Dominique De-Light, Creative Future’s Co-Director, about the history of the Creative Future Literary Awards, and why she thinks a programme like this is important.
Can you tell us a little bit about where the idea for the Literary Awards came from?
Ever since Creative Future was established we’d wanted a showcase event for writers. We set up the Impact Art Fair and the Tight Modern for visual artists but it took us a while to work out how to create a high profile event for writers. Like all good ideas it came out of a pub conversation with Chris Taylor, Director of New Writing South and now established it’s going from strength to strength.
You set up Creative Future in 2007, and have worked in Arts and Health long before that. How do you think the world has changed for marginalised artists and writers since you started?
In some ways life is definitely harder. The austerity cuts have hurt the vulnerable in our society the most. There are less support services, less creative activities and less financial support via benefit cuts; the ending of the Independent Living Fund in June 2015 being the latest of these. On a positive note, I think there is greater awareness of the issues marginalised people face. The Time to Change campaign has made a real impact with greater awareness and openness around mental health issues, the Paralympics raised awareness of the talent of disabled people and positive LGB&T roles models in the media have done a great deal for the LGB&T community. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and we intend to be at the forefront of challenging people’s stereotypes and raising awareness of the potential of marginalised people.
Why do you think something like the Creative Future Literary Awards needs to exist?
This was something we struggled with for a long time as there are lots of writing competitions out there already. But time and time again we were told by the writers we worked with that they didn’t have the confidence to enter ‘mainstream’ competitions. We wanted to create a safe supportive place that actively encouraged marginalised writers to submit their work because we knew they were talented. We know how difficult it is to submit work to competitions and how hard it is when there is only one top prize and you might come 7th or 8th and never even know and even if you win there is no follow up support. So we designed a competition with lots of prizes, lots of support both before and after the competition and workshops to help you get your entry ready. There are no other literary competition that offers this. We like to see ourselves as a helping hand to literary success.
You’ve said that while a range of genres will be accepted, what the judges will be looking for is ‘artistic quality’. Can you say a little bit more about what that means?
I think we all know when we’ve read a good story or poem – it’s one that makes you go on an emotional journey, is original in its use of language and is satisfying in that it tells us a story – ie it has a beginning, a middle and an end, though not necessarily in that order. I’d recommend people think about the stories and poetry they love and what makes them love them and try to achieve the same in their own work. There’s lots more writing tips on our website if people need a bit of extra help.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to the Awards, but is concerned they don’t have enough experience?
This is a competition for people of all levels of experience. One of the Platinum winners of the last awards had never entered a writing competition before so who knows what can happen.
Finally, can you make a literary recommendation? What should we all be reading, or who should we be keeping an eye out for? Where do you go to discover new things to read?
I’m a great fan of post-colonial literature, traditionally writing that has been on the margins of the mainstream literary canon. I think those on the edge of the mainstream can offer really interesting insights into dominant cultures and philosophy as well as enlightening us about their own. My favourite writer of the moment is the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her latest book, Americanah, is a brilliant story exploring race and cultural identity and is beautifully written. I discover new things by reading the reviews but I also pay a lot of attention to word of mouth recommendations as it’s very difficult to get a review these days and there’s lots of great work out there that’s never is mentioned in the mainstream.