Where are all the working-class writers? Right here. With the anthology Common People, editor Kit de Waal set out to celebrate diversity of working class lives, pushing beyond the stereotypical portrayals of the underprivileged and dispossessed. Join City of Wolverhampton Poet Laureate Emma Purshouse and writers featured in the anthology for a panel discussion, including Paul Allen, Lynne Voyce, and Lisa Blower.

It is estimated that almost half of all authors, writers and translators in the UK come from professional, middle-class backgrounds, compared with just ten per cent of those with parents in routine or manual labour, and the average income for an author in 2017 was £10,500 – well below the minimum wage. This anthology gives voice to perspectives that are increasingly absent from our books and newspapers. Common People ensures they are heard loud and clear.

Paul Allen grew up in relative poverty on a large council estate, and 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, and freelances, 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’.

Lynne Voyce grew up on a council estate in Ellesmere Port; a place full of larger-than-life characters, tall tales, and the odd dodgy deal. Inspired by her dad buying The Literary Classics Collection with some of his redundancy money, she studied English at the University of Leeds, and went on to take a teaching qualification and then a postgraduate degree in educational psychology. Lynne now works in an inner-city comprehensive school in Birmingham. She has published more than fifty individual short stories, won a number of literary competitions, and, in December 2015, published her first story collection, Kirigami, with Ink Tears Press. She is currently working on her first novel.

Lisa Blower won the Guardian's National Short Story competition in 2009, was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2013, has been Highly Commended and longlisted for the Bridport Prize for three consecutive years, and was one of just four UK authors longlisted for The Sunday Times Short Story Award 2018. Her debut novel Sitting Ducks (Fair Acre Press) was shortlisted for the inaugural Arnold Bennett Prize 2017 and longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker 2016. She is currently touring the UK with her debut short-story collection It's Gone Dark Over Bill's Mother's. Lisa is a creative writing lecturer at Wolverhampton University.

Emma Purshouse was born in Wolverhampton, and is a freelance writer and performance poet. She is currently the City of Wolverhampton Poet Laureate.

Emma is a poetry slam champion (including the Shambala Festival Slam 2018) and she performs regularly at spoken word nights and festivals far and wide, often using her native Black Country dialect in her work. Her appearances include, The Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Much Wenlock Poetry Festival, Solfest, Latitude, and WOMAD. She has supported the likes of John Hegley, Holly McNish and Carol Ann Duffy.

Emma writes for both children and adults. In 2016, her first collection of children’s poetry was produced by Fair Acre Press. This dyslexia-friendly book is aimed at 6 to 11 year-olds and won the poetry section of the Rubery Book Award in 2016. Her most recent publication is Close (Offa’s Press, 2018), this was also shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award 2019. 

In 2017 Emma won the Making Waves international spoken word competition which was judged by Luke Wright. Her first novel was short-listed for the Mslexia unpublished novel prize. Her second novel was shortlisted for Penguin Random House a mentoring programme. Emma was also one of the writers chosen by Kit De Waal for the Common People anthology in 2019.

Performer: Paul Allen, Lynne Voyce, Lisa Blower, Emma Purshouse

Date: Sunday 2 February 2020

Time: 5:30pm – 6:30pm

Venue: Wolverhampton Art Gallery - Georgian Gallery

Price (inc. booking fee): £11.37

Book here