Class and Contemporary UK Writing

British Council Literature Seminar, 16–18 March 2023 at Oyoun Berlin

Having explored the topic of diversity in UK literature in the context of race and gender in 2017 and 2018, we are thrilled that Bernardine Evaristo, the renowned writer, academic and Man Booker Prize Winner 2019, will chair the British Council Literature Seminar in 2023. 

The hierarchy of class is deeply embedded into the structures of British society and affects every aspect of our lives. Although the United Kingdom has become a more progressive and socially mobile society, it is nonetheless far from fulfilling an egalitarian dream. We are still a nation rife with inequality of lifestyle, education, opportunity and economic prosperity, especially as it pertains to and disadvantages the working classes. The literature industry has traditionally been a middle class occupation, a fact that extends from those who work in publishing houses, to the authors themselves. Historically excluded from working within publishing, working class people might encounter an array of obstacles to getting published. This will range from the self-belief and courage required to envision and pursue a career as a writer, to becoming a writer who has to negotiate a predominantly middle class literary culture where you might be seen as an outsider who doesn’t fit in because of your background, unless, of course, you change, even if it is only superficial code-switching, such as changing your accent and speech, social codes and cultural allegiances, in order to assimilate. (...) 

The British Council Literature Seminar 2023 in Berlin will provide a space for fertile discussion of what it means to be a writer from working class backgrounds, how this sits within the changing publishing eco-system; how the context of class might shape and inspire a writer’s creativity, and the importance of representation at all levels within the literature industry.

Prof. Bernardine Evaristo

The seminar will take place at the cultural centre Oyoun in Berlin. We are optimistic that the seminar can physically happen, but will, of course, monitor the ongoing pandemic situation and take every provision necessary to create a safe and accessible environment.

The seminar will start in the evening of Thursday 16 March and finish in the early afternoon of Saturday 18 March. The seminar will consist of public readings by Bernardine Evaristo and Kit de Waal, presentations by Daljit Nagra, Joelle Taylor and Wayne Holloway-Smith, a panel discussion and four author-led workshops. 

Watch the live stream on YouTube. 


Paul Crowther


Roman Manfredi


Robin Christian

Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of ten books including her memoir, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (2021). She won the Booker Prize 2019 with her novel Girl, Woman, Other, the first black woman and black British person to win it. A #1 Sunday Times bestseller for five weeks, it spent 44 weeks in the Top 10 and has sold over a million copies. There are 60 translations of her books in over forty languages. Bernardine has received many other awards and honours including two British Book Awards. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, an International Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, President of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and President of the Royal Society of Literature. 

Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017. Her second novel, The Trick to Time, was longlisted for the Women's Prize and her young adult novel Becoming Dinah was shortlisted for the Carnegie CLIP Award 2020. A collection of short stories, Supporting Cast, was published in 2020. An anthology of working-class writing, Common People, was crowdfunded and edited by Kit in 2019. Her memoir Without Warning and Only Sometimes was published in August 2022.

Daljit Nagra

Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature, Council of Society of Authors, a PBS New Generation Poet, presenter of the weekly Poetry Extra on Radio 4 Extra, Daljit Nagra, MBE, has published four poetry collections, all with Faber & Faber, which have won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem and Best First Book, the South Bank Show Decibel Award and the Cholmondeley Award, and been shortlisted for the Costa Prize and twice for the T.S. Eliot Prize. 

Joelle Taylor

Joelle Taylor is the author of four collections of poetry. Her most recent collection C+NTO & Othered Poems won the 2021 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Polari Book Prize for LGBT authors. C+NTO is currently being adapted for theatre with a view to touring. She is a co-curator and host of Out-Spoken Live, resident at the Southbank Centre, and an editor at Out-Spoken Press. Her novel of interconnecting stories The Night Alphabet will be published by Quercus in Spring of 2024, followed by her memoirs. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the 2022 Saboteur Spoken Word Artist of the Year. 

Wayne Holloway-Smith

Wayne Holloway-Smith has published two collections of poetry, Alarum (Bloodaxe Books, 2017), which was a Poetry Book Society Wildcard Choice, and Love Minus Love (Bloodaxe Books, 2020), which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Ledbury Munte Prize for Best Second Collection. He won the National Poetry Competition in 2018, The Poetry Society’s Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2016, and currently edits The Poetry Review.

Get involved using the hashtag #BritLit23.

Any questions? 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us at

You can watch last year's seminar on contemporary writing from Northern Ireland online. 

See also